COUSHATTA, La. -- The gift of patriotic themed quilts brought tears to the eyes of a former Marine.
For Billy Henry, Sr., it wasn’t just because he was being honored at the same time with the son who followed in his footsteps, Billy Junior. As women from the group Quilts of Valor draped their work over his shoulders, Bill gazed heavenward, thinking of another son, Joshua, who was also a Marine.
Joshua suffered greatly after serving in our second war in Iraq.
"The wounds just never went away," Billy, Sr. said, echoing the words of Junior.
Joshua died after he came home from his second tour, suffering PTSD, and feeling survivor’s guilt, after comrades were lost in attacks.
Billy, Sr., served 11 years. But he blew out both knees while training for our first war with Iraq. After a medical discharge, Billy came home to Coushatta, looking for a civilian career.
Leave it to Mom.
“And I'm going to quote her: 'You carry your tail down to that school. And you tell them you served time in the Marine Corps. You've got a degree. And you need to pass on some of that knowledge to the children,” Billy, Sr. recalled.
Red River Parish Schools hired him. Then asked him what he wanted to teach.
"I said I don't know. What's the hardest? And the lady said, 'Oh, special education.' I said I served 11 years in the Corp. Bring it on," Billy, Sr. said.
He began teaching life skills, got certified, then went overseas to teach in DODDS -- Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
Along the way, Billy, Jr. joined the Air Force. He also went to war against Iraq, as a jet engine mechanic.
“So we're working directly on aircraft," Billy, Jr. described from his two deployments. "We're launching aircraft. We're helping the crew chiefs, working the line, helping out weapons guys as they're loading, and all those different things."
But on his second deployment, he suffered a severe shoulder injury, when one of those huge engines fell against him.
Eight surgeries later, Junior was medically discharged, just like his dad.
"I started thinking about where I was going to be next. And that for me was going to be an opportunity to continue to serve," Billy, Jr. said.
Billy Junior not only went into teaching at Red River High School. The Henrys are the father-son special education team there. But Junior, like his Dad, also joined DODDS, and is now headed to Japan to teach U.S. military dependents.
"Still being a service to my country, still being in service to the military as well as I move forward in my career," Billy, Jr. explained of his move.
Though serving in the military dealt Senior and Junior with physical setbacks -- and the family with tragedy -- the Henrys say the military has been good.
"I think we as a family have grown closer, we've kind of interwoven, not just because we're blood, but because we're all a part of a brotherhood -- a brotherhood of the military," Billy, Sr. said.
He says counting himself, his father, two brothers, plus three sons and two nephews, the family has more than a century of service to our country.