Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rate Your Year

A favorite blogger titled his daily blog today " Rate Your Year Here" and it got me thinking. Of course my first thought was it was "my year was cursed". And it was but I also had to stop and think about all the blessings. You see this same blogger asked a question the other day to which I responded, " Curses and blessings usually come hand in hand".

So here I sit thinking about the horrific pain I have endured and am learning to live with this year. The black hole in my soul that is so empty it is painful. I think about my other three kids and the pain they too endure and the helplessness I feel at times when I can not make it better. I think about my son's father's words..."I lost my son and my legacy". I think about the men who fought and lived beside my son and their pain. You see they loved him too. As much as I did with a bond I will never know. The curses...

And I think about all the love and caring we have all received. Some from strangers who I will never know again. Some from people who this tragedy brought into my life and who have now become fixtures. I think about the bond and relationships I have built with my son's brothers. Truly an extended family I may never have gotten to know as I have except for our shared grief. The blessings...

I also have to look at where this path is taking me. In the process of learning to live with this pain, for it never heals, I have explored this new voice I have and how best to use it. I have found strengths and talents I did not know I had. And I have found joy again in doing work I never would have considered before. The reward of finding something I both enjoy and can help my son's brothers doing is more than a person could hope to be blessed with.

So how do I rate my year? My year was cursed... and curses and blessings come hand in hand.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Gift of Giving

I was speaking recently with someone regarding charities that support the troops. There was a remark made that the government should take care of it all. What this person (who has a heart of gold and truly cares about the troops) forgot is that by doing something through private charities we are not only taking care of our troops we are showing them Honor, Respect and Love. These are things that can not be provided through a government program. It's about the service these programs provide but more so it is about the love from the people involved. It's the connection that is made by giving of yourself that is the true purpose of these charities.

For myself the work I do for the troops is healing. Shortly after my son's death I had a Solider tell me.. "It's easier when you are over there. You have a mission to focus on." It was then I realized I needed a mission to focus on. My mission was simple. Take care of my son's military family. It started with his platoon.. I soon realized I have quite a large military family and it is not just one branch but 5 branches. Some I can give to directly some indirectly but all I do is for my family. And by giving to them I have also received so much. I have made friendships I cherish. Those are more valuable than words can express. I have received a sense of purpose also. I never planned on getting anything back for my mission but I have gained so much.

There is a gift you receive when you give to others. BUT you must give freely without expectations to truly get the rewards from it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 2008

I spent a little of Christmas with my Army family last night. As most you know the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq asked me to help coordinate a few blog talk shows together and put on a 6-hour message read. The first two hours the troops were unable to log on but during the 3rd two hour session we were able to read as many of the messages as I could pullout of the very active chatroom. Some were not showing on my screen and I feel terrible about missing those. All in all it was funny and in a small way I got to spend some of my Christmas with these phenomenal men who I think of not just friends but family. I like taking care of my family and for me that was what doing the Troop Christmas show was all about. I hope they enjoyed the shows as much as we did. I look forward to putting together more for them in the future.

In a small way my son was with me last night. This will be the second Christmas I will not be able to hug him. Of course last Christmas he was safe and being silly with his guys. Waking them up and blessing them all with a candy cane. And I thought that it was just a matter of time before I could hug him and make his favorite candies for him again. Chocolate covered pretzels. I didn't make them this year. Maybe next.

Christmas this year is all about ghost. Pokey's ghost.. He is everywhere. I hear his voice as a small child asking to help frost cookies, or if Santa knows he was good. I hear him as a teenager begging for this or that to be under the tree. I see him laying on the couch watching Christmas Specials. I see him peeking out the window looking for the snow. I want to reach out and touch him but I know I can't. I will never run my finger through his hair again or feel his head on my shoulder as he comes up behind me. I'll never look into his eyes and know he is lying because his smile is so big both sets of dimples show. He is not here... but yet he is everywhere in this house.

Do not cry for me this Christmas. I have the memories of all the past Christmas' to inspire me. And I want them to. I want to be able to bring a little joy to others and hope that the memory created is one they will hold for many Christmas'. Because in the end it is not about trees, lights, presents or shiny things.. it's about creating memories and sharing joy.

Merry Christmas from me and my Santa's Helper

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ask ..Just Ask...

One of my son's former teachers dropped by today. Magazine in hand... " Have you seen this?" There it was.. my son's picture. His bright smile. He was in the lined up of Fallen. The first fallen in Oklahoma this year. Now while I am glad he and the others are being remembered and honored, imagine if I had not been in my livingroom when I saw that but at the Doctors office or the nail salon. No one asked me if they could use my son's imagine. No one warned me I may open up a magazine and see my son staring back at me. Do these people not realize how hard something like that is on the families? How it blindsides us and knocks the very strength out of us? And to top it off they are making money by adding my son's picture to their magazine. Did they offer to donate anything to a troop supportive organization in his name? I don't want the money but by God if they are going to make money off his picture the very least they can do is help his brothers and sister out.

If you are going to honor the fallen... start by respecting the families and the emotions we face every time our loved ones imagine and name is used. Don't blindside us.. talk to us and at the very least warn us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas With the Troops

About a week ago I was asked by a Solider in Afghanistan what I thought about doing a blogtalk radio show for the troops. A show that the guys who are way from home this Christmas could send in messages and have them read, request songs and hear greetings from home. Instantly I was smiling. One I was thrilled with the idea and two honored that those who are serving would ask me to be involved. They had already contacted one host and I was able to help bring 2 other shows on board with this project. I want to thank the man who's idea this was, Cpt Kevin, for not only thinking of this but for involving me. Please if you can join us... it should be a fun and touching evening.

Three Blog Talk Radio shows are banding together to air a six hour Christmas show that is all for the troops. Chandler’s Watch, Buffman and Wrench and Do the Right Thing are going to broadcast back to back to back on Monday December 22nd starting at 6pm CST for our men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and any of our military who will not be home with family this holiday season. The show will include music, guest and reading messages from and to the troops.

We have a special email address set up for the troops to email a message to their families to us that will be read over the air (internet). Christmas4troops@yahoo.com (All emails will be deleted after the messages are saved.)

We will also have some celebrity guests coming on to send a message to the “guys”. Not meaning to drop any names but so far we have:

Tim Colceri The psycho door gunner from Full Metal Jacket

Kevyn Major Howard Rafterman from Full Metal Jacket and Founder of Fueled by the Fallen http://www.fueledbythefallen.com/

Congressman Duncan Hunter Capt. Duncan Hunter is a Veteran of OIF and OEF

Evan Sayet Comedian and Political Speaker

Dr Blogstein

The RumbleJetts

Soldier's Angels

Kaye Johnston from the Sugar Plums

Paul Maurtuano "Paula Abdul Stalker Song"

Slidawg and the Ramblin Rednecks

Victoria Jackson from Saturday Night Live

International Comedian David Naster

Dr Danger American Stuntman

Debra J Smith Informing Christians

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Reasons for Going to War

Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq stated 22 reasons why the United States went into Iraq
(in order written in the resolution)

1. Iraq’s past war of aggression and illegal occupation of Kuwait in 1990.
2. Iraq’s failure to abide by the unequivocal sanctions agreed to after 1991.
3. Iraq’s history of possessing chemical and biological weapons and advanced nuclear weapons development program (and failure to prove complete destruction of such weapons)
4. Iraq’s flagrant violation of the cease fire
5. Iraq’s attempt to thwart efforts of weapons inspectors up until 1998
6. U.S. Congressional resolution conclusion that Iraq was continuing WMD programs in 1998
7. Iraq posed a continuing threat to the national security of the U.S, international peace and security in the Persian Gulf regions
8. Iraq continued to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability
9. Iraq supported and harbored terrorist organizations
10. Iraq engaged in brutal repression of its civilian population
11. Iraq refused to release, repatriate or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman
12. Iraq failed to return property wrongfully seized from Kuwait
13. Iraq has demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people
14. Iraq has demonstrated hostility toward and willingness to attack the United States by attempting to assassinate former President Bush
15. Iraq has demonstrated hostility toward and willingness to attack the United States and Coalition Forces by firing on many thousands of occasions on US and Coalition Armed Forces enforcing United Nations resolutions
16. Members of al Qaida are known to be in Iraq
17. Iraq continued to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens
18. The attacks of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations
19. Iraq’s demonstrated WMD capability (noted above), willingness to use WMD (noted above) and the risk to use or provide such weapons to terrorists (noted above)
20. UN Security Council Resolution 678 authorized the use of all necessary means to enforce UN SC resolution 660 and subsequent resolutions
21. The Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expresses the policy of the US to support efforts to remove the current Iraqi regime from power and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace the regime
22. It is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region

I hear a lot of how the war was wrong or all about oil. I hear both sides of the issue parading reason after reason out for why we are in Iraq. But it truly comes down to the men and women who are there and their personal reasons for joining the military and going. For some who serve the reason is on that list. Or it's a variation of one or more of the reasons in the resolution passed by our congress. For some the reason for going is not on the list. And whether you agree or disagree with the war in Iraq you have to look beyond the politics to the personal reasons of each man and woman who has made the choice to serve.

For Pokey the reasons were more along the lines of #10 and #18

10. Iraq engaged in brutal repression of its civilian population:
Micheal hated bullies. Despised people who preyed up on the weak. He felt is was the height of cowardice. When he read about the treatment of the Kurds he was truly upset. He saw the similarities to the treatment of the Jewish in WW2. When he chose to go infantry the mom in me kicked in and I did my best to talk him into an other "safer" MOS. Linguist school in Montery CA sounded lovely. After a few days of me hinting and pleading he look me in the eye and said "Mom, You taught me to stand up to bullies. I'm going infantry." I never said another word about it. One of the reason Pokey went to Iraq was to stand up to the bullies and help those oppressed by them. I think that has happened. Today you see Iraqis shopping, going to schools, voting. It will be a slow process for them to gain their confidence but now they have that chance.

18. The attacks of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations 9-11-01 pissed my son off. Being a history buff he saw the dots and connected them. Although just like every other American he was surprised by the act carried out that day he quickly put together the events leading up to it in order. And he knew if we ignored or appeased this act it would only embolden those who did it to bring more to our shores. It would be years before he could join the Army but I think the desire to began that day. And you know what.. US soil shores have not seen an attack since then.

Those were his reasons. I don't know maybe he had more. I'm sure he did but those are the big ones. So if you believe Iraq was all about oil.. great you believe that. Maybe for some it was. But for every man and woman fighting the reason are different. So if your reasons for the war don't justify it then they don't but for those who's reasons do they went and fought.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why I Tell My Story

Last night I was called some pretty nasty names. No worries as I have been called worse by better. But they stated also that I am in denial about my son's death and that I am simply seeking sympathy. This I take issue with.

My son was well read in history and knew more clearly than most why we had gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. He knew it was a just war and that it was a honorable and valuable fight. He also knew that fight may cost him his tomorrows. He was willing to take up the fight. I could do no more than support and love him.. So I did.

Having gone through what I have I can assure you there is no way to be in denial. The realities brings it home. The flag covered casket coming off the plane, Taps being played, guns firing. Once you have experienced these things denial is not going to happen. Trust me my son's death is very real to me.

Seeking sympathy from others is not what I am doing either. I feel sorry enough for myself most days that I don't need others to add to it. And the oh poor me mind set I could adopt I see as something that will only dishonor my son. So yes I do have moments when I pity myself and my family for their loss. But I stop and think also how blessed are to have had our lives touched by Pokey. It wasn't long enough but I had him in my life and for that I do not have any regrets.

So why do I speak out so much. Why do I tell Pokey's story, my story? Because to most Americans he and the others who have fallen are nothing more than a name on the list of dead. And for others, these men and women who have lost their lives in combat are seen as pawns in a game that were sacrificed to a less that noble cause. They see those still fighting as unthinking uncaring men who do nothing more than they are ordered. Well that is not true. Our Military men know why they are there. They see the reasons up close and personal every day. It is a just battle, fought with honor. They are making a difference in the lives of people who lived in fear and without hope for far too long. So I speak out.. so that maybe just one more person will stop believing the war is not personal. That those fighting it are anything less that real people who love, laugh, cry and hope.

There is another reason I speak out. It is my way of thanking my son for his gift. The gift of those who served with him who have touched my life. It is a gift that I have found that is I care for it and give it attention it grows. I now have military men and women who never knew my son touching my life. I find a great deal of joy and strength in them. I have people who never served, but simply love this country and want to support those who guard, it touch my life. And I have had those who are angry and mean and hurtful, touch my life. Every person has a lesson to teach us.. So even those who are not nice and say hurtful, vile things to me and about my son.. have taught me something.

I'll share my story as long as I think it will make those listening see those fighting and those fallen as real. And to those who do not want to hear my story... Don't listen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

One I wrote a while back...

August 8, 2008 - Friday

He’s a hero now..

When Micheal was killed one of the things people said to us often, to comfort us, was that he was a hero now. They are right, he is, but I want to ask them why did he have to die for them to realize he was a hero. To me to walk into a recruiting station and join the military (any branch) during war time takes courage and honor that is sadly rare these days. My son became my hero the day he signed the papers. I remember that day clearly. Sgt. Markham his recruiter would not let him sign at first. He stated quite clearly and honestly that we are at war and by joining he would be deployed to an active war zone in either Iraq or Afghanistan. My son understood where his job would take him. And for reasons so few people understand he had to go and do the job he choose. You see Micheal scored pretty darn well on the ASVAB and we encouraged him to go to linguist school. He had a nature ability to pick up languages. But no he wanted infantry. He wanted to make a real difference and in his mind the best way for him to do that was to fight up front. To stand between the evil and the oppressed literally.

So now I sit and wonder why it is that we have to bury a hero before they are seen as one. I've met so many heroes in the past few months. Most of them served along side my son. The men who email me almost daily to make sure I am doing ok. Me sitting here in a air conditioned house who can go to the store and buy what ever I desire at any time they worry about while they are doing without. Depending on the grace of others to send them snacks and toothpaste. These men who put on so much gear in the ungodly heat to go out into the streets of a foreign land to protect and free people they don't even know. These men and women who work so hard to contain the violence so it doesn't re visit our shores.

Then there are the heroes I meet in the recruiting station. Young people who have decided to join the military and go and continue this fight for freedom. They only have an inkling of what they will face yet they proudly tell me the jobs they have picked and how they are studying hard to increase their test scores. There is a pride and honor in these recruits you just don't see in the eyes of the kid heading to work at the local warehouse. Don't get me wrong I respect anyone who is willing to go get a job and make their way in the world but joining the military is different. Especially in this world today.

My son D is going to college this fall. I am proud of him more than he knows. And the fact is when his brother was killed he considered joining the Army and finishing the job his brother started. But it was not his path. If it is still something he wants a year from know I will support him in it. In a way Micheal's brothers and sister are heroes too. I come to that because when one member of the family joins the whole darn family joins. No we didn't face the dangers and hardships that Micheal did but we faced an emotional roller coaster only military families understand. Pride, Joy, fear, anger, hope, hopelessness. A part of each of us died on Feb 24th . There is a hole in our soul that will never heal. And we each fight from going into that hole. We help each other in that fight. We take turns being strong for the other.

I still don't understand why these men and women have to have taps played for the world to see the heroes they are. Or to step up and support the families that love them and give a part of their hearts to the military when their loved ones join. Funny thing is every single man and woman I know in the military would laugh at me for calling them heroes.. to them.. they are just doing their jobs. Which makes them even more heroic to me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Do we still set a plate?

"Do we still set his plate? Do we still set his chair? Do we still buy him gifts and if we don't did we not care?" ~ Winter by Bayside

The holidays are here and as much as I thought I was prepared I'm not. Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are now counting the days until Christmas. Last year I had two trees in my livingroom. The family tree with the ornaments collected and made over the years and a silver tree with red and blue balls on it and a yellow ribbon to top it. I called that one Pokey's tree. He spent Christmas in Baghdad waking up the barracks and blessing his brothers with a candy cane.

This year I am not sure what to do. Part of me wants to skip the shopping and decorating and all those things Christmas. Just hearing the carols playing over the speaking today broke me. But Pokey loved Christmas. He loved the lights and the cookies. He would be the first one to break out the Christmas carols and movies. Mannheim Steamroller was his favorite.

I know we will have Christmas, we have a young one who needs it, but it’s the damned empty stocking hanging with Pokey’s name on it that is killing me inside. It’s the chocolate cover pretzels I make every year that Pokey loved and the ornaments he made I will hang. He is here in the middle of it all but not here, at the same time. And I just can’t seem to balance it in my heart. And I am mad as hell about it. He should be here.. sneaking cookies and peeking under the tree.