Today as Americans remember those past and present who have served in the United States military, Shayne Parker of Carson City has someone special in mind -- her 28-year-old son is one of hundreds of American troops serving in Operation Enduring Freedom at Camp Kandahar in Afghanistan.
John Paul Ortstadt, a 1992 graduate of Carson High School, joined the military in 1995 and has been in Afghanistan since May 1.
Parker, lead cook at Cactus Jacks, is proud of her son, who is now a husband and father of four girls, as well as a staff sergeant in the Air Force.
"He's a great kid, always has been a good kid. I'm worried about him, but proud at the same time," she said Sunday from her South Carson home.
With little prompting, Parker was proudly showing off photographs of her son in his Air Force dress blues, photos of him and his wife, Sara, at their wedding and a Christmas card photograph of his angelic girls -- Ashlee, 4; Natalee, 3; Aysha, 1; and, then-two-week-old Catherine.
Her last face-to-face meeting with Ortstadt was in December. Their last extended conversation by phone was at the end of April when he told her he was leaving for Afghanistan.
"I was totally bummed. He was supposed to come out for Mother's Day. I always look forward to him coming home with his kids and his wife," Parker, 47, said. "I wasn't too happy."
The night of April 30 she stayed awake and called him first thing in the morning before he left his home base at McCord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash.
"I stayed up just so I could say goodbye," she said.
For the first three weeks of his deployment, there was no contact with anyone until Ortstadt was at his final destination when he called his wife, who called his mom.
Now, Parker's communication is via e-mails Ortstadt sends to his paternal grandparents in Las Vegas, who forward those to Parker's home.
She knows she is a little behind the times by not having a computer, but who has that kind of money to spend and "I wouldn't even know how to work one," she admitted.
"Hi Nana and Papa," Ortstadt wrote. "Boy, it's another hot one today, heat index 130. Hey, would you send me a care package or a letter? Please no candy or goodies. Maybe some jerky and a dart board or games! Will you please call my mom and let her know I'm fine. There's no way I can get in touch."
In another, he relates the tediousness of his duties.
"It's like a camping trip from hell and the work load's no peach either. Sorry I can't tell you where I am, but I love you and am thinking of you."
He signed the letter, "#1 Grandson, Johnny."
Parker said she won't watch the news. The potential for upset is there, but she peeks at the crawlers that run along the bottom of the screen on CNN.
Ortstadt first went into the military when there was no money for college, she said. With the four girls, she suspects he'll make a career in the Air Force. Currently he is a crew chief for C-5 cargo planes designed to provide strategic airlift for deployment and supply combat and support forces.
"I think its great that he's in the Air Force and he's serving his country," she said smiling. "I thought people would like to know that a kid from here is over there."
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To write or send a care package
Staff Sgt. John Ortstadt
Operation Enduring Freedom
64 AEG/C-17 MX
APO AE 09310
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