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WRITE TEAM: Watching my son, and myself, change from the hardest challenge of his life

He spun his camera around for me to see the brown military bag on his apartment floor.

“Mom, there is enough medical equipment in here for me to save an army,” he said.

This left me quiet for just a moment while I pushed back the tears.

My head knows who this man is: He is about to become a Pararescueman, one of the elite Air Force PJs trained to work alongside the Navy Seals, Marine Marsocs and the Army Green Berets and to rescue our nation’s superheroes.

But my heart knows him, too, as my son.

It’s been nearly three years since he began this process. Three years of selection courses that feel like a lifetime of training as he reaches for his dream. It was a dream I gave a thumbs up to because it seemed too far-fetched for him to achieve.

Pararescue has an 80% attrition rate; I was counting on that.

But he surprised me.

He is the last one remaining from his original team of more than 100 men.

To get where he is today, I have watched him push harder than anything I could imagine possible.

He learned to persevere, to fail forward and to never quit.

He’s been changed from the challenge, and so have I.

The entire process has grayed some of my hair, etched wrinkles in my forehead and worn out my knees as I’ve bent down so often to pray “God, would you make a way?”

And now, only a few months shy of graduation, I’m realizing what it means to have that prayer answered.

I watch through the phone camera as he unpacks his backpack to show me some of what is inside.

I can’t help but let my mind go to a lighter time with a backpack full of “Star Wars” action figures and treasure maps.

It all just went so fast.

He talks about the graduating class and how the guys are stronger and smarter than him.

“But it doesn’t bother me,” he says with a smile. “Those are the men who will have my back when the time comes.”

I think of the picture he sent me the week before. The soon-to-be graduates goofing off. All of them prepared by the finest military to do the hardest jobs, all of them just boys.

“Mom,” he says, “I hope you and dad can make it here for graduation.”

And I tell him I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

This is what we’ve been waiting for, praying for, holding our breath for and cheering for.

To all of us who love him, it was a journey of its own.

We’ll all be there when he reads the PJ creed.

“It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.”

• Shari Tvrdik is director of special projects and communication for Cup of Cold Water Ministries. From the four corners of your living room to the other side of the globe, the mission to live God’s love is always and everywhere. She can be reached at

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