CLEARFIELD Victoria Ramos was so close to seeing her soldier son, Army Spc. Belmor Ramos, again. He was going to be home in June, then July, then September.
It's been 15 months since he was deployed to Iraq.
But when Belmor Ramos pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to murder as part of a plea deal, he received a seven-month prison sen-
tence, expected to be served in Germany.
The plea deal means he will testify against fellow soldiers accused in the deaths of four Iraqi men, who were killed and dumped in a Baghdad canal in April 2007, allegedly in retribution for casualties in Ramos' unit.
Ramos, 23, had faced a possible sentence of life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder.
His defense attorney, Capt. Patrick Bryan, who had asked for his client to be formally reprimanded and allowed to stay in the Army, had little to say about the sentence.
"It is what it is," he said, noting that the case would be automatically reviewed, a process akin to an appeal.
Judge Lt. Col. Edward O'Brien said that, had it not been for the plea agreement, he would have sentenced Ramos to 40 years in prison, but instead will order Ramos' rank reduced to private and that he be dishonorably discharged from the army.
That's right where a mother's protective instinct comes in.
Victoria Ramos said Friday she hopes that once her son comes back to the United States to rebuild his life, people don't judge him too harshly.
"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "He was just in a bad situation nobody could control."
His mistake of standing by while fellow soldiers shot their prisoners doesn't make him a bad person or a monster, she said.
"He is a good boy, a good man," she said.
Victoria Ramos has always told her son's three younger siblings they should look up to him and try to be like him.
And even though her son faces punishment for his actions, she knows he's doing the right thing by telling the truth.
"He was raised with church," she said. "He learned that the truth always has to come out, and it's always going to come out."
The last time she talked to her son was three weeks ago while she was visiting Chile. He told her he had to go to court and asked her to pray for him, though he told her the future was in God's hands.
Then came the news Thursday about why exactly Ramos was in court, when a reporter stopped by her house to ask some questions.
"I cried and cried," she said.
People can still trust her son, she said.
Ramos worked hard to achieve his goals, rising to the rank of major in the Clearfield High Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
He followed in the footsteps of his father, who had a military career for 25 years.
"Serve his country is the only thing he wanted to do," Victoria Ramos said. "He would give his life if needed."
Victoria Ramos never liked the idea of his going to war. She hasn't been able to watch war movies or television shows dealing with the subject. And she always feared, each time she heard news of soldier deaths abroad, that it would be her son.So, for her, there's solace in knowing that at least her Belmor will be coming home alive.
Contributing: The Associated Press E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org