Southern Utah Mom Supports

 Her Four Guard Kids

 

Written by Shad West

 

Published December 28, 2006

 

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Capt. Adam Ashworth enjoys a final moment with his daughter before deploying to Afghanistan.

Photo by Shari Gillins

Capt. Adam Ashworth enjoys a final moment

with his daughter before deploying to Afghanistan.

BEAVER, Utah — The 11-foot Christmas tree is decorated with red, white and blue ornaments, stars and carved wooden words—one says “Peace” and another says “Believe.” An angel rests at the top holding an American flag with three white doves.

The doves represent three Soldiers: one is deployed in Afghanistan, another is at Fort Bliss, Texas, waiting to catch up with her unit in Kuwait and the third is for the Marine who recently returned from Iraq. There is room on the tree for two more doves, but Shari Gillins hopes she won’t have to add them.

Gillins knows what sacrifice is; all four of her children are Soldiers. Sons Adam, Brady and Cory Ashworth are serving in the Utah National Guard, while her daughter Tara Delewski is a member of the Arizona Guard. Tara’s husband Jesse is a Marine. Gillins says the tree reflects a passion to find an outlet for the true meaning of Christmas.

“It is truly sacred to the meaning of Christmas and my children's sacrifices,” Gillins said. “Christmas will be very precious and dear this year. Material things have a much lower priority for us.”

“This is a time of gratitude and sacrifice from all of us to truly appreciate what Adam is giving in Afghanistan and Tara at Ft. Bliss,” Gillins added. “What must they and every Soldier be sacrificing this Christmas? It kind of makes ‘things’ seem trivial.”

“We thank God that Tara’s husband Jesse returned safely from Iraq and is with us this Christmas,” Gillins continued. “As a family we pray not for material things but for gifts of safe returns, freedoms ensured, countries stabilized, strong military leadership to resolve war and return peace to the Middle East.”

Capt. Adam Ashworth serving in Afghanistan with I Corps Artillery (Forward) with the mission to train members of the Afghan National Army.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Adam Ashworth

Capt. Adam Ashworth serving in Afghanistan with I Corps Artillery (Forward) with the mission to train members of the Afghan National Army.

Adam Goes First, A New Family Tradition

Beaver is far removed from the ravages of war. A war where her oldest son is fighting on one front while the second front is calling for her daughter’s service. A war her son-in-law just returned from. A war that could still call upon her two youngest sons to serve.

This average-sized family from rural Utah is patriotic to say the least. With Adam in Afghanistan, it’s easy for Gillins to reflect on where her family is today and what motivated her children to serve their country.

In 1984 Adam Ashworth was a 6-year-old boy who wanted to be an Army guy for Halloween. He tried to sit patiently as a real Soldier applied the green, black and brown camouflage paint to his face.  

That Soldier was Sgt. Bart Whatcott, and the few minutes he took to paint a little boy’s face for a Halloween costume left an impression and started a life-long friendship between the Ashworths and Whatcott.

Eleven years later Adam asked his mother and father to sign his enlistment papers into the Utah National Guard. While Adam was in Basic Training his younger brother Cory who was six at the time, wore BDUs, refusing to take them off. Gillins said she eventually had to hide them.

Brady Ashworth, center, is the fourth Ashworth sibling to join the National Guard. Brother Adam, left, joined more than 11 years ago.

Photo courtesy of Shari Gillins

Brady Ashworth, center, is the fourth Ashworth sibling to join the

National Guard. Brother Adam, left, joined more than 11 years ago.

It was just a few years later when Gillins’ daughter Tara joined the Guard, and with her enlistment a family tradition was born: loading up the remainder of the family and driving to Fort Sill, Okla., for Basic Training graduation. It wasn’t long after that when the car would be emptier but heading for the same destination. The family would have another Basic Training graduation; this time for Brady. Cory, 17, heads to Basic at Fort Benning, Ga., in May 2007.

Adam in Afghanistan, Family Supports from Afar

This year, Capt. Adam Ashworth is spending Christmas in Afghanistan. It is the second deployment of his 11-year career. Ashworth is assigned to the 1-145th Field Artillery Battalion. He says his experiences in the Guard and now in a combat zone strengthen his resolve to make a difference.

“I have been in Afghanistan for four months now and have experienced everything expected in a combat zone,” Ashworth said in an Email interview.

“As I work with the Afghan National Army soldiers—sleeping, eating, fighting, and training with them every day—I have developed a brotherhood-type bond expected when events are experienced, such as war. Mostly I have had to learn a lot of patience. But I have welcomed the opportunity to help these soldiers better their war-fighting and help them achieve freedom,” Adam wrote.

Adam credits his family with the success he has had in the Guard, especially his wife Tessa who has unconditionally supported his career.

“My wife is the most positive and supportive woman I could ever imagine,” Adam wrote. “The National Guard has required much time spent away from her and my little girl, but knowing that Tessa supports me 100 percent and is as strong as she is has made this deployment easier.”

Spc. Tara Delewski salutes her older brother, Capt. Adam Ashworth, after she reenlists in the Guard.

Photo courtesy of Shari Gillins

Spc. Tara Delewski salutes her older brother,

Capt. Adam Ashworth, after she reenlists in the Guard.

Tessa knows that deployments come with the job of a Soldier’s wife. She has accepted that role, supporting Adam, though she says it isn’t always easy.

“Adam is proud to serve his country and he feels it his duty,” Tessa said. “I support him in that. It takes prayer, family support and a lot of hope. I don't know how to explain it, but our love and security in our relationship has made me realize that whatever happens, it will be all right.  I think it takes a strong relationship to survive a deployment.”

Soldiering is the family business and Adam says he is proud of his brothers and sister for following in his footsteps.

“I think my siblings saw what the Army did for me and how proud my parents were, and they wanted that same feeling of accomplishment. I have the utmost respect for my siblings for joining the Guard,” he wrote. “Brady and Cory joined despite all the turmoil going on in the world. When I joined there was a very slim chance of going to combat, but now a Soldier is almost guaranteed to deploy.”

He says that pride is especially true for his sister Tara whom he says chose a profession in a "male-dominated society.”

Sister Act: Early Intermission for Tara

Spc. Tara Delewski waits to have her right knee operated on at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Photo courtesy of Spc. Tara Delewski

Spc. Tara Delewski waits to have her right

 knee operated on at Fort Bliss, Texas.

As Christmas approaches, Tara Delewski is at Fort Bliss, Texas, waiting for an operation on her right knee. While she thinks about her family, she also thinks about her fellow Soldiers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The 222nd Transportation Company of the Arizona National Guard is performing convoy missions from Kuwait to Northern Iraq. They are moving Soldiers and supplies into the combat zones of the struggling democracy.

“I was really excited to go to Iraq even though my husband had just returned from Iraq himself,” Delewski said. “My unit is just like a family and we are very close.”

Delewski said she didn’t want to let her fellow Soldiers down.

“I am determined to go to Iraq,” Delewski said. “I had come too far to give up. When I hurt my knee and was told I wasn’t going it broke my heart. I had completed all of my training and was validated to deploy. All the blood, sweat and tears for this deployment were put on hold.”

Delewski said there is still a chance for her to catch up with her unit this spring. While she is close to the Soldiers in her own unit, there is nothing like the bond she shares with her brothers.

“I am extremely proud to serve with my three brothers,” Delewski said. “We all have a sense of fulfillment and pride when we are in uniform. Out of uniform that bond is unexplainable. It’s a bond that most siblings do not share and there is an understanding of the sacrifice it takes to be a Soldier.”

Brady and Cory March to the Same Drum

For Brady and Cory Ashworth, joining the Guard meant more than serving their country; it completed and sealed a bond between the Ashworth siblings. However, Gillins was apprehensive when her youngest, Cory, came to her in September 2006 and said he wanted to join the Guard too.

“I had accepted that Adam, Tara and Brady joined,” Gillins said. “When Cory came to me and my husband Mitch right after his seventeenth birthday, I broke down and cried. I told Cory he needed to talk to his father Mike. Mike and his wife Heather have been involved and supported the children and their decisions.”

Cory had talked to his father, telling his mother it was his own decision and she had to sign the enlistment paperwork.

“I called Mike immediately,” Gillins said. “He said we had to continue to support the kids and their decisions. Cory’s enlistment was a hard one for me. But I know now that he made the right decision, just like his brothers and sister.”

Ashworth, whose birthday is September 11, said it wasn’t a hard decision for him. The events of 9-11 strengthen his resolve to serve alongside his siblings.

“I take great pride in serving my country,” Cory Ashworth said. “I also joined because of Adam. He was the first one to join in our family. I wanted to complete the sibling tradition.”

Shari Gillins, second from left, with her family at Adam's departure for Afghanistan June 9.

Photo courtesy of Shari Gillins

Shari Gillins, second from left, with her family at

 Adam's departure for Afghanistan June 9.

As Gillins looks at the Christmas tree with the white doves in her home, she thinks back to a hot summer afternoon in Minersville, Utah. That Fourth of July, Gillins, her husband Mitch, Adam, Tara and Jesse were attending the city’s Independence Day celebration. The event was honoring veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and local Triple Deuce Soldiers deployed in Iraq.

“I was busily chatting with Adam, Tara, and her husband Jesse,” Gillins said. Suddenly the three of them stopped talking. They were focused on the American flags being carefully brought to the podium. All three of them stood at attention and faced the colors. Nothing distracted their gaze, attention and stance in any way. Other people were laughing, talking, eating and hardly noticing the flag. But Adam, Tara and Jesse never moved until the flags had been posted.”

Gillins said she simply observed them and absorbed the moment.

“It was at that moment that the full meaning of what my children's service meant to them—and me,” she said. “It became as crystal clear as anything I had ever experienced with them. My immense pride in my children's choice to serve their country is an understatement. I am very proud to be a Blue Star Mom.”