Porters Chapel back’s mother follows son from center of Iraq

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 15, 2004

[10/15/2004] It’s 4:30 a.m. in Baghdad when Patty Mixon wakes up.

In a few hours, the Vicksburg resident will be hard at work trying to restore Iraq’s power grid and bring some normalcy to a chaotic part of the world.

But first, there are more important things to attend to. Half a world away, back in Mississippi, her son Chris, a junior running back at Porters Chapel, is getting ready to play a football game.

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The bleary eyes quickly wear off as Patty Mixon calls home. If the signal is good, she’ll spend the next three hours on a cellphone, following every play of Chris’ game. Her husband, Greg, serves as play-by-play man while daughter Kelsey videotapes the game for Patty to watch when she returns home this winter.

It’s a routine that has taken some getting used to not to mention a lot of time, effort and money to pull off. But for Patty and her family, it’s all worthwhile.

“Chris’s sports involvement has always been so important to me. I have a picture album at home that I have been keeping since he was 5 years old when he started playing soccer,” Patty said. “I have always tried to put his sports above everything, even when he and his friend Jonathan wanted to go to the batting cage at 5:30 in the morning a couple of years ago.

“Chris has always been my heart, and I will support him in whatever sport he is playing in …”

Never has that been truer than this fall.

Patty Mixon went to Iraq in early July with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with the International Zone for Gulf Region Division, Restore Iraqi Electricity. Its mission is to improve electrical service in Iraq by restoring power lines, substations and generators.

Patty volunteered for the mission. She wanted to serve overseas before her career ended she has worked for the Corps for nearly 30 years and is approaching retirement. It was a decision that wasn’t easy for her family to understand.

“This is the first time I have ever been away from my kids, and they didn’t take it very well at first,” Patty Mixon said. “I think they were surprised like many others that I would even volunteer for something like this. My children … worried. I could see it on their faces. When I told Chris he just kept looking at me saying, Now when ya going, and how long are you gonna be there,’ and Kelsey said, Mom they are killing people over there.'”

The dangers of roadside attacks are real, but Patty works in the protected International Zone. Still, whenever her son sees a news report of the latest violence in the Iraqi capital, he can’t help but worry a little.

Patty will usually call and put the family’s mind at ease, however.

“I talk to her about two or three times a week. She tells me everything is fine and we don’t need to worry because they take care of them,” Chris Mixon said, adding that he’s able to block out any worries when he steps on the field. “On the field, I’m focused just on football. My mind is on football.”

Those reassuring phone calls typically take place on the weekend. On Friday, Patty’s calls are all about football.

She wakes up around 4:30 a.m. in Iraq, just in time to catch the 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Mississippi. She has had to purchase phone cards and an Iraqi phone to make the calls, and estimates she has spent more than $400.

Signal problems, both in the U.S. and Iraq, can sometimes ruin their connection and make Patty wait to hear how Chris has done.

“I hated it last week because I couldn’t get a signal last Saturday morning … so I didn’t hear about how well he did until after the game.” Patty said, referring to PCA’s 42-12 win over Sharkey-Issaquena on Oct. 1, when Chris ran for 230 yards and four touchdowns. “When Greg read me the article that was in the paper the other day, I cried. I was touched because he is finally given the opportunity to show what he is capable of.”

Patty Mixon will probably have to wait until next season to see her son in action in person. Her deployment is scheduled to end in late November possibly getting her home before Christmas, but not before the end of football season.

“I wish she could be there watching me. She’s always supported me with baseball, football, everything,” said Chris Mixon, who has rushed for a team-best 626 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. “I think we’re going somewhere when she gets back …. I’d love to have her here watching me. But she wanted to go do this.”