NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — Investigator Shawna Wade sits inside her office upstairs at the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. On her wall, a silent flat screen television displays images of angry crowds in Tehran.
For many, these images of conflict from the Middle East are commonplace – almost an accepted part of our daily lives. However, this isn’t just background noise for Wade. Her son Collin, 19, is a Marine in the Middle East.
Collin graduated from Newnan High School in May 2018 and immediately left for bootcamp in July. He graduated bootcamp as the Honor Grad that fall and began his work with the infantry training battalion at Lejeune, N.C. before heading to his duty station at 29 Palms.
Last October, his infantry rolled out to the Middle East – just one month after he had come home long enough to marry his high-school sweetheart, Riley, who’s also enlisted in the Marines and currently enrolled in Military Occupational Schooling in Oklahoma.
Life is moving fast, but this isn’t new territory for Wade.
Her husband, Jon, is also a former Marine and was deployed seven times in 12 years. During his time, he was part of the “Magnificent Bastards” – 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines – who fought in the Battle of Ramadi in 2004.
Those years during Jon’s deployment were filled with nervous energy and abbreviated sleeping schedules for Wade.
“Those were the days before cell phones, so there would be weeks, almost months without hearing from him,” she said.
Now home and serving as a Newnan police officer, Jon is experiencing what life was like for his wife while Collin walks in his shoes several thousand miles away.
“It’s really interesting to see first-hand what Shawna went through during my time of deployment,” Jon said. “And I know it’s probably a little more since it’s her son."
BORN TO SERVE
Growing up in a military family, Collin was surrounded by Marines, looked up to his father and enjoyed playing with tactical gear and Nerf guns. Wade said Collin was around 10 years old when he mentioned his desire to serve one day. She shrugged it off until an emotional conversation when Collin was in high school.
“I told him he didn’t have to do this – both parents have done their share of service, but I saw it in him,” she said “He simply said, ‘Mom, it’s a calling.’ As soon as he said it, I felt it and I knew I had to support him.”
At 17 years old, Collin enlisted in the Marines. Despite a lifetime spent around other Marines, Jon said he only gave Collin the “wave tops” of the information to get mentally prepared for this new chapter.
“You have to experience Parris Island for yourself,” he said. “Before he left, I told him it’s okay to feel fear. But he doesn’t need my help. He wants to do it on his own."
Wade, a Navy veteran, says she knows the power of camaraderie and fellowship of a strong group of brothers and sisters.
“It’s awesome having that family who holds each other up,” Wade said. “That’s why people join the military and law enforcement: the desire to serve and surround yourself with the same kind of people.”
Wade hasn’t communicated with Collin directly in a few weeks, but gets routine updates from military staff and adheres to the “No news is good news” mindset. If all goes well, Collin should be home by April.
“He’s a member of the 7th Marines – one of the most well-trained guys on the face of the Earth,” Jon said. “My pride is higher than my fear, and I think Shawna is somewhere in between."
SUPPORT BACK HOME
With escalating tensions in Iran, Wade says many have been reaching out to lend support and prayers for Collin and her family.
Wade has fully embraced the role of military mom, Jon said.
“She has her own way of doing things and taking care of everything,” he said, “On top of being a deputy with crazy hours, now she’s organizing care packages for boys overseas."
Wade created a GoFundMe to help with sending supplies and covering the cost of shipping the care packages.
This week, a drop-off point was established for those who want to donate much-needed items to Collin and his battalion.
Items like foot powder, socks, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash and non-perishable food like beef jerky and crackers are being accepted on Saturday, Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Born Again Ministries, 158 Greison Trail, Newnan.
“I’m super proud of her,” Jon said of his wife. “She never stops working – either for the boys overseas or for her community. She’s just awesome.”
With Collin expected to come home by spring, Wade is filling that time by staying busy and doing her best to keep up the spirits of her son and his brothers serving overseas.
“It’s funny, we’ve spent our lives keeping our kids safe, but now he’s out there, not even 20 years old, and he’s protecting us,” Wade said.