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Viral Justin Bieber photo highlights the role of faith

Posted: March 21, 2014 10:28 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2014 10:28 p.m.

This is the photo posted to Facebook in January which later gathered attention and went viral. The photo compares a recent Justin Bieber arrest photo to Jason Gardner's Marine Corps. The message, age is not a good excuse for bad behavior.

When Debbie Gardner posted a photo on Facebook of her son Jason juxtaposed alongside pop star Justin Bieber, she didn’t expect it to go viral. Debbie was merely fed up with the media attention Bieber received after his recent arrests.

The photo of Bieber and her son LCpl. Jason Gardner in uniform, now stationed in Washington D.C. on active duty with the Marines, quickly went viral.

Today it has more than 37,000 likes and was shared over 63,000 times. Her message was clear, fame and age are not excuses for breaking the law.

Debbie posted the picture in January. Part of the caption read, “[Justin Bieber] is getting a lot of attention for immature, delinquent behavior. . . [Jason Gardner] and others like him SHOULD be getting a lot of attention and respect for their integrity, selflessness and service to our country.”

Justin Bieber is a household name to many. In comparison, everyday heroes serving in the military often go wholly unrecognized. Debbie hoped to draw awareness to that and help honor military heroes.

“People say Bieber is only 19, that’s not a good excuse,” said Debbie. “I know a lot of 19 year olds, mine included, that don’t act like that.”

Overcoming adversity

Jason was born three months premature, severely underweight and addicted to methamphetamine.
He was born to a teen mom who was in and out of jail. When he was seven months old, child services wanted to place him in foster care after finding him sick, malnourished and uncared for.

Family reached out to Debbie asking her to care for him temporarily. She quickly agreed, eventually legally adopting him by the age of five.

Jason had many obstacles to overcome as a result of his infant drug dependency. He struggled in school academically, but turned to his faith and church family for strength and comfort.

Debbie, a 20 year member of Christ Lutheran Church, raised Jason with a strong faith background. He regularly attended church, youth group, mission trips and even taught Sunday School for several years.

“I was brought up in a good church environment,” said Jason. “Faith helps create morals. I am who I am now because of church and the people I met through church.”

Jason chose to stay away from many teen pitfalls like drinking, smoking and drugs and had his eye on joining the Marines from a young age.

“Joining the Marines was something I always wanted to do, it was a way to serve my country,” he said.

Better role models

Debbie wanted to show young adults can make choices even in the face of peer pressure and other obstacles. Men and women of integrity should receive the spotlight, in her opinion, not bad behaving celebrities.

“Life takes bravery, I always say,” said Debbie. “We all know right from wrong, it’s always a choice.”

The photo has draw attention locally and nationally. Jason didn’t think much about it initially, then realized the attention was growing. Veterans across the country began thanking Debbie for spreading her message.

“People like Bieber are making a negative impact on young kids in our society,” said Jason’s fellow Marine Corps friend, LCpl. Lorne McIntosh. “People like Gardner, they serve our country and are getting less credit than someone not even from this country.”

Jason agreed with his mother’s message. Good examples, like the people serving our country, should get the attention and act as role models for children. He also spoke about compassion.

“I don’t think people should hate Bieber,” he said. “He’s still young, we can’t expect him to be perfect.”

As for Jason, he says he turns to his faith for strength to do the right thing, even now. When asked why he doesn’t drink he simply replies, “It’s just not me.” He admits his faith and church family has helped to make him a better person.

“I rely on God and the people in my church to keep me going,” Jason said.


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