By ERIN MAYES
When Miriam Watson was deployed to Kuwait, it was the day before Thanksgiving and her son was just 13 months old.
Little Tyzel had just started saying "momma," and "papa."
In the four months since she's been gone, he's moved on to more complicated phrases, such as "meow," "bye-bye" and the all-important "no."
Tyzel's father, Tiger Watson, is missing out on his son's growth, too. He was sent to Jordan in early February as a biological and chemical warfare specialist. He trains soldiers to suit up for chemical attacks and to decontaminate themselves and their vehicles.
Plan A was for either Miriam or Tiger to take care of Tyzel in the event that one of them was sent to war.
"We are plan B," said Justy Ragan, Miriam's mom. She and her husband, Bob Ragan, have been taking care of Tyzel for more than three months, since he was dropped off at their Columbia house the day before Christmas.
Miriam, 23, grew up in Columbia and attended Columbia Elementary School and Sonora High School. She breezed through boot camp because she's an athlete, having participated in track and field and cross country during all four years in high school.
She had wanted to be a doctor since she was in junior high school. She earned her emergency medical technician's license at Columbia College. Next on her list was her paramedic's license, but the college wasn't offering that course when she was ready to take it.
Miriam worked at Pak 'n' Save since she was 16 years old and was frustrated with the delay in her education.
"With her, everything has to be the ducks in a row," Justy Ragan said. "We were gone on vacation when she decided to join the Army."
Miriam discovered she could finish her medical schooling in the military while working as a medic and being paid.
Justy, 53, said she and Bob, 54, asked their daughter why she decided to join the military and told her they would have gladly scrounged up the money for her to attend medical school.
"We could have mortgaged the house, could have asked all of the aunts and uncles every relative for a little money," Justy Ragan said.