Young mother home, and proud

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Gena Goodson clowns with her daughter, Synthia, at their home off Fisher Ferry Road Monday night. At left is a picture of Goodson when she enlisted nine years ago.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[11/11/03]U.S. Army Spc. Gena Goodson isn’t the typical veteran at least not typical of those on traditional Veterans Day posters.

That’s changing. Goodson, a 27-year-old single mother, is one of about 207,000 women in U.S. military uniforms around the world. She returned from Iraq in July after a six-month deployment with the 168th HHC Engineer Group. The experience, she said, is something she will never forget.

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“I still have a hard time believing I’m at home,” Goodson said.

Goodson isn’t the first soldier in her family. Male kin served in War World II and Korea, said she is proud to be among a new generation of women in the armed forces.

“I love being a woman in the Army,” Goodson said. “I love doing the things men do and proving that I can.”

Her civilian job is with the Vicksburg Police Department, where she’s worked for three years. At the PD, Chief Tommy Moffett said he’s glad to have her back home.

“She seems to have an entirely different outlook on her job and a greater appreciation for her job,” Moffett said.

About seven Vicksburg police officers, including three more women, have been called to active duty in the past year. Goodson is the first to return.

A clerk typist in the headquarters company of the engineering group, returned home ahead of her company to attend her grandfather’s funeral. She was allowed to remain at home to be with her daughter, Synthia, who was 11 months when her mother was called up.

Now 19-months-old, Synthia took her first steps and celebrated her first birthday while staying with her grandmother, Jeanne Goodson.

“I hated leaving my child behind,” Goodson said. “That was very, very hard to do.”

Jeanne Goodson said the experience was equally hard on Synthia who cut 12 teeth in only eight weeks after her mother left. Jeanne Goodson said the doctors attributed the burst of new teeth to stress.

To help Synthia, they would talk about a picture of her mother every day while she was gone. Jeanne Goodson said she was also comforted by regular phone calls from her daughter.

“She won’t tout it, but she’s really proud of what she’s done,” Jeanne Goodson said. “Like all of us; we’re really proud of her.”

Gena Goodson said that when she joined the Mississippi National Guard nine years ago she never thought she’d be called up for war. And though she never felt her life was threatened while she was there, simply being in the Persian Gulf was dangerous, she said.

This Veterans Day, she said, she has a new perspective on life and family and a willingness to serve again, as long as it doesn’t mean leaving Synthia while she’s still a baby.

“If something ever happens and she’s grown up and gone and they need me, I’ll go back,” she said.

Eighty members of the 168th Engineer Group were called to active duty and deployed in February 2002. The rest of the unit is expected to return around April.