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For love of family and country - 3 brothers follow father's path
Woodbery 0518 LEAD
John Woodbery enjoys a moment with sons James, William, Harry and Thomas before departing for Iraq from Hunter Army Airfield. - photo by Special
    Statesboro resident Martha Woodbery has three sons in the service of our country. For her and her sons, serving their country is just part of the family business.
    Jerry Maddox Woodbery Sr. was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and was an army chaplain. He also served as minister of the First United Methodist Church in Statesboro before he passed away. In one form or another, his three sons – Jerry Jr. (Matt), John and Paul – all followed in his footsteps.
    John Woodbery, an Army lieutenant colonel is based out of Hunter Army Airfield but currently deployed in Iraq, explained how he chose the military life.
    “I would like to think, first and foremost, it’s a calling. You just don’t stumble into the military; I think you’re called to it,” said John. “It also helps when you’re born and raised in the military – It’s not just a profession at that point, it’s a way of life and a family.”
    “When I graduated from college, I felt distant from that family. In order to be happy, I needed to be reconnected with that family,” said John. “I think that’s where the calling part comes in.”
    Matt is also an Army lieutenant colonel, but serves as an Army chaplain, currently assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He echoed John’s sentiments.
    “There is no one sentence to capture it all. First of all, it’s a spiritual calling,” said Matt. “In my own discernment process about how God’s claim in my life was going to be played out and through a set of experiences, my education and of course my father’s vocation before me - it became clear that I wanted to serve both God and my country. The most obvious choice before me was to serve as a chaplain in the Army.”
    Paul, a Statesboro High graduate who’s a decade younger than his brothers, is currently a special agent with the FBI working out of the Washington field office. He said his dad and his brothers all influenced his career decisions.
    “My dad was the epitome of public service, honor and integrity. He believed in service and that’s how we were raised – to serve,” said Paul. “I have to say also that both of my brothers are big influences to me, because they’re ten years older than me. Here I was in college and my brothers were moving up in their Army careers – that was a big influence on me, too.”
    “With both my brothers in the military and my dad in the military, I just didn’t know anything else,” said Paul. “I didn’t consider anything else. It’s all I knew.”
    Paul, in particular, also had some local influences. He credits Statesboro High’s ROTC program — specifically Col. Phil Turner and Sgt. Bill Rogers — for teaching him about responsibility, perseverance and leadership and also keeping him out of trouble. In addition, Paul said the Statesboro Police Department, Chief York and all of the other SPD officers helped him learn a lot about law enforcement and reinforced his desire to pursue a job at the federal level.
    Martha was asked how she liked having all her boys working for the government.
    “I love it because my husband was an Army chaplain…retired a lieutenant colonel and we had a wonderful life,” said Martha. “So I’m quite happy and they are to — that they’re serving their country.”
    John and Matt have both been stationed in Iraq, with John slated to return stateside in about 70 days. They all talked about how much they still communicate with each other, despite the other’s locations.
    “My first day in Baghdad I was handed a cell phone that had international calling,” said Matt. “So, in the event a soldier had an emergency need to talk to a loved one, or vice-versa. So I talked to my wife almost daily.”
    He said that privilege had its pluses and minuses.
    “When the car got a flat tire, I heard about it. I don’t know what I was going to be able to do about that tire. Now I’ve got the stress of the tire and the stress of the war,” said Matt.
    The reverse was also true.
    “I remember one day, (my wife and I) were on the phone and we came under a rocket attack. She could hear the rockets coming in and the explosion. And then it was ‘Honey, I gotta go. Click,’” said Matt. “I left her hanging and wondering what was wrong with my husband.
    Matt said he’s heard a number of stories from folks in firefights and the effect it has on the loved ones at home.
    On the other hand, John says the soldiers are very in tune with events happening stateside.
    “We get the Stars & Stripes every day. The soldiers watch FOX News and CNN – all that stuff’s piped in – and most people get AM/FM over here, too,” said John.
    The Internet, in particular, has had a tremendous effect on the ease of communication between engaged soldiers and their loved ones at home. Martha said she even received flowers on Mother’s Day that John had ordered on the Web.
    “The Internet is a wonderful thing. And we can order from places like Amazon or Barnes & Noble and they ship over there. It’s just a snap. Everything is different than it used to be,” said Martha.
    However, some things never change, including the practice of putting big Xs on calendars to mark off the days. Does Lt. Col. John Woodbery have such a calendar?
    “I do. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you I started that the first day I got here. There’s no place like home,” said John.
    John and around 3,000 men in his brigade will be returning to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. in about 70 days. The Woodberys and all the other families are ready to have them home.

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