JEFFERSON COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- Every veteran's story is important and unique, but some of them don't get to come home and share it.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 4,400 U.S. Military members died during Operation Iraqi Freedom between March 2003 and August 2010. Now, the mother of one of those soldiers is sharing his story from her home in Pevely, Missouri.
"Evan was my middle boy," said Anita Dixon.
Dixon is a proud mother of three boys but a chair in her dining room is reserved for the one in the middle - Evan Parker.
"Always head strong. He was this strong and buff little boy that always got into anything and everything. He never quit," said Dixon.
In the late 90s, Parker was a student at a junior college when he called home late one night with a big announcement.
"He goes, 'I joined the military.' and I said, 'What?' and he said, ‘Yep, joined the Army. I leave in the Spring,'" said Dixon.
In May 1999, Parker came to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training.
"He got out of the car and threw that green backpack over his shoulder and it hit me that there left a boy, walking in to be a man," said Dixon.
Sgt. Parker became a fire support specialist and was stationed in Hawaii.
"It was very quiet. He was over there doing his thing," said Dixon. "And then 9/11 hit."
Dixon told News 4 she was with co-workers with their eyes glued to the TV that September morning.
"While we were watching and we're just like, my heart just sunk. And then they started talking about now we are going to war," said Dixon.
But, it wasn't until 2004, when Sgt. Parker was in the reserves, that his unit got the papers his mom feared.
"He says, 'I'm being re-activated, I'm being deployed. I'm going to Iraq,’" said Dixon.
In January 2005, his boots were on the ground.
"He said, 'This is what I signed up for. I'm willing and ready to go.' And he was," said Dixon.
By the time Parker came home for a quick visit that summer, Dixon said her son was different. The war was taking its toll.
"Here he came, off the airplane, carrying his backpack, still in his desert uniform. I looked at him and he was just weary. He was just heavy," said Dixon.
She remembers he dropped his gear in the laundry room as soon as he walked in the door at their home.
"His boots were full of sand and his clothes shook out and there was sand," said Dixon.
She said her son didn't want to talk about what he saw, what they did. He didn't want to watch the news. He just wanted to escape it for a couple of days.
A few months later, toward the end of October 2005, once he was back in Iraq, Sgt. Dixon suddenly seemed to want to talk to everyone back home. He was calling his brothers, his grandma, and his mom, every single day.
"I said, 'Evan, you have called every day this week, is everything okay?' He said, 'Yeah, everything is fine. I just want you to know I love you,'" remembers Dixon.
But, the very next day, she got a very different phone call from Virginia.
"He said, 'I'm calling to inform you that there was an attack last night on your son's unit and he took a shrapnel piece from an IED,' and he said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry to inform you but it does not look good,'" said Dixon.
Dixon shared this story with KMOV 14 years to the day that she got that call.
"He said, 'There's no brain activity,'" said Dixon.
Parker was flown to Germany and placed on life support. His immediate family joined him as fast as they could. Now by his side, Dixon needed her son to know how deep her love is.
"I said, 'Evan, this is mom. I'm here. I made it. I love you,'" said Dixon. "I told him, 'You will always be remembered. You will never be forgotten. And your name will constantly be spoken.'"
Three days after the IED blast, Sgt. Evan S. Parker died at the age of 25. He is survived by two sons.
Since then, Dixon says his fellow soldiers have reached out to her, sharing a different side of her son.
"They talked of his calmness, of his joy. They talked of how he wore his heart on the outside of his chest," said Dixon.
Now, surrounded by his pictures, medals, and clothes, including a boot that still has sand from Iraq on the heel, Dixon said she is fulfilling her promise to keep telling his story.
"His legacy is, I'd do it all over again. I'm a soldier," said Dixon.