U.S. sailor Derrick Broadous received the most memorable birthday gift he could have imagined aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on Thursday off the coast of California.
Aboard the aircraft carrier where President Bush gave a speech declaring that major combat in Iraq was over, he put his arm around Broadous, hugged him and wished him a happy birthday. Broadous turned 33 on Thursday.
"Yesterday, he said he got the best birthday present ever, and that he got to talk to the president," said his mother, Sharon Broadous of Oklahoma City, who talked with her son by e-mail after the presidential greeting.
On her way to church the evening of the president's speech, Sharon Broadous received a phone call from her daughter, who told her she had seen Derrick Broadous on television.
Although Sharon Broadous missed the televised event, she recognized her son when she picked up The Oklahoman on Friday morning, and she made sure everyone at work knew, too.
"When I got the paper this morning, I got to work, opened it up and there he was," she said. "I just asked them: Did they see him on the ship? Did they see my baby?"
Sharon Broadous works for the state Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Derrick Broadous went into the military in 1988 after graduating from Southeast High School in Oklahoma City.
And the circumstances leading up to his decision to go into the Navy were a little strange to her, Sharon Broadous said.
Originally, he wanted to be in the Army, but a recruiter encouraged him to join the Navy instead.
"It was kind of a shock to me, because he was afraid of water when he was little," Sharon Broadous said.
The man she described as overprotective of his younger sisters left for a 10-month deployment to the Persian Gulf before the war in Iraq started.
The USS Abraham Lincoln was on its way home when it was redeployed to assist with the Iraq war, she said.
"I was kind of apprehensive about the war," Sharon Broadous said. "I was a little disappointed when he had to turn around."
She admits that her concern continued during the war, but maintains she was not worried at least, not at first.
After watching the movie "Pearl Harbor," the fear began to set in.
"Oh, that wasn't the right movie to watch," she said.
Although she liked the movie, she probably should not have watched it during the war, she said.
But her son's age and experience gave her some sense of comfort.
Before he joined the military, Sharon Broadous said, she had to let him know he was just a man in the house, not the man of the house.
Despite his protective nature toward his family, he was a good son who never gave his mother any trouble, she said.
For some, the rewards of being in the military are appreciation and support from family, country and the nation's leaders.
For Derrick Broadous, that reward proved a little bit sweeter on his birthday.
"He wanted to let me know that I wasn't the only one that thought his birthday was special. His boss did, too," Sharon Broadous said.
The USS Abraham Lincoln is scheduled to return to Everett, Wash., on Tuesday.Archive ID: 1292965