At 12 years old, Jayce Martin is preparing for his fifth deployment. His father, Stephenville native Aaron Martin, is in Iraq serving his second tour, while his mother, Stephenville High School graduate Janna Martin, gets ready to leave for her first tour in Iraq since joining the National Guard last year.
Jayce, a soft-spoken sixth grader at Gilbert Intermediate School, understands the importance of service. He said sometimes he thinks about joining the Army like his mom and dad, and sometimes he wants to be a policeman.
When his mom signed up, he was a bit concerned.
“It’s crazy,” Jayce said. “I wondered who I was going to live with.”
Jayce usually stays with his aunt and uncle when mom and dad travel.
He keeps busy practicing his baritone and doing science experiments.
He also helps with chores around the house. He is proud of what his mom and dad are doing and think that what they do is very important.
“They are just helping other people,” Jayce said.
But even helpful and brave children feel the stresses of a deployment just like their grown-up counterparts.
Jayce is aware of the danger his dad faces daily in Iraq.
“I wonder if he’s going to be safe,” Jayce said, while fighting back tears.
Aaron called the Empire-Tribune from Iraq to talk about his son.
“We were in El Paso when we had him (in 1996),” Aaron said.
Aaron is an E-6, or staff sergeant in the National Guard and was deployed to Saudi Arabia when Jayce was born. With nearly 14 years of service combined with time served in the Army, Aaron has been on four long-term deployments.
“He’s (Jayce) always adjusted real well and handled it,” Aaron said. “Words don’t describe how he’s handled it. He’s always been a good, quiet kid.”
Janna has gotten used to the military lifestyle and Aaron was already in the service when they married.
“I think you get accustomed to it,” Janna said. “Right now, I haven’t seen my husband for 14 months.”
In 2007, Janna decided to join her husband in the National Guard.
“It was always something I wanted to do and once Jayce got older I decided it would be a good time to do it,” Janna said.
She left for basic training in January 2008 and graduated in June. But Aaron had already left to join his unit for pre-deployment training. She saw him for a few days before he left for Iraq in August 2008.
Janna has already been given notice that she will leave for her first Iraqi deployment this fall, when Aaron is coming home.
“I’m going to be headed back when she’s going, so we’re going to meet in the middle,” Aaron said.
“He’s got another year without a family,” Janna said. “So he’s got to be a pretty tough 12-year-old to handle that. Jayce is great and very understanding. He understands that we do it so that he can be safe unlike the kids over there.”
And like many children affected by wars, Jayce has already learned one of life’s truths.
“You don’t always get what you want,” he said.