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Mothers unite to honor their sons and all who serve

Missy Susney - (Noah), Geri McKinney - (Michael), Kathy Stager - (Todd), Louise Simpson - (Ryan), Dawn Yencik - (Ryan), Tammy Savarese - (Cory). Lifestyles photo by Katie Collins. See the related galleries at www.lifestyles51.com.

By Katie Collins Lifestyles editor Follow Katie @Lifestyles51

PIKE COUNTY - Inspired by their sons, six mothers from Pike County set forth on honoring the men and women in the American Armed Forces. Now, because of Kathy Stager, Geri McKinney, Dawn Yencik, Louise Simpson, Tammy Savarese and Missy Susney, society can recognize their sons as well as many others who have, or are serving in the United States military from the banners displayed along Rt. 209.

Friends before their enlistment and sailors in the Navy today: Todd Stager, Michael McKinney, Ryan Yencik, Ryan Simpson, Cory Savarese and Noah Susney have caused a whirlwind of emotion for the mothers who speak proudly about their sons. Simpson recalls crying continuously because she missed Ryan, who she lovingly calls “My Poo.” When the sons left for bootcamp, the mothers soon found themselves uneasy because of the limited communication and unsurety of what their boys were experiencing.

The first night the mothers received a 30 second scripted call that gave a brief update about their sons. Simpson said Ryan’s voice was shaky. McKinney noted how Michael couldn’t respond to her.

Eventually, the mothers received a box of their son’s belongings that consisted of their underwear, cell phones and more. At home, Susney was pleased to find a note Noah had left under his pillow. Yencik was surprised when she received a short tape with a message from Ryan.

Every day the mothers found themselves crying, because the “unknown was the worst” said Simpson. The reason, “You know they’re going through hell” added McKinney. Soon, the young sailors had their wisdom teeth pulled and were sent to bed with no television and a day later they were back at basic training.

For eight weeks, Yencik said the sons found themselves amongst thousands of strangers and superiors screaming in their faces with no contact with family or friends. As soon as they got off the bus, Simpson said the training began. To ready himself, Susney’s son watched videos of boot camp. Soon however, Yencik’s son learned swear words he didn’t know existed. As a mother, Simpson said, “It's the longest eight weeks of your life.” The rigorous training, was explained as if it was meant to tear the sailors down emotionally and physically, and then build them back up. During that training, it was then Yencik said that the sailors learned who and what is important. Eight weeks later, each mother said their sons were different young men.

The banners mean a lot to the mothers Susney said, because she has a new appreciation for the men and women who serve. Simpson added that since she’s aware of how her son’s deployment has affected her, she wonders how other families are managing because, “it’s weird how the emotions hit you. We all feel each other’s deployments, we all feel each other’s boot camp.” The other mothers agreed with Simpson.

When Yencik’s son Ryan said he wanted to join the Navy, she wasn’t pleased but she came to understand. She was surprised though, because he was set to attend college and a day before college orientation, he told his family what he really wanted.

Simpson didn’t believe her son Ryan at first. When Michael said he wanted to enlist, McKinney was scared because, “you don’t want them in harm’s way” she said. Michael told McKinney that he was inspired by the respect his grandfather received because he served and so, he wanted his ‘life to have meaning, like grandpa’s life did.’

Today, the mothers laugh at the news because after a year of college, Cory Savarese informed his mother Tammy via a text ‘I’m joining the Navy.' Susney believes her son Noah joined because his father retired from the Army.

Bootcamp is different for each person, even though it “is in your face” said one mother. But Stager’s son Todd said he would do bootcamp again. For Michael, McKinney said the worst part was the final stations since he had to be awake all day, march, complete the battle stations and do more marching. So exhausted, Michael felt as if he was sleeping while he was marching. In the end, Ryan learned that his drill sergeant was “cool.” Todd realized the drill sergeant had to be like that. Because Cory is athletic, the fitness aspect wasn’t an issue and since he managed it so well, his superiors made him write an essay.

The purpose of the banners, Stager said is to “honor the military” and so, with a two-year warranty, if anything happens to the flags in that time, they will be replaced. Each servicemen and women on the banners are from the region. Yencik considers the banners to be like “an American flag.”

Going into this project, the mothers agreed, there was more than they anticipated because they had never taken part in such a venture. Despite the challenges and hard work, each mother is pleased with the banners and their efforts have been praised on the DVSD Area Hometown Hero Banner Program Facebook page, with numerous appreciative comments.

To be the mother of a sailor, Simpson said there’s a sisterhood and although she wasn’t familiar with the other mothers, today they are a family. Stager said no matter where in the world, the mother of a sailor will do anything to help. Since their sons’ deployment the mothers referenced another Facebook page, that helped Savarese immensely because Cory was actually in the service three years before the others enlisted. From the page, she said, “you see the ups and downs, you feel everything every other mother is feeling.”

Stationed around the world, the mothers were not allowed to say where their sons are stationed, but: Stager’s son Todd is working on aircraft carriers. Simpson’s son Ryan is a machinist’s mate. Yencik’s son Ryan is an intelligence specialist. Savarese’s son Cory is a parachute rigger. Susney’s son Noah, is a quartermaster.

As of now, with 130 banners hung the DVSD Sailors' moms are not taking anymore orders, but are instead resting. Proud of what they've achieved and pleased with the feedback, they are unsure of what the future has instore. For more information, visit the DVSD Area Hometown Hero Banners Facebook page.

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