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A mother's worst nightmare: My son is detained in Mexico

By Jill Marie Tahmooressi
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2243 GMT (0643 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mother of Marine being held in Mexico says this separation is worse than his combat tours
  • Jill Tahmooressi says her son expressed fear he would not make it
  • He was arrested after crossing into Mexico with several guns in his car
  • Jill Tahmooressi is relying on her faith to get her through this

Editor's note: Jill Marie Tahmooressi is the mother of Marine Sgt. Andrew Paul Tahmooressi, who has been behind bars in Mexico for months after he crossed the border from California with several guns in his car. He says he didn't intend to enter Mexico. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- It was a mother's worst nightmare. On March 31, 2014, at 11 p.m., I received a phone call from my 25-year-old son.

"Mom. I got lost, made a wrong turn and ended up at the Mexico border. I've been surrounded by military, and I need you to know in case anything happens to me."

On April 1, I received another phone call. "Mom, I've been arrested. Please get me an attorney," Andrew said.

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It was the most frightening call of my life -- worse than the call from Afghanistan as my son explained, "We have just been hit by an IED."

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The call from La Mesa Prison in Tijuana, Mexico, three days later went this way: "Mom, I am not going to make it through the night. Whatever you do, do not come down here and ask questions or do an investigation as you will be killed as well."

As Independence Day comes and goes this year, it is bittersweet to think about my son being bound by a felony arrest in a foreign country while we try to navigate a foreign judicial system.

To think about my son, vibrant and ambitious, being held in the bondage of incarceration is inconceivable. This young man who valiantly fought for the freedom of others, willing to die to combat the evil of oppression and violence in two tours in Afghanistan, meritoriously promoted to sergeant on the battlefield in 2012 -- and now he is languishing in a Mexican penitentiary and experiencing captivity for the first time, as a result of one wrong turn.

It is simply staggering. He has been incarcerated since April 1, for inadvertently crossing the border with legally purchased firearms. This separation is by far more traumatic than the combat tours.

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In Afghanistan, he had his Marine Corps brothers who always had his back. I feel like our executive branch has abandoned him, and it feels totally inhumane.

The White House has not responded to us despite our petition on Whitehouse.gov, which has nearly 130,000 signatures. The White House says it will respond to petitions that get 100,000 signatures in 30 days.

On a trip to Mexico in May, Secretary of State John Kerry "raised the issue" with authorities there.

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I am outraged. Andrew's situation should be considered a grave, serious and urgent concern.

In the past years while reading scripture, I often paused at the directive to visit those in prison. Deep in my core was the question, mingled with fear: How, who, why? Today I have learned to walk without shame, boldly and compassionately, through the corridors of bars and locks and have a newfound perspective for those imprisoned. Incarceration of a loved one is a heart-wrenching, soul-searching experience that can debilitate, consume and potentially destroy both the captive and his free loved ones.

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It is a difficult journey, but there is rest to be found in understanding that God's timing is perfect. I take huge comfort in that, and this is what keeps me going and fortifies my strength and helps me to persevere when I can't see God's plan. The saying, "Trust his heart when you can't trace his hand" is something I really have had to implement.

Through faith, I will continue choosing not to be crippled by the weight of the dismay, trauma, and disbelief associated with this, and I will be steadfast in my determination to overcome the barriers of this injustice. My strength, focus and vision come both from the Lord and from the solidarity and outreach of so many good folks on both sides of the border and around the world. I am not journeying alone as I have poured out my broken heart to so many. And it feels as if they symbolically cupped my tears and replenish me continuously with flowing waters of hope and support.

I fear that my son's plight is getting lost in current events happening on the ground in Mexico, but I know that through the collective strength of prayer and the unified focus of individual Americans standing together as advocates, there will be victory for Andrew.

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