Since 1977, Diann Jernigan has served as a Navigator in grassroots ministry and at the ministry’s headquarters in Colorado Springs. But these days it’s the service of her two sons that she’s most proud of. Both have spent the past few months on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Until this winter, these third-generation Marines, Michael, 34, and Danny, 25, were stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Michael, an executive officer overseeing a battalion of several hundred, and Danny, who delivers supplies as part of a support battalion, were among the first troops to cross into Iraq from Kuwait.
At home in Colorado Springs, Diann, like many other military parents, had mixed feelings about her sons’ involvement in the war.
Michael and Danny Jernigan
“As a mother, you feel totally helpless. Part of me wanted to watch the news all of the time – maybe I’d even see one of them on TV – and the other part knew they would not want me to worry.”
Because an embedded reporter traveled with Michael’s troop, information on his location was readily available. While thankful for the reports on Michael’s battalion, Diann says the new phenomenon of embedded reporting has its down side, too.
“We’ve been bombarded with information, and you feel like you have to know it all because it’s there. It’s helpful to know what to pray about, but it’s also scary to know exactly what’s going on over there.”
Diann knows she’s not alone in her prayers for her sons.
“I’m so encouraged when people ask about the boys and tell me they’ve been praying for them. Many of the staff I talk to every day will stop and pray with me over the phone before we go on with business. I really appreciate how much people care.”
While her daytime hours are filled with Navigator business, Diann spends her evenings preparing care packages to send to Iraq and writing to her sons and her daughters-in-law who are still in California. The hardest part, she says, is wondering when they will be home.
After cancer forced her to battle for her life twice, Diann admits that she’s no longer the optimist she once was.
“People say, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ but I don’t think that way anymore. I pray for the boys’ safe return and know I just have to trust God for His plan for them.”
Specifically, she prays Joshua 1:5-9 for Michael and Danny, that they will be courageous and confident in their decisions without hesitation. She also prays from Isaiah 40:18-31, that both of her sons remember who God is, that He is all powerful, that nothing escapes His notice, and that He will give them strength for the battle.
Danny is scheduled to start college in the fall as part of his continuing education with the Marines. While he’s been away, his wife, Analisa, filled out all of the paperwork that got him accepted to two universities, although no one has been able to contact Danny to let him know this.
Michael, who has two young children with his wife, Drew, may be slower in getting home. His battalion of combat engineers is responsible for building bridges, clearing minefields, restoring electricity, clearing rubble, and helping Iraqi cities recover from the damage caused by war.
Michael’s work has also been spiritual in nature, as Diann recently found out in a letter she received from him. A low-ranking lance corporal approached Michael, who is his commanding officer, and asked if he could talk to him about the testimony Michael gave before they left Camp Pendleton.
“It is highly unusual for a lance corporal to initiate conversation with his commanding officer, so this was obviously a God thing.”
Michael ended up praying with the young man, who asked Christ into his life.
For an anxious mother, this is evidence enough that both of her sons are exactly where God wants them to be.
“They are men of integrity, men who walk with God, and I know they are influencing the lives of the men and women around them every day.”
Check out Navs Military to get a picture of how The Navigators helps military personnel navigate spiritually.