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Staff Sgt. Gary Fink shares an ice coffee and a laugh with mom, Linda Pegg.

Staff Sgt. Gary Fink shares an ice coffee and a laugh with mom, Linda Pegg. (Courtesy of Marisol Espinosa)

Staff Sgt. Gary Fink shares an ice coffee and a laugh with mom, Linda Pegg.

Staff Sgt. Gary Fink shares an ice coffee and a laugh with mom, Linda Pegg. (Courtesy of Marisol Espinosa)

Pegg is a Morale, Welfare and Recreation coordinator on Camp Victory, while Fink is stationed there with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team

Pegg is a Morale, Welfare and Recreation coordinator on Camp Victory, while Fink is stationed there with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Courtesy of Marisol Espinosa)

Pegg, center, shares a laugh with her son, right, and friends.

Pegg, center, shares a laugh with her son, right, and friends. (Courtesy of Marisol Espinosa)

For the past five years, Staff Sgt. Gary Fink has delivered his Mother’s Day messages through the mail and by phone.

“We haven’t spent a Mother’s Day together since I’ve been in the military,” said Fink, 24.

This year is different for Fink and his mother, Linda Pegg. Both are stationed at Camp Liberty in Iraq — Fink as an intelligence analyst with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Pegg as a civilian Morale, Wellness and Recreation coordinator.

The last time they were this close was back home in Alabama before Fink enlisted. So instead of making a long-distance call Sunday, Fink will spend time and share a meal with his mom.

“We’re going to hang out and be close to one another. We’re simple folks. We don’t need much,” Fink said.

In the midst of danger, mother and son say they’re grateful for the chance to be so close.

For the other soldiers, Pegg tries to be a sort of surrogate mom. “Even a grown man — I don’t care if you’re 50 — you miss your mom,” she said.

Pegg spends most of her days boosting troop morale. She’s a familiar face to soldiers, offering hugs and greetings.

“I’m used to it by now,” Fink said of his mom’s concern for his fellow soldiers. “It’s something I’ve grown up with. She’s always been there for all my friends.”

Pegg has been in Iraq for 17 months, working in Taji before getting transferred to Camp Liberty in mid-April. The new assignment meant being closer to her son, whom she’s able to see on a regular basis. She has no immediate plans to leave Iraq.

“I take it day by day” she said. “The transfer made a big difference. We actually communicate more now than we did when he was in Germany.”

Pegg said there are a couple of reasons why she decided to leave Alabama behind.

“Being close to my son was a factor, but not the driving factor,” she said

Back home, Pegg said she would often encourage young people to join the military. The military is a place where youngsters from poor backgrounds can develop skills to help them achieve more, she said.

But it wouldn’t be right to encourage people to join and not “back it up” in some way, she said. “I wanted to be here to support that,” Pegg said.

Fink, who is in his second tour, was recently promoted. During the ceremony, his mother was there to attach his promotion pin.

Stationed in Taji at the time, she received permission to fly in for the event. A month later, she moved to Camp Liberty full time.

“Hey,” Pegg said, “I couldn’t ask for a better Mother’s Day.”

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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