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Navy Chief Petty Officer Terrina Weatherspoon, 3rd Naval Construction Regiment
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2011 – It was 4 a.m. when she settled in to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Green Bay Packers. Technically, it was Super Bowl Monday for her.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Crystal Hoel, an intelligence analyst for the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, is a native of Mechanicsburg, Pa. The timing of live television programs often makes them impossible to watch while she’s deployed, but this was an event she was not going to miss.
The military had made the reservist miss several things over the years, but she wasn’t about to miss this. As she sat in Afghanistan, soda in hand and surrounded by co-workers, she had a very special guest by her side: her son.
Attached to the naval air facility in Washington, D.C., Hoel had been deployed for months when she got word that her son, Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Hoel, attached to the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Kunia, Hawaii, would be joining her here.
“Mom was already in Afghanistan when I got my orders, and I was very excited when I found out I was going to the same base,” Adam said. “When you’re in the military, it’s hard to see your family, and it was really good to know I would be close to her.”
The corporal’s mother recalled his arrival.
“I cried when I first saw Adam,” she said. “Our first meeting was at one of the dining facilities on base at about 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. It was the first time I had seen him since leaving my home in early June to deploy. What a great New Year’s gift!”
Although this is Adam’s first deployment, it is his mother’s second. “Of course she has been giving me advice,” said Adam, who graduated from Mechanicsburg Area High School in 2008. “No way could she resist doing that.”
Crystal said that was only natural.
“My mothering instincts are to want to protect and keep him safe,” she said. “Make sure he understands his job, hope he likes his job, make sure he is taking time out for himself, and has his room set up so he is comfortable there. But at the same time, he is a grown man and a Marine, so I have to stifle that.”
Adam joined the Marine Corps delayed entry program in June 2007, when he was 17. He left for boot camp July 13, 2008. He was destined to join the Corps, he said. After all, his father was a Marine, and so was his mother, before a break in service and a path that eventually led her back in, only this time in the Navy, when Adam was in 10th grade.
“I was happy for her, but also a little nervous, of course,” he said. “But I supported her decision, because I just wanted her to be happy in what she was doing. I will continue to support her, but I will tell you that Christmas sucks when she is not there with us.”
Crystal’s service in the Marine Corps and then continued service years later in the Navy played an important role in Adam’s decision to the join the Marines.
“Adam has wanted to be a Marine since he was a little boy, so a deployment to a kinetic area was an inevitable part of his future,” she said. “I know that and support him fully, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Her son said the example his parents set made an early impression on him.
“I always knew I would want to defend my parents just like they did for others when I was younger,” he said. “I also joined because I love my country and wanted to give something back. I knew the Marines would take care of me and make me into a better man.”
Now that the two are stationed here together -- albeit for a short period of time, since Crystal is due to go home soon, they try to see each other as often as possible.
“We try to meet for chow every other night, but I do not want him to feel obligated to visit me or hang out with me,” Crystal said. “We both have jobs that require mental focus and a lot of our personal time.”
Adam said he feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to share part of his deployment with his mother.
“I have told my friends that my mom is here, and they think it is pretty cool,” he said. “Most of them couldn’t see their mom here, or in the military at all, for that matter. It is even harder for them to believe the odds of us getting stationed here at the same time.”
The Marine’s mother said she is ready to go home, but the trip will now be bittersweet.
“It will be tough to leave him here,” she acknowledged. “I know I will cry the last time I see him, just like I did the first time I saw him. Hopefully, the four months he has left will go fast for both of us.”
Her son said having his mother here has helped him to keep his mind at ease.
“I feel better being here with her and knowing where she is and what she’s doing,” he said. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to her, and I’m glad she’s heading home. She deserves to. I’ll just look forward to the next time I see her, which will be in a few months when she greets me at the airport –- this time on American soil –- and we will both be happier about that.”