A star-spangled surprise

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2004

Juggling work, family and activities is the timeless struggle every parent faces, but adding the task of protecting the nation makes the job almost impossible.

Yet that is the struggle Sergeant Mario Youngblood faces every day.

Youngblood is a computer systems information analyst in the Army stationed at the Pentagon.

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Like any dad, he would love to be able to leave work everyday and head to the ballpark to enjoy an evening watching his son, Tre, play America's favorite pastime. However, because his job that luxury is simply not an option for him.

Instead, he and the rest of his unit gather around a computer screen every morning before they begin the day's work and check for any updates on the Troy city recreation website.

If that doesn't work, they wait patiently for newspaper clippings mailed from home to keep them up to date on Tre's team.

"My whole office wakes up every morning and checks the internet for scores on Tre's games to keep up on how he is doing," Youngblood said.

Much to the Pentagon's excitement, the last report received was that Tre and the Troy Dixie Minor Nationals were undefeated and would compete for the sub-district championship.

Because Youngblood has not been home since Christmas and has not been able to see one of Tre's games in two years due to his previous assignment in Korea, his commanding officer agreed to a brief leave Thursday morning so he could be like any other American dad for one night.

Youngblood immediately got in his car and began the 12-hour journey to finally see his son, arriving at the ballpark just in time for the game.

The entire Sportsplex lit up as Tre saw his dad, surprised because he was not expecting him for another day.

"It's more special with my dad here," Tre said.

Keeping the night perfect, Tre led his team in hits with a double and a single. Also, Youngblood was able to see first hand his son's excitement as the Troy Nationals won the sub-district championship.

"This opportunity means so much," Youngblood said. "I feel like I am missing watching him grow up."

Youngblood said he knows the importance of his job and it is hard to be away from home, but when each mission is finished and people are better off, the homesickness is not quite as strong.

"When we help people on a mission it makes things a little easier," Youngblood said.

Even though that is a wonderful feeling, for Youngblood, coming home is the best medicine.

"When you get to come home and be a part of something like this it's all okay," Youngblood said.

Youngblood finally got to see his son play and even had the opportunity to go out for pizza to celebrate the win.

But, in the true Cinderella fashion, at the stroke of midnight the jersey came off and the military fatigues were donned once more.

Although Youngblood was given the rest of the weekend before he had to report back for his next mission, another long trek back to Washington D.C. awaits him. The Troy Minor League Nationals will begin district competition Monday night in Luverne.

Although Youngblood has to report first thing Tuesday morning, he said he would like to see one more game and would try very hard to make that happen.

"I want to see them play one more so I may pull an all-nighter to be back Tuesday," Youngblood said.

The Messenger would like to thank all those away from home serving their country this Fourth of July.