A nation at war

A Poem in her Heart


A lot of things went through June Homer's mind when she saw parents saying good bye to their children, husbands parting from wives, men and women in uniform tearing themselves away from their ordinary lives to take on the extra ordinary task of defending their country.

As an Army reservist for the 436th Movement Control Battalion stationed at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, Homer got to witness one of the most moving moments of her life.

She served active duty from Nov. 2003 to Jan. 2004 during which time it was her job to prepare soldiers for mobilization -- future deployments to the war in Iraq.

"When I was on active duty, I saw it all in front of me, soldiers would come in, families preparing to leave had to say good by, children, fathers mother, crying, it was really sad," she said during a telephone interview. "It kind of consumes part of you and is very sad to watch. We have a flag ceremony. The command sergeant major calls out the soldier's name. They take a picture. And then the soldier picks up the bags and leaves the family behind."

Family member stand there watching, holding a yellow ribbon, a symbol of hope for the soldier's return.

"No one knows the soldiers will be coming home," Homer said.

The best way she could express it was to write the feeling in a poem, which was later selected as editor's choice in Poetry Place for inclusion in a book.

Homer, who moved to Bayonne from North Bergen after the death of her parents two years apart, has served in the Army reserve for about 11 years, and worked in the Bayonne School system prior to being activated as a special education teacher. She is currently part of inclusion program at Washington School.

She is currently an E-6 (staff sergeant) dealing with personnel.

"That means I handle all the paperwork when people are mobilized," she said.

This also involves making certain that each soldier gets the services they need.

"If a solider is a single mom, then we have to make certain she gets family care," she said.

Homer comes from a military family tradition.  She can trace her family roots back to her grandfather, who served as a drummer in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

"My dad served in World War One," she said. "He was decorated by President Woodrow Wilson."

She also had two uncles who fought in World War Two, and a brother in law that served as a combat medic in Vietnam.

She moved to Bayonne because she wanted to come back home to the area.

She said she has been writing for a while, but that her poem was a product of a special time and place.

She remembered the command sergeant telling them recruits that they were about to be deployed, and the expressions on the faces of family and soldiers.

Her poem, entitled "Duty and honor before me," is to be read at the Editor's Choice Awards.

"I was thinking about others and how to share with them, perhaps give the family some peace," she said.

She remembered watching them as they walked away.

"These are young people going away from the people they loved," she said. "I was watch them. They trained troops, they leaving me and their loved ones behind. I kept thinking back to Vietnam and how those troops were treated, and how well I was treated. I kept thinking that at one point these people would come back to their jobs.

Homer has played a key role in the Bayonne School District receiving a Patriotic Employer Award for its support of her role in the military, by providing her with a guaranteed employment.




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