Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pokey's Last Victory

A few months ago we met the medic who worked on Pokey that day. He did an amazing job making sure my son had the best chance to live and got him to the surgeons alive. He told us that he had never know anyone so strong or who had fought so hard to live. Those words did not really fully hit me until I heard

“ He looked up at me, grinned and said ‘Hey’ ”

These were the words I heard from the amazing man who had held my son’s hand as they drove him to the medivac. This man never let go of my son’s hand from the moment the medic and he got to the seen until they put Pokey on the helicopter. He had tears in his eyes as he told me. I don’t think he will ever know how healing those words are for me. My son smiled. He wasn’t scared. Yes I realize he was in shock but to the very end he was true to himself and shared a smile with those who were with him. They broke his body beyond repair but they did not break his spirit, they didn’t break him. It is that grin that I see as my son’s last victory.

There were so many men who were a part of that day. The medic who worked so hard to make sure my son had a chance and gave it to him by getting him to the ER alive. The platoon Sgt who sprinted from the rear of the convoy to the front and then took charge to secure the area and make sure no one else was hurt and the men focused their attention on their jobs. The 1SG who held my son’s hand that day. The medivac team who got him to the ER in minutes and comforted him on the way. The surgeons who worked so hard to save him. They all worked so hard and did their jobs perfectly. I know they see it as a failure but in my eyes it was not. How can these men put their hearts souls, blood, sweat and tears into saving my son and be anything less than heroes to me.

The days that followed we got bits and pieces of the story. Within hours we finally had our first question answered... no one else had been hurt. The emails and calls came from Iraq. Reaching out to comfort us but to also find comfort from us. That was the beginning of the gift of these men in my life. A letter arrived telling me that if it had been anyone else my son would be the one to rally everyone and bring a smile back to the company and that in a way he had done just that as they all sat and shared stories of the things my son had done to relieve the tension and make those around him smile. I heard so often “He could make us laugh no matter how shitty the situation”.

In the end my son won a small victory for them all by grinning and saying “hey”. Now I need to help those who loved him too, see that he won. That yes his body was broken but not his spirit and that his spirit is in them and that it is ok for them too to smile and live life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

They're Home...

On Nov. 11th we packed our car and loaded up the family to head to Ft. Campbell. The men my son served with were on their way home from Iraq and I was finally going to get to meet and hug these men who have become so important in my life.

As we drove on Veteran's Day I thought about how lucky the people in this country are to have the men and women of our military. Between it being Veterans day and where we were heading I had no choice but to see things from a perspective most Americans fail to look at. We drove without fear of IEDs. There were no check points. We could stop along the way and not fear snipers or suicide bombers. When we were hungry we had a multitude of options. And I knew without a doubt that these freedoms and this security are due fully to the fact we have such an outstanding group of people who made the choice to wear the uniform and defend these things.

I realized also.. we have WON in Iraq. Yes we are still there. Yes there is still some fighting. But it is safer in Iraq for American troops than civilians in Chicago these days. The foundation of what we set out to do is set. Our goals met and the lives of the Iraq people will be better. They are now tasting freedom. And anyone that wants to argue and diminish that victory and take that from these men and my son can try. But facts are facts. No one but these men and their leaders can claim that victory.

As I watched the plane filled with America's finest land my heart leap and broke all in the same moment. I knew that from my son's Company he would be the only one not walking off that plane. But in a way few will ever comprehend, the last part of my son did get off that plane. His spirit is in each of them and with them he came home too.

The one thing that stands out the most from this trip is as I stood standing and talking to one of the men of my son's platoon I felt a tap on my shoulder. As I turned, I saw them all. They had gathered together to find me. There was a line of men who had smiles and hugs for me. I was introduced to family members as their "Army Mom". They still have no idea what a gift they are to me. There will be more meetings an more stories to share. There will be laughter and tears. But once again I saw the strength and selflessness of these men. My heroes.. my soldier family.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


When I announced early on after my son's death I would be at the homecoming of his fellow soldiers I received a lot of reactions. From how strong I must be to how crazy I am for putting myself in to a situation that would surely bring me more pain. What most did not understand is that early on I had been given one last gift by my son. The gift of these men who had a bond with him that I will never know but that I see, appreciate and respect. a part of him is with each other them.

In just a few short days the men my son lived, worked and fought beside will be home. Deployment has ended and they are all returning safe to the loving arms of their families. My son will be the only soldier from Bravo Company not walking off the plane this deployment. A fact that both hurts me deeply and relieves me. They all honored him by staying safe and coming home. Just as they assured me.

I will be there when these men walk off the plane. I will stand quietly in the background as they hug their families. I will wait my turn to finally meet and hug the men who have become so much a part of my life. And with each of them I will have one more part of my son home. Because he is with them. A part of him is in every single one of him and they are bringing the last part of him home with them. So in a way my son too will be on that plane.

Other Gold Star moms who attend these homecomings assure me the healing this will be for me. Of course as I look at this world of Gold Star Parent I have been thrust into I see that those who are best at living with this incredible pain are the ones who opened and accepted the gift of the men who shared the bond of brotherhood with their sons. They see our loved ones spirit is a part of each of these men and by embracing them we are embracing a part of our sons.

The down side to all this is I can not longer escape into fooling myself he is just in Iraq working anymore when my missing him becomes unbearable. I miss My Pokey so much and to have to accept the last reality that I will never hold him or hear his voice again is devasting the final thread in my rope of strength...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008