November in the NFL is synonymous with Salute to Service, where teams and players pause, reflect and honor active military members, veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. For some Patriots, like Deatrich Wise Jr., they need look no further than their own families.
Deatrich calls his mom a superhero, and when he says it, he means it. Sheila Wise served in the Army as a nurse for 22 years, and after retiring in April 2017, she continues to care for her fellow veterans as a nurse manager at the Dallas VA Medical Center.
Growing up, Deatrich marveled how his mother made it all look so easy.
“I knew my mom would come home from a long day’s work, and I know she was tired, but she never showed it. I always told my brothers, she was a superhero in a sense,” he said. “Everybody in the house would get sick, and she would never get sick. She would be taking care of everybody then go to work, taking care of everybody again.”
Deatrich knows all too well what it means to see a loved one leave for months at a time. The family sometimes moved, following Sheila when they could. Sheila served three years on active duty from 2006 to 2009 and was mobilized from the family’s home in Virginia to Fort Hood, Texas.
Her husband, Deatrich Sr. and their three boys stayed behind in Virginia. Sheila said it was always difficult to leave, but this order was especially hard, not knowing when she would be back. On top of that, her sons were set to compete in track and field at the AAU Junior Olympics. This was the year that the Junior Olympics took place in their hometown, and she wouldn't be there to cheer them on.
“We traveled to Tennessee and New Orleans and to Iowa with the Junior Olympics. This particular year, we were excited. ‘Oh, yeah it’s going to be in our backyard right here in Virginia,’” Sheila said. “Lo and behold, just months before that, I got called up to Fort Hood … There was no way that I could stay for that. When you get orders, you have to go. I can’t say, ‘Well, wait a minute. My boys are running track. I need to stay back.’ It doesn’t work like that.”
The following year, Deatrich Sr. moved the kids to Dallas, just a two and a half hour drive from Fort Hood. Even though Deatrich Jr. said he and his brothers were “Tasmanian devils,” bouncing around the house with endless energy, Sheila said every time she came back home after a stint away, all she wanted was to put on pajamas and stay at home with her family.
“Whatever they did, I did. Their world was my world. I didn’t want to be apart,” she said. “I didn’t want to be separated from them again, and I know it was very hard for them because it was very hard for me – not only when I first left but then seeing them and having to go back. They were strong little boys, and I just hope that they understood. It was hard for them, and my youngest son said, ‘Don’t they know you have a family?’ He was confused. ‘Don’t they know you have a family?’ He just couldn’t understand why they were calling mommy away from her family.”
After Sheila finished her stint on active duty, she went back to the reserves. The Wise family adjusted well to Dallas, so they decided to stay and call it home. Now, she is working to help the veteran population there as a veteran herself.
“Being on this side, the camaraderie still continues because when I see veterans in the hallway, and being a veteran myself, it’s a bond,” Sheila said. “It’s a bond that you never lose, and being able to talk and work and communicate and to understand what they have been through. I love my job as a nurse manager.”
Watching his mother work hard, serve her country and save lives, Deatrich learned about a strong work ethic, but most of all, he learned from Sheila the importance of character.
“She’s really humble. She taught me how to be humble. She teaches me today, makes sure I stay humble. No matter how big I am, I’m still her baby,” Deatrich said. “She always wants me to stay humble. Inner joy, inner peace, those were the two things she kept with her, and she taught me as well … It’s a real honor to have her as a mother.”