Morgan County mother and son serve country under father and son Bush
Story by Kathryn Purcell
Surrounded by framed plaques and shelves of political literature, Demitri White lounges on the plush sofa in his mother’s home, laughing and talking casually about his experiences. He laughingly speaks of working with computers, and learning to drive a stick shift.
Janice Flores grins as her son speaks, pausing to interject her own experiences into his stories.
Admiring each other, they cherish the time they are spending together because they know what the next day will bring – the loading of bags, a trip to Hartsfield-Jackson and a heartfelt goodbye.
Tomorrow, White is deployed to Korea.
These military goodbyes are nothing new to Flores, who joined the U.S. Army in 1983 and served for 11 years.
“My first choice in the military was to go into the Air Force,” Flores said. “But I didn’t want to go on a waiting list.”
During that time, she was stationed throughout the world – from Honduras and Panama to Germany to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It was during her time in Saudi Arabia, serving under President George H. W. Bush, that the Gulf War began.
She began her military career as a cargo specialist, making sure the appropriate cargo got on the appropriate plane. When she was sent to Saudi Arabia, she was put in charge of a POL platoon, which deals with fuel and its consumption.
After her time in the Persian Gulf, she was to be deployed to Korea. It was then that she found out she was pregnant.
“I had to choose between being a mother and the mission,” Flores said.
Flores decided to be a mother, opting to take the Army up on what she called their ‘Early Out’ program. Still eligible for benefits, she began college.
“I became what I always wanted to be as a child – a nurse in a white uniform,” Flores said.
She didn’t know it at the time, but the reason she chose to be a mother would follow a similar path. And, because of her experience, she would be able to share with her son advice, and experience.
“Do them service, but also get something out of it for yourself,” Flores said, of her advice to White.
Like mother, like son.
“We’ve got something in common – both of us served in the Gulf under Bush administration,” Flores said.
White joined the U.S. Air Force in 2006, after spending time in the ROTC program at Morgan County High School, where he picked up a love of electronics, as well as the Job Corps and Albany Technical College.
He was sent to Iraq for his first tour of duty last May, under the presidency of George W. Bush.
Stationed in Balad, Iraq, he worked (and still works) as a computer administrator for the Air Force.
“As a matter of fact, he fixed a virus on my computer in minutes that’s had the computer down for four or five months,” Flores said.
When he arrived in Balad, White remembers having to set up the computer system, beginning with the shelter where it was to be stored. Once that was running smoothly, White and other members of his 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Wing were put to work in other ways, delivering mail and transporting pilots to the flight line.
White had to learn to drive stick shift to transport the pilots, as the only vehicle available was a bread truck. Luckily, he said, the flight line was a wide stretch of dirt, with plenty of room for mistakes.
In his time transporting pilots, he had to work through more than merely shifting gears; he dodged mortars.
“The alert came in ‘INCOMING! INCOMING!’ and that means there’s a mortar coming in,” White said. “You are supposed to hide under the truck, but I froze. Luckily, the mortar hit outside the wire.”
It’s stories like this that make most parents of soldiers question why their child is involved in such a potentially fatal conflict.
“His attitude about going was positive; he volunteered,” Flores said. “I had no reservations about him going into the military…You find out what your vision is; if God’s in it, He’ll back you up.”