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Families worry about young service members

February 25, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - After her two youngest sons enlisted together in the Marine Corps last summer, Sue Miss used white-out to alter a bumper sticker that she displays on the back of her car.

Miss is the proud parent, not of "A" Marine, but of two, and she wanted the bumper sticker to reflect that fact.

She didn't stop there. She also has illuminated flags, scrapbooks and photographs to prove it.

The already proud Smithsburg mother of four said she has been transformed into a "Marine mom," and regrets not showing enough support to mothers in her community whose sons previously had enlisted in the military.

Her youngest son, 18-year-old Logan Miss, talked his 21-year-old brother, Dylan Miss, into joining the Marine Corps with him last summer.

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Initially, the news of Dylan's plans came as a shock, but Sue Miss said her sons - both Smithsburg High School varsity wrestlers and football players - always have been competitive. She also said they were comfortable around guns because, from early on, they went hunting with their father, Doug Miss, who served in Vietnam.

"The only thing I asked of them is, 'If one of you is ever sent into a war zone, don't both of you go,'" Miss said. "I said, 'You know, I can handle one, but I can't handle both,' and I don't even know that I could handle one."

The brothers since have graduated from boot and combat camps. Private 1st Class Dylan Miss now is in Mississippi learning aircraft maintenance, and Private 1st Class Logan Miss is in Florida studying to become an aviation ordnance specialist.

Dylan talked two of his cousins into enlisting also.

He said in a recent phone interview that he had to take the aircraft maintenance job in order to go to boot camp at the same time as Logan.

Logan's friend, Tyler Shetter, also enlisted with him, meaning all three had support throughout training, and Miss said knowing that made her feel better.

"I'm glad they went in together. I think that really helped," she said. "They would more or less talk to each other at night. All of the guys were homesick."

While they were at boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., Miss wrote them long letters every other day and kept them posted on the weather.

Logan wrote long letters back and drew diagrams and maps of the training courses. He raved about the food. Dylan's letters, she said, were short.

She doesn't know where the men will be stationed later on, and said she tries not to worry about the possibility they will be sent to Iraq.

"Logan said, 'We could go one to three times,'" Sue Miss said. "You teach your kids to be nice to everybody when they're little, and then they go into the Marines and they teach you to kill," Miss said, her voice trailing off.

She said both Dylan and Logan got sharpshooter medals when they were in boot camp.

Dylan said the military is more or less as he expected. He shows more manners now than before, but other than that, he said he hasn't changed.

Dylan said he'll likely finish schooling in March and is prepared for whatever comes next. He plans to take online college courses while he's in the service to help prepare him for a career in law enforcement.

Miss said she and her ex-husband signed for Logan to enlist because he was only 17 and had not yet graduated from high school when he signed up.

Enlistees must be 18 to sign up without the permission of their parents or guardians.

As young people head off to the military, their families, such as the Shiffletts, remain at home where, some admit, they worry.

'He wouldn't tell his mother'

Denny Shifflett said he and his son, Adam Shifflett, spoke for about 30 minutes when the teenager approached him about his plan to join the military.

The conversation Denny Shifflett and his wife, Karen, had about their son's plan lasted much longer, he said.

"He wouldn't tell his mother. He made me do that," Denny Shifflett said. "... She's still trying to deal with it."

Adam Shifflett graduated in June 2006 from North Hagerstown High School. In November, he graduated from boot camp, and a month later, he graduated from combat training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Now, 19-year-old Adam Shifflett is learning to be an electrician.

Looking back on his experience, Adam Shifflett said in a recent phone interview that he decided to join the Marines after deciding college wasn't for him.

Boot camp, he said, "was kind of rough. It's a big change, going straight out of high school. They change you over in that 13 weeks into who they want you to be ... It matured me a lot."

Next month, he will find out whether he will be stationed on the East Coast, the West Coast or overseas, Shifflett said.

Adam Shifflett said he was not worried about the possibility of going to Iraq or the Middle East.

"I'm nervous more for my family than I am for me," he said. "I'm ready to go if I have to."

Denny Shifflett, who also has a 22-year-old daughter, Nicole, said that he and his wife "do worry. I can't say we don't."

An eye to the future

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