A Letter to the Other 'Man on the Road'

About the Author
Julie Whan, 41, of Erie, Penn., has had a passion for writing since the third grade. While working full-time as a purchasing manager for Schaal Glass Company in her hometown, she is back in school to earn her B.A. in English. Her husband is a trucker for Great Lakes Window out of Toledo, Ohio, and she enjoys writing inspirational stories that touch the hearts of families. Her son is serving his second tour in the Air Force in the Middle East and will be coming home in February. She wrote “A Letter to the Other ‘Man on the Road'” as a tribute to both her son and husband.

Our son came home yesterday, my dear, and it was a good day. He took the airport floor in 10 strides, eyes forward and that usual wide smile on his face. His arms were bulging from the work he had done, not from hours at an air-conditioned gym. His blonde hair was lighter, and he looked as if he had grown an inch. I watched as he approached you, grabbing your hand for a shake and wrapping his left arm around you. He didn’t have to stand on his toes anymore to look you in the eye, and I saw two bears posturing but with genuine affection for one another.

The intermittent e-mails he sent prior to his arrival had been our only contact with him.

Hey, Mom, I’m all good. Just got back again. I was rolling through ____ when those convoys got hit. I’m OK – I’m back at the base.

I love you.

Peaches (me)

Those often came a day or two after a news article listing anonymous casualties in one short paragraph on page three of the Times. Then the waiting game would start, and we could breathe again when he reached a safe place and was able to let us know he was “all good.”

He spent his entire tour on the road, which was actually a lot of white sand reflecting a blinding sun, making sunglasses a mandatory possession, so I always remembered to pick up a pair and throw it into his care packages along with new T-shirts, beef jerky, candy, music, pictures and lots of Silly String, anything to make him smile as he weaved his way through the “sandbox,” as he called it. The bulk package of gummy bears was almost a joke, he says, because it had to go in one shot or it would have melted. He was glad to share, anyway, because there were plenty of guys who never received any mail.

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I didn’t really start crying until this morning when he asked for more eggs. His tan, killer physique and a new smoking habit are the only remaining signs of convoy duty in the hot zones. One full night of food, laughter and friends wanting to try on his helmet and vest, and he finally passed out. I watched him sleeping on the couch with his feet hanging over the edge.

He said very little about his tour – and we cautioned some of his friends not to ask – but you and I were already aware of some of the details. One of his na