Just days after Raynell Ridgeway was deployed to Afghanistan, his mother Erika McCaleb made a vow to write to him at least once a week.
“I just don’t want him to feel like no one back home is supporting him,” McCaleb said. “I need him to stay focused.”
However, McCaleb won’t be the only one sending Ridgeway, 24, love and support.
The employees of Desert Call Connection, 4330 S. Valley View Blvd., created about 600 care packages and letters to send to Ridgeway and his battle buddies for Valentine’s Day.
Ridgeway and McCaleb have worked at the company for more than two years.
“All the packages and letters include a postcard, envelope and stamp so they can respond if they want or send a letter to someone they care about,” said Desert Call Connection CEO Gabriel Bristol. “The whole company was part of the process in one way or another. Some donated products, while others decorated and constructed them.”
The company will continue to raise donations and send additional packages throughout the year, according to Bristol.
“We have a commitment to the people that we consider heroes, the people who fight on our behalf,” Bristol said. “We wanted to make sure (Ridgeway) understood that we are thinking of him while he is gone, and that we will be there to receive him with open arms when he returns.”
After moving to Las Vegas from California, Ridgeway joined the Army Reserve three years ago. McCaleb said she didn’t know about her son’s plans until after he had already signed the papers.
“He just handed me an ink pen, and it said ‘Army Reserves’ on it,” McCaleb said. “We both started crying. I told him they were happy tears. I’m proud of him.
“To this day, I still have the pen up in my closet. No one is allowed to use it. I haven’t even used it.”
According to McCaleb, her family has a history of enlisting in the Army, including her father, uncle and great-uncle.
“It’s like the Army is in our blood system,” McCaleb said. “(Ridgeway) never knew we had so many veteran family members. He just had a calling to join.”
McCaleb said she worries just like “any other mother.” She met a local veteran on a bus who gave her tips on what she can do for Ridgeway while he’s overseas.
“He said, ‘My whole time was lonely. I hardly got any letters,’ ” McCaleb said. “So I plan to send him something once a week, even if it’s just a piece of paper with ‘Hi’ on it.”
Ridgeway is set to return home May 15, 2015, after about 480 days of service. McCaleb said she’s already counting down the days.
“Everyone deserves a child that’s as loving, respectful and honest as (Ridgeway),” McCaleb said. “He does not let anything interfere with his duty and responsibilities as a person. I love him more than life itself.”
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at email@example.com or 702-383-0403.