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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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His dad is in his band of brothers
Some families have a lot of members to honor on Veterans Day.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2007
Maverick Lorenzo Lawrence Jr and Sr taken in Kuwait last month after they hadn't seen each other for over a year.
They met briefly in Kuwait, one soldier getting ready to go to Iraq and the other preparing to go home. They embraced like old friends.
The talk was typical of soldiers. They discussed life in the Army, the drudgery and the terror. The older man offered the younger one advice about safety in the turmoil of a chaotic war. Stay alert. Always.
They posed for a picture, then hugged before parting.
"He's my only child," Maverick Lorenzo Lawrence Sr. said later. "I've seen too many dead sons. I think they should send him back."
Lawrence, 48, and his son, Maverick "Lo" Lawrence Jr., 23, are a rare father and son who have both served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2005. With a military stretched thin in two combat theaters, more is being asked of the troops in the field and their families on the home front.
The Army says it understands the anguish of any parent wanting an only child out of harm's way, especially given the stress of multiple deployments.
The Lawrence family, much of which is based in the Tampa Bay area, says too much has been asked of them.
The military has a tragic history of brothers and only sons dying in combat. The five Sullivan brothers all died in 1942 when a Japanese torpedo sank their ship near Guadalcanal. The movie Saving Private Ryan created a mythology about the lengths the military would go to rescue a soldier whose brothers have been lost on the battlefield.
But for an only child, untouched by the death of loved ones in war, the rules are clear.
Whatever a father's wish, Lo must stay in Iraq.
'My baby boy'
The senior Lawrence, a former Hillsborough County resident and electrician who now lives in the Atlanta area, served in the active Army in the late 1970s.
In a telephone interview from Kuwait, Lawrence said he didn't object when his son, living in Plant City, joined the Army in 2003.
Lawrence and Lo's mother, Caroline, are divorced. Lawrence said he understood his son's desire to live his own life.
Lawrence was soon called up from the Reserves himself.
In February 2005, the younger Lawrence was deployed to Afghanistan for a year working as a communications specialist. The next year, the father was sent to Iraq, where he worked as a traffic management coordinator.
Family members say the son cried when he heard his father was going to the war zone. The pair are close, family members say, almost like brothers.
"It's like they're on the same page and the rest of the world is out in left field," said the Rev. Harvey Lawrence, a Clearwater pastor who is Lawrence Sr.'s older brother.
On Father's Day 2007, Lawrence Sr. was sent to Afghanistan. His son had since been sent stateside, but by October his son got new orders.
He was headed to Iraq for 15 months, though he was to be discharged in June. Lawrence Jr. was caught up in the Army's stop-loss net, which allows the service to keep some soldiers even when enlistments expire.
"Military families are just getting pummeled," said Merlisa Lawrence Corbett, Lawrence Sr.'s sister in Alexandria, Va. "Everybody in this country is talking about Britney Spears. Maybe if there were a draft people would understand what we're going through."
The burden of war, she said, is carried by too few.
When he found out his son was headed to Iraq, Lawrence Sr. arranged to meet him in transit in Kuwait, where the father is now stationed. He expects to be back home in Georgia soon, hopefully retired from the military.
"My time is up," Lawrence said. "I've had enough."
It was a joyful meeting last month for a pair who hadn't seen each other in 17 months. And it was all too short. Lawrence said he could tell his son was worried. The father hoped he didn't sound like a mother hen.
"He told me not to worry," Lawrence said. "He promised to tell me if he's ever in harm's way. He told me, 'Don't tell momma. She'd be upset.'"
Lawrence said he prays for his son, who could not be reached to comment for this story. He said his faith in God carries him.
But as they parted in Kuwait, he couldn't help but wonder why the Army would put his only son anywhere near combat.
He thought Lo should be sent to a safer assignment.
"I don't mind defending my country," said Lawrence. "But there should be some emphasis on protecting the family name. This nation is built on family. He did his tour. He did his time. It's time for him to get out.
"He's my baby boy."
'We have to go'
Sons and brothers have been dying in combat since the Revolutionary War.
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln sent condolences to Lydia Bixby, who was thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War.
"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming," Lincoln's letter said.
It turned out that only two of Bixby's sons died in combat. One deserted. And Lincoln's secretary, John Hay, may have written the letter, some historians believe.
Then the Sullivans died in World War II, and the military made some efforts to keep brothers from serving in the same units or on the same ships. Today, it's not prohibited.
But it has long been a popular myth that an only son can't serve in combat.
Today, the military says that unlike Saving Private Ryan, even if a soldier were to lose brothers in a war -- even a wife or husband -- the survivor would have the option of staying in combat and would not be forced home. But they would have the choice.
Just being an only son or daughter isn't enough -- unless a father or mother were to die while serving.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Tallman said the services understand the unusual stress facing military families and are sympathetic.
"It's an all-volunteer Army," Tallman said. "Every one of us who wears this uniform volunteered. I'm not downplaying the concern of a parent. I completely understand that. But we have to go where the Army sends us. That's our duty. It's not a pleasant thing all the time."
A 61-year-old Massachusetts resident has a unique window into a father's fear.
In 1944 and 1945, Albert and Carmen Campagnone died in combat against the Germans. Their parents asked the Army to return their two surviving sons from the war.
The Army refused. Then a third son, Bernard, was killed in action. Finally, the sole survivor, Anthony Campagnone, was sent home.
The family's story wasn't the basis of Saving Private Ryan and gets little publicity.
"My father never talked about it," said Steve Campagnone, Anthony's only child. "When he died, I found the press clippings and the Western Union telegrams. ... Any father would want his son home. Believe me, I understand."
Campagnone said his grandmother wore black every day for the rest of her life and prayed daily for the souls of her lost boys.
"Nobody," he said, "should have to go through that."