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Closer to home: A mom remembers 'my boy'
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: Closer to Home

 Jennifer Clarke embraces her son, Shane Cantu.
Courtesy of Jennifer Clarke
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Date published: 1/17/2013


--Jennifer Clarke was busy managing a Michigan grocery store when she got a phone call from her husband. He told her she needed to come home from work.

"I said 'I can't leave, I'm in charge of the store,'" Jennifer told The Unknown Soldiers. "Then I remember plain as day, my husband said 'Jennifer, there are two men here in military uniforms.'"

Jennifer's heart dropped as she let go of the phone and ran out the door. Her son, Pfc. Shane Cantu, was in Afghanistan, and all that the military mom wanted was for him to come home alive.

"Please, let my son only be injured," the tearful mother said as she drove home in a panic.

When she walked into her Corunna, Mich., home, a young soldier tried to maintain his composure while delivering an official casualty notification from the U.S. Army.

"Not my boy," Jennifer replied. "He's coming home, right?"

"No, ma'am," the solemn soldier replied. "He was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 28, 2012."

Jennifer, hoping she would soon wake from a nightmare, collapsed on the floor.

"You just don't think things like this will hit close to your community," she said later.

According to the Department of Defense, Pfc. Cantu, 20, died after he was wounded by shrapnel in eastern Afghanistan. He was serving with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy.

As the grieving mother reflected less than five months after her only son's death, Jennifer spoke of the last time she corresponded with Shane, who knew his young life was in peril.

"It's getting crazy over here, Mom," the soldier said. "I can't promise you I'll be home."

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