Father, son, share joy of seeing their babies

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Holding his first born for the first time made coming home a little sweeter for a Ripley County soldier.

“It’s perfect,” was Sgt. Jeremy May’s reply when asked how it felt to hold his five-month-old daughter, Peyton.

Family members who met the Versailles soldier at the airport captured his feelings on film when he saw his wife, Kendra, and daughter. “He had a big grin on his face,” noted sister-in-law, Heather May.

Three generations of the May family were gathered at the home of Gene and Linda May just south of Versailles on Saturday to celebrate Christmas and the safe return of the couple’s youngest son, Jeremy, from Iraq.

Sgt. Jeremy May serves in the Army Alpha Battery 2nd of the 20th Field Artillery 41st Fire Brigade. He is home for a short leave and will be returning to Iraq on January 13.

Jeremy joined the Army upon graduation from South Ripley High School in 2005 and immediately knew he would be deployed to Iraq. While he didn’t expect the deployment so soon after enlistment, he met the challenge head on.

He has won NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) of his company, battalion, brigade and is up for the honor by the multi national division board. He has amassed six army achievement medals.
This is the soldier’s second tour in Iraq and he has re-upped for three more years. “I did it for my dad,” he told The Versailles Republican. “He did 36 months in Vietnam and I’ll keep re-enlisting until I do the same in Iraq,” he noted.

The youngest of seven brothers, Jeremy said he has the utmost respect for his father, Gene.
Jeremy’s return home to see his child after being at war brought back memories for his parents, Gene and Linda.

While nearly everything is different from when Gene served in Vietnam, the separation from loved ones is the same. There is something else this father and son share. Gene, too, was gone when his first son, Daniel, was born.

Linda remembers how the Red Cross had to send a telegram to her husband, who was aboard the USS Hoel, a guided missile destroyer.

“I always teased Linda saying I wanted a ten pound baby boy,” Gene laughed. He got what he wanted - he just wasn’t there to see it. How he felt when the telegram came? “A lot of mixed emotions,” Gene shared. It was three months before he saw his son. “I still have the telegram,” Daniel noted of the message heralding his birth.

The difference between Gene and Jeremy’s experiences was Jeremy was in constant contact with his wife, talking via webcam, email and telephone.

Gene’s mother, Dorothy May, shared Christmas with her family and said she too has memories of war. Both her sons, Gene and Don, were in the Vietnam War at the same time. Don was serving in the Mediterranean and Gene in Vietnam. “They both called home that Christmas,” remembered Dorothy, saying nothing was more important that year than hearing the voices of her sons.

She also had brothers who served in World War II and said in that war, you just waited weeks or months for a letter. Communication has truly changed the landscape for soldiers and their families.
The May family knows about separation and war. They have had members of their family serve in every branch of the military dating back three generations.

Gene especially knows about war. “Having been in combat, I know what these boys are going through,” he stated.

The Mays are proud of their family. “We’ve got seven great sons with seven great wives,” Gene noted. The Mays attribute their success in raising seven boys who have never been in trouble to having a faith based home. “Oh, yes, they were always in church,” Linda agreed it was the key. Gene attributes the boys' behavior to having a good mother and the boys agree it didn’t hurt to have a healthy fear of their father.

Jeremy’s brothers include Troy and wife, Beth; Michael and wife, Andrea; David and wife, Beth; Joseph and wife, Laura; Stephen and wife, Kim; and Daniel and wife, Heather. Nine grandchildren, five born in the past 18 months, round out the May family for now.

Daniel has served in the Air Force during Desert Storm and Troy was the only one not home for Christmas this year. He’s a career Air Force man who has also just returned from Iraq and is stationed in Texas.

The May home bustled with voices and laughter and the sweet sound of babies’ cries on Saturday as they celebrated.

Sgt. Jeremy says he truly enjoys the time spent with his family, but will return to Iraq to “take care of his soldiers”. He knows the cost of war through separation and concluded that he feels lucky to have such a supportive wife.

“I’m here for him,” Kendra smiled.

Soldier sees baby girl for the first time
TOP: Pictured are Sgt. Jeremy May, with wife Kendra, and daughter Peyton. He saw Peyton for the first time Christmas night when he arrived home from his second tour of duty in Iraq.

A father remembers...
BELOW: Gene May, pictured right, knows the pain of being away from his wife when his first child was born. He, too, was serving his country in Vietnam, when his first child, Daniel, was born. He is pictured with Daniel, (Jeremy's brother), and wife, Linda. Gene says he knows the sacrifices three of his sons have made as they have served in the military in a war zone.