Monday, October 12, 2009

I have moved

Due to the generosity and encouragement of Greta and Wendy I now have a domain and website to host my blogs.. I hope to see you all there http://knottiesniche.com/

Sunday, October 4, 2009

10 Knocks

This morning 10 families received knocks on their doors and two men in Class A uniforms faced them. The phrase every military family dreads was spoken " We regret to inform you..." 10 hearts have stopped beating, 10 lives have ended far too soon. 10 families worlds have come to a halt, their hearts have shattered and the path to the "new normal" has begun.

I want to scream at the President that his lack of action and rules of engagement are killing our men. I want to shake the politician's who seem to think this is some kind of game and our military are the pawns. I want to shout "THESE ARE PEOPLE YOU ARE GETTING KILLED SO YOU CAN GET BETTER POLL NUMBERS"

The United States Military is the best there is.. they always get the job done if they are allowed to do the job. They do their job with honor also. They don't need senseless rules of engagement to hamper their efforts. They know right from wrong. The recent ROE were set to make the US more popular in world opinion... well they just make us look weak and they are getting our men killed!

This is war.. not politics! We need to listen to our generals on the ground not some bean counter who never had the balls to walk into a recruiting office let alone serve this country in uniform.

Mr. President.. you have blood on your hands.. the blood of 10 men today because you refuse to take the action necessary. Stop the dog and pony shows and start doing your job sir!

Ten American troops were killed at the weekend in two surprise attacks that caused alarm in Nato’s US-led coalition.

In one, hundreds of insurgents attacked a pair of isolated outposts in eastern Afghanistan, killing eight US soldiers and several Afghan policemen in the deadliest battle in 15 months. Scores more Afghan policemen were reportedly captured by the Taleban.

In the other an Afghan policeman opened fire on the American soldiers with whom he was working in central Wardak province, killing two and injuring three.

More


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Take Luck

A lot of families have that special phrase or word that just says it all. It's almost like a code for I love you, be safe, I miss you, be careful all in one little word or phrase... for me and Pokey that phrase was "take luck".

We had been listening to a Brian Regan CD in the car on the way back to Ft. Campbell from my dad's house on the last visit we had with him before he deployed. "Take Luck " is one of his skits and we all thught it was hilarious. Somehow 'Take Luck' seemed fitting as my phrase to say to Pokey. He logged off before I could type it that last conversation...

Some of the others guys in his unit immediately knew it was from a comedy skit when I would sign my emails with it. They too had enjoyed it. But I never told them that it wasn't just a humorous reference to a comedy skit.. I never told them it was my special phrase and good luck charm to my son.

To this day when I talk to a soldier I tell them to 'take luck'. And I hope they do. Now though it's more than a phrase of many meanings that I would say to my son. It's my way of saying my son is watching over you now. He has your 6 soldier.. so take luck.




Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Soulless Muslim Bastards"

** WARNING** this blog entry may offend you. But I believe we don't have the right to not be offended, so if it does too bad.


During his time in Iraq, Micheal often referred to the enemy as "soulless muslim bastards" . At the time it bothered me. I had always felt that as humans we are basically good. It would be some months after he died before I truly comprehended what he was saying. It took conversations with people who had been in Iraq and the watching of videos of those in Palestine for me to "get it".

It comes down to the muslim culture is a culture of hate.. so much so that the hate has eaten the very souls of these people. When you see videos such as this you understand that from birth these people are taught nothing but pure hate.



Is there a way change the next generation? When the children as young as 3 years old have had their minds so poisoned? I'm a mother.. my life has been centered on raising my children. the thought of hurting a child sickens me. But I am at a loss as to how to change the mindset of these children who are so damaged by this type of hate... have they too lost their souls to hate at such a young age?

No amount of "talking" is going to change the perspective a culture that knows nothing but hate and murder. And anyone who does not standup against it is as guilt as the culture itself of the hate and violence. It's called passive violence and it is the most dangerous kind.

Before you all start sending the threatening emails... I know there are those in the culture who want to change it. My son's "terp" Vegas is an example. But unless they stand up and denounce the lies and hate and violence they are just as guilty as the ones who set IEDs, launch RPGs and walk into the presence of others and blow themselves up to be martyrs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mr. Falvey

This morning I had to drive up to the high school and pick up my sick daughter. At the stop light I looked my rear view mirror and saw that the Vice Principal Mr. Falvey. We both parked and got out of our cars at the same time. He then said to me " Are you trying to make me cry?' You see on the back of my car are several stickers in memory of Micheal and Mr Falvey was close to my son.

I remember the first time I met Mr. Flavey. It was parent teacher conferences Micheal's Junior year and David's Freshman year. Both the boys had him for English. The conferences here are not scheduled you just go during the hours they set up and meet with teachers as they are available so he had no idea who I was. " You belong to Tiffany ******" was his greeting to me. " No.. I'm Micheal and David Phillips Mom" He became very serious and said "I'm so sorry" then laughed. We then went over the boys work and he stated how bright they were. Of course they had their problems. David was sarcastic and Micheal was unfocused. Nothing I didn't know.

Micheal's senior year Mr Falvey become the vice principal and they some how grew a mutual respect and somewhat close relationship. I got a call from Mr Falvey a few weeks into Micheal's senior year from Mr. Falvey telling me he was so proud of Micheal. Micheal had gotten jumped at lunch by a kid and just stood there with his hands raised laughing asking the kid if that was all he had. Micheal loved to fight so for him to not fight back took a great deal of self control.

While Micheal was in bootcamp he wrote Mr Falvey. And every time Micheal came home on leave he would head to the high school to visit Mr Falvey and another teacher he was close to. I'm not sure Mr Falvey realize what a great influence he was on Pokey. And to this day Micheal's letters and one of his dogtags are hanging on the wall in Mr Falvey's office.

The day after Micheal died the first person to knock on our door was Mr. Falvey, in tears. He told us that he had already had the flag lowered at the school and in his hand were the letters Micheal wrote him. Throughout the next few days Mr Falvey stood between us and the media who tried so hard to find us thru the school. He gave interviews , with our permission and blessings, about Micheal. He kept the media and others from intruding on our grief at that time. He also made the arrangements for our other children to be out of school for an extended time without it hurting their grades. He took care of us.

So today he asked me if I was trying to make him cry and he meant it. Then we spoke for a couple of minutes. He told me another student who had join the military had written him but he couldn't open the letter. I told him he should. He said he wanted this one to come home. He said he will write him back but not open the letter. I suppose we all have our superstitions.

19 months later and this man still grieves for my son and has not forgotten. I don't know how to comfort this man or thank him for all he has done and still does for us.

If there are angels on earth this man is one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pokey's Poker Run

Bright and early Saturday morning we went to the local VFW where the local National Guard dawgs were holding sign ups and starting the poker run being held in the memory of our son. After a week of rain we were glad to see the sun shining. I took the 3 large pictures of Micheal we have so that those riding would be able to see his beautiful smile and remember we are doing this for his brothers. The run was to raise money for Wounded Warriors Project.

These are a great group of men and women. There was another Gold Star father who rode with us also. Lots of hugs were given. The local police gave us an escort to the first stop of the run. It was eerie... I followed the bikes in my car to the first stop and the police were behind me. For a moment it took me back to March 2008 and the day Pokey came home. It was hard to fight the tears.

The first stop was the Veterans Home here in town. A lot of the men came out to see the bikes and just hang with the riders. All of the riders took the time to thank each of the veterans for their service and answer thier questions about the bikes.

My husband and the rest of the riders then headed out the next stop. I went tot he last stop which is another Veterans Home in a town about 30 miles away. I spent most of the day there greeting riders and talking with the Veterans there.

One gentleman in particular grabbed my ear and we sat and talk for quite a long time. Mr Cooper collects hats and pins and I offered to contact a few organizations and have them send some things to him so he gave me his address. then he asked me if I would write him letters. I told him I would be honored to. And I gave him my address so he could write me also. As we talked he asked about my son.. he didn't realize that the Poker Run was being held in memory of my son. He then shared a great deal of his life story with me. I got the feeling it was something he doesn't do often and I was glad to be able to give him an ear to listen as he purged some of his demons.

After the last group of riders got to the stop I headed back to town to attend the BBQ being held for the riders. It was great to be able to sit and talk with the group. The gentleman who won the pot broke the tradition of donating the winnings back to the charity the ride was being held for and called my youngest son to the front and gave him the money. I then asked my son if he wanted to keep the money or give it to Wounded warriors Project. He gave it back. I was very proud of him for that. Not many 11 yr olds would have done that. I will be giving him the same amount to spend out of my own packet.

Next year we will be doing it all again. There was some discussion of holding it for another charity and I along with a few others will be looking for one we find worthy. Not that Wounded Warriors isn't. But we kind of want to spread the generosity of these riders.

I was very proud to have my son's name on this ride. It was for me a way to continue to carry on his fight by continuing to take care of his brothers in arms the best we can.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Look

One of my readers mentioned they have trouble reading the pink/red tints so I changed it.

Full write up on the Poker Run tomorrow.. tonight I am exhausted.

Ang..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Abuse of Military Families

It was a nasty evil thing to do back during the Vietnam war. People would call families claiming to be the military and tell their son had been killed and the family would later find it was a lie. Mental and emotional abuse and torture of the worse kind. Well what once was old is new again... but still just as evil and heartless. Only this time the media is being compliant.

Calls are being made to families and the words no family with a soldier wants to hear are uttered " We regret to inform you"... Only to find out their soldier is alive and well. It's done to break morale and inflict injury on the families. Not only that but on our troops also. Now instead of our soldiers being able to completely focus on their mission they have the burden of worrying about something like this happening to their loved ones who are suppose to be safe at home.

Ray Jasper of Niagara Falls says he was camping Sunday when he received a call on his cell phone from a woman who said she was a military liaison. He says the woman told him his son, Staff Sgt. Jesse Jasper, was killed in action Saturday.

The father says he later called military officials to get details of his son's death and was told that his son is alive. Ray Jasper says the officials couldn't explain the earlier call.
Full Story Here

Now I can imagine the emotions this man went through. The complete and utter shattering of his world. And whoever made that call intended for him to suffer. It was not a PRANK. It was a intentional infliction of mental abuse and emotional pain on this man and his family. I am not sure what laws are in affect to punish this but they are not strong enough.

The Media, CBS News in this case, is reporting this hideous behavior as a mistake of the military. Well It wasn't! I know for a fact the military will not call a family to deliver this type of news. Even if the family is not home they will either stand guard until they return or find them and go to them. They tell the family by looking into their eyes. Telling the families is one of the most difficult jobs in the military and my heart goes out to the causality officers who perform it.. also my respect.

Another version of these calls is to tell you your loved was wounded.. usually these call request a verification of the soldier's social security number and then the soldier's identity is stolen. If these people are not oblivious to the family's suffering they are just as evil.

These types of calls and attacks on the families of our troops are terrorism in themselves. I am getting very angry and sick of the abuse put up on our troops and their families...

It's time to get VERY LOUD about it and start fighting back against these type of terror tactics and abuses of our troops and their families. Again this is an attack on our military and their families! I can't say it strongly enough. This is ABUSE and Terrorism!

Note: A similar incident happened at Ft Campbell last fall where two men actually went to a woman's home and falsely told her her husband was killed. http://www.blackfive.net/main/2008/11/imposters-posin.html

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spc. Micheal "Pokey" Phillips Memorial Poker Run

Next Saturday, Sept. 19th 2009, is the Spc Micheal "Pokey" Phillips Memorial Poker run. Sponsored by the local Guard Dog organization. This organization is made up of National guardsmen who have served and still do. The proceeds will be going to the Wounded Warriors Project.

We were approached by these wonderful people a few months ago and asked if they could honor our son by holding their annual poker run for wounded warriors in our son's name. At each step of the way they have asked for our input and made sure that we were ok with all they have done. Each stop of the poker run route has a military connection. VFWs, American Legion Halls and both the local veteran hospitals. I feel these stops are incredibly fitting.

If you can make it I will be at the start table and at several of the stops through out the day. I will also be at the last stop for the BBQ at the National Guard Armory in Ardmore, OK.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's Coming Home.

few days ago I wrote of a man who had left a message on my son's legacy page. Well I was wrong about him being the 4th man.. turns out he is the man who pulled my son from the vehicle.. but that will be another blog. Today I need to write about the plaque the engineers made and placed over the Company'sbarracks honoring my son.

On March 23rd 2008 I wrote this on my myspace blog:


Current mood: grateful
I received a gift I was not expecting and am so touched I am not even sure how to react. My son’s best friend in his squad was online with my husband this morning. It seems the Engineering team my son was escorting on their own time ( which is so little and precious where they are) made a plaque to honor my son and placed it above his company barracks at their new FOB. I am just so touched that these men would do this for them and him. This has truly touched my heart.

I am in contact with several of Micheal’s unit. It is comforting to know they are safe and well. Having them in my life is healing. They are all becoming more and more a part of my family. My son was blessed to know and work with such outstanding men. And I am honored that they have allowed me to care about them also.

I was so touched when the guys told me about the plaque. It meant a great deal to me. I found out yesterday this man who had left the message is one of the men who made and placed the plaque. It was something he had wanted to do for my son, for my son's brothers and for me. He had wanted it to come home to us. After our conversation I wondered about getting that plaque home.. so today I made a call to my son's company. One of my guys was on CQ and answered the phone. ( I love when one of mine answer the phone) and went to find someone in charge. I spoke with the LT about the plaque and how I would like to get it home. As much for myself as for the gentleman I spoke with. It was his intention all along for it to come home with the guys. I think he and I both need it to come home. SOOOOO anyway a few hours later the First Sgt calls. He is going to contact the company at the FOB and make arrangements for the plaque to come home. Timing is everything because they are getting ready to dismantle the FOB. No promises are being made but I know an effort is being made.

Now to decided where to place this plaque here stateside. Keep in mind it is quite large. We will either put in the local military museum or the museum at Ft. Campbell. This will be decided later. And all parties will be included in that decision.. and that includes my guys getting a say in it. I am also going to work on getting the gentleman who made it to be with us when we receive it. I'm gonna have to see if we can get the Army to help us with that one....

I do want to just touch it.. sounds silly but I think I need to run my fingers over the lettering.



Saturday, September 5, 2009

The 4th Man

I found this post this morning on one of the many memorial pages for Micheal:

Mike, It's been the greatest honor of my Military career to have met you. I only wish I would have had the chance before pulling you out on 24FEB08. I will always honor you as a hero!

It was signed and an email address given. I have written the gentleman.

For over a year now I have tried to find out who else was in the vehicle with Micheal. I know 3 of the 4 others who blessedly walked away from the blast. the 4th man was not with Micheal's unit. They were giving him a ride. I don't know if the man who left this is that man but I think maybe he is. When I told a friend about having possibly finding that 4th man they did not understand I was thrilled. I now have the chance to thank and possibly, if needed, comfort him. But more than that this man had a hand that day in helping my son.. giving him a chance to survive. He and many others worked so hard for my son that day. I know now that the 1SG and others truly thought they were sending my son to be fixed. The fact that Micheal spoke with them gave them hope. I have to think that the news that Micheal had died and that his body was too broken to fix had to be devastating to them because they did have that hope. They had no prepared for that. they had prepared for him to be fixed and sent home to heal and become one of our many wounded warriors.

Micheal's father and I have a different way of looking at somethings involving Micheal's death. I have the need to know everything.. a minute by minute account. His father on the other hand does not.. and is in fact against to some extent. For me though it is important to know who was there, what they did, what Micheal said. All of it. Which kind of takes me back to the report we received last month and whether or not to read it. fact is I know there is so much not in that report that is truly more important for me to know.

So I am going to go against the advice of some and seek out a few people and ask some questions I need answered. I am torn because I don't want to bring pain to others by asking the questions but I need to know. I need to know what his last words to the surgeon were. I need to know what Mungo told Lee that Lee felt so strongly I should hear but would not tell me unless it was face to face. I want to know why Meza never told me about his burned legs. I need to know if Micheal had the same foreboding feeling I had in the days before and if he mentioned it to anyone....

I know in my heart that the answers will not change anything but maybe it will make it easier for me to cope with all of this. What answers I have gotten have reassured me in a way that I cannot put into words. But somehow the knowing of what happened that day helps.

****Update**** a little research on the person who left the message and I now know he was a member of the Engineering team Micheal was escorting.. not a passenger in Micheal's Humvee. So now I'm excited to ask about the sign they made for the barracks they named for Micheal.

Abuse by the Media

Yesterday evening I was told about L/Cpl Joshua Bernad. I had read his name in the DoD releases and knew he had been killed fighting in Afghanistan. I did not know that the AP wire service had made a decision to release pictures of this young man after he had been injured. The family begged them not to release the pictures. Sec. of Defense Gates sternly advised them not to release the photos... but they did it anyway. No concern or care about the emotional impact this would have on the family who is already grieving and in so much pain. My heart broke for this family. Then I became furious. I refuse to link to the pictures. I will respect the family's wishes on that matter.

Joshua is my son's brother... they served the same Nation. They wore different uniforms but they shared a like minded pride and need to protect the innocent and free the oppressed. Joshua's family is now on the same painful path of grief I am and share with many others... they too are now my family. My heart goes out the Bernard family.. for the loss of their son and for the abuse they are now suffering at the hands of the AP wire service. I stand beside them in there grief and this fight.

I am truly tired of the abuse put upon our military members and their families. I am all about the Constitution and the 1st Amendment. It is what my son stood for and fought for. I have been known to state often that we don't have the right to not be offended but this is not about offending someone.. this about inflicting intentional pain on them. It's about emotionally torturing the families and this man's fellow soldiers. it's about taking L/cpl Joshua Bernard's dignity from him. And it was most assuredly intentional. No argument is sufficient for this behavior. This is not about the "public needs to know". This is about tearing down the morale of our troops and their families.

It is time for the military to pull out embedded reporters. I hate to say that because there are some who are very good and respect the troops a great deal, like Michael Yon. But when this type of thing happens repeatedly it's time to go back to morning briefings on the events of this war and controlling what is shared. To protect our troops and their families.

As a military family, as a nation, we must stand together and share our strength. We have to become more vocal in how our Fallen are exploited and find a way to stop it! Their loss of life in combat does not make them open to the public to be used and abused in death for others personal agendas. As it stands right now the families of the Fallen have very limited say in how their soldier's name and images are used. A few states have passed laws to stop them from being used for financial gain. But anyone can use the names of these men and women for their political agenda. even when the person who's name being used was against the agenda. Even when the family says NO... and we can't do a damned thing.

My son died for this country... that does not make him the property of anyone else. It makes him an American who deserves respect, honor and his dignity. And the same goes for every single man and woman who has ever served.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Depressed

I have always believed that admitting a problem is the first step in overcoming it. So I am admitting I suffer from depression.
Some of the symptoms of depression are:
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities
  • Feeling sad or down
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Feeling fatigued or weak
  • Feeling worthless
There are a few others but only these apply to me. I'm not suicidal or in physical pain. I'm just depressed. I have been for a long time now. And I am fighting it tooth and nail. My husband is depressed too. So most people would assume we have a very gloomy life. We don't. We have each other and the years of love we have built are probably the only thing that sees us through. I hate that I am this way. I don't want to be. It affects just about every aspect of my life.

Often I am told I should see the doctor and get a prescription for anti-depression medication. But to me that is just another way of pretending I don't feel like this instead of dealing with it. that and the side affects of some of those drugs scare me more than the depression itself.

Now don't get me wrong my depression is not so bad that I can't cope or function. I do every day. I get up and get the kids to school, clean my house, write, cook, chat with people online.. I even laugh and joke around. But underneath the surface is a sadness and anger I can not seem to shake. It may never go away.. and in a small way i hope it doesn't. I am however learning to cope. And as much as it all hurts sometimes.. the hurt is better than not being able to feel anything. I was numb long enough, now is the time to feel. And to learn to own these feelings and not allow them to own me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flowers and Pinwheels

It's been bugging me for a while. The flowers on Micheal's grave were in need of replacing. I don't go out there as often as maybe I should. It's very hard for me to go. But then it's hard for me not to go. I want to visit Micheal at his barracks room not his graveside. I miss him so damned much. I couldn't find the black silk roses I usually buy and mix with white ones. The local store that carried them, doesn't anymore. I was told by an other store it would be Halloween before they carried them. So today I went and bought some dark red silk roses with white baby's breath and took them out to the cemetery. It was hard to not take him his black and white roses. It just didn't seem right. He so loved the checkerboard black white thing. I managed to find one black and one white rose that were out there that were in good enough shape to add to the red ones. His pinwheel was missing. I'm sure the strong winds from recent storms carried it off. I will have to get a new one.

It's funny the little things I feel I have to do for Micheal. The black roses, the rubberband and even the pinwheel. Outside looking in some would not understand and may even find it insulting. I mean how many people would get that Micheal loved black. It was his favorite color and that the black roses are not an insult. The pinwheel even few would get. There is a picture from Iraq that inspired that. I had printed the picture out and had it sitting in the livingroom for weeks before I saw the pinwheels on the headlights of the Humvee. And then the picture of Micheal playing with those pinwheels showed up. And I knew that he had put them on the Humvee and drove it with those on it. That was confirmed when listening to his guys stories. Command wouldn't let him actually leave the camp with them on the Humvee though. But for one day he had pinwheels to be silly with. I don't know who sent those pinwheels but I am grateful to them. Who ever they are they sent my son a smile in the shape of a pinwheel.





Sunday, August 16, 2009

Over Dramatic?

My daughter thinks I am being over dramatic... I just read and signed her World History class syllabus. Unit 2 is " The World of Islam". I have a problem with this. My first and largest concern is the teacher who is teaching this class is a liberal hippie anti-war problem. She was often corrected for teaching revised history by my son Pokey. And once she even tried to give him detention for his opinion that war protesters during Vietnam were Hippies. I explained to the school that my children will not be punished for their opinion. He never served the detention and she was caught in a lie about having called me about his "behavior". I do not trust this teacher to teach this topic objectively. She hates the military and I just know in my bones she will try and make the Muslims into gentlemen farmers who had their land stolen and are just fighting to get it back. BLARG!!!

My daughter is of the opinion that I am being dramatic because I will be going to the school and asking for more information. I reminded her that in Afghanistan today they passed a law that said husbands can starve their wives if they refuse to have sex. This is a culture that treats women and children as possessions to be used and abused. This is a culture that has no respect for life on any level. Death to them is honor. This is the culture and religion that took my son from me. So yes I am fuming.

I will be going to the school and requesting a full outline of the unit and how it will be presented. I will not allow the Muslim world to be glamorized or made into the victims. Which is what I truly fear will happen in this classroom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Football...

The last family get together before Pokey deployed was at my Dad's house. We all had a great time. We spent 4 days hanging out and generally doing family things like BBQing, celebrating birthdays, roasting marshmallows and on Sunday afternoon we watched football. The Packer game to be specific.

A love of football is something Pokey and I shared. We loved the Packers. He spent a large chunk of his childhood living in Wisconsin and in fact just blocks from Lambeau field. I discovered football in my 20s. I thought all good wives should learn about the game to make their hubby's happy. Funny thing is I love football more than my hubby. He can take or leave it. I'm the one who yells if someone walks in front of the TV during the game.

Now I talk about this because a friend was comparing rugby to American football and it got me thinking about how much I enjoy watching football. Then I remembered a story on of the guys told me when they got back. It was in the middle of the night in Iraq and everyone was sleeping when Micheal's team leader was walking through the barracks and found Micheal in the community room watching TV. "Phillips what are you doing? Why aren't you sleeping?" "It's the Packers!" As if that explained everything. LOL Well it was the play offs. A couple of the guys have mentioned rivalries they had over football with them. And how when their team lost he made sure the headline was on their pillow for them to find. It makes me smile to know that even in that hellhole he had football.

With football season right around the corner I know that with every Packer's game I watch I will be thinking of Micheal and hoarse the next day. Hmm wonder if he has any pull on helping them make it to the Superbowl again? ;)

Go Pack Go!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Report Came ( follow up)

Well Thursday morning I received a phone call from the Sargent who was suppose to deliver the report. He was not going to be able to make it until Friday due to a family emergency. Trust me for us family always comes first so this was in no way a problem. When I realized this man was going to drive a 4 hour round trip to hand me a report I felt really bad so I made arrangement for it to be picked up be some people I trust who were going to be going to Ft Sill where this gentleman was.

The report finally made it to our hands Sunday morning... it sat on my husband's desk unopened till later that evening. My husband "had to read it". I found him sitting quietly alone in the office reading it. When he was done he told me he did not recommend I read it. He says there is nothing in it we don't know or haven't figured out but it reopens the wounds. But he has made of couple of statements that have my mind reeling. Like how hard my son's brothers fought that day to "protect Micheal". It wasn't until February I realized they were taking incoming fire. Reading it has obviously upset my husband and he is having a difficult time processing it and dealing with the re-opened wounds.

I know there are things we know that aren't in that report. The fact that Micheal's First Sgt never let go of his hand and comforted him isn't in it. Micheal turning to him and smiling and saying "hey 1SG" isn't in it. What my son spoke to the surgeon isn't in it. the hundreds of people who came to the graveside and mourned for my son with us isn't in it.

I'm still not sure when or if I will ever read it. But it's now tucked away where it is out of sight and I hope that will help get it out of my husband's mind.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Instant Messages


I've kept ever single instant message conversation I had with my son while he was in Iraq. I knew when something bad had happened because the first thing he would ask is " What is everyone doing?" Sort of a roll call making sure we all were doing exactly what we were suppose to be and that his foundation was in place. I thought of that question as his life line question. On the days when nothing horrible happened there he would start the conversation with " How much is in my account?" He had become a penny pincher and I was glad of it. Prior to his leaving for Iraq he spent money as if he had an endless supply.

Reading back through the conversation I found one we had had on my birthday.. just 12 days before he was killed. He had forgotten of course. He remembered the day before and gave me a bunch of shit about being old and 40. But on my birthday just 24 hours later the days had run together for him once again and he had forgotten. His friend reminded me. He felt bad but proceeded to give me more crap about being old. I told him he would be 40 someday and I had a good memory. He told me he would never be 40. I got on him about talking about dying.. He told me he knew he wouldn't live till 40 but he didn't want to die there. Honestly I had forgotten about the conversation until a few days ago when I went back and re read the conversations.

I actually had gone into read the last one I had with him. Just 24 hours before he died. He was worried about coming home on leave. Wasn't sure he could handle being around a lot of people. We had decided not to tell anyone expect a select few he would be home until he was ready to be around people. He was glad that I understood. How could I not? He had already told me he had the "jumps" and a few of the things he had seen there. I know there was more but like every soldier he didn't want us at home who loved him to worry. Be concerned yes. Care yes but not worry.

One of his friends there told me later that he had come back to the barracks that last night happy he had gotten to talk to me and his Dad and in the best mood he had been in in awhile. I am just glad he knew we understood and loved him and just talking to us online could make him happy...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Psychic Readings..

Some people believe in psychics and some don't. Rarely is there a in between view on the topic. Well I have always believed that the veil between life and life after death is very thin. And I believe that those who pass reach out to us when we need them.

The day Pokey came home he began letting us know he was with us and ok. Several things happened that I just knew were his doing. The one that made me laugh was when he picked on his Dad. Fozzy was in the kitchen cooking his comfort food, ramen noodles with eggs in it( YUCK), anyway... the door on the hot water heater closet opened. Fozzy looked at it and thought it was weird and turned back to cooking, 3 seconds later it SLAMMED shut and scared the heck out of all of us. Fozzy cussed his beloved son and left the kitchen. hehe I know it was Micheal messing with him. The next day I went out to try and find something black to wear to the funeral and to escape on my own for a little bit. While i was gone my Uncle had cleaned the kitchen. the first thing I noticed when I walked into my kitchen was the clock on the microwave was working. I was frozen. I guess the look on my face told my brother something was not right. when he asked what was wrong I said the clock on the microwave.. he said yeah it was driving Uncle Sam nuts so he set it. What they didn't know is Micheal had dropped the microwave helping us move and the clock never worked after that. In fact the display didn't work at all. I just believe he fixed it. There were a few other incidents. I shared these stories to explain that I do believe it is a thin veil... and I believe some people are much more able to hear those on the other side of that veil.

A few weeks ago I started listening to the Blogtalk radio show " Gay Psychic". I've listened to Blogtalk for some time now and I must say this is one of the most positive and friendly shows on blogtalk. The host and his listeners are just very kind and positive. This is why I decided to call in and ask if the person I lost had anything to tell me after listening to several shows. Now granted there are "psychics' who are only out to bilk people and will do a reading then tell you you need a private reading for a certain amount of money. This in not the case with this gentleman. He does private readings but I have never once heard him ask for money from anyone so for all you that think negatively... I've heard it.

The reading..
while waiting on the phone I knew my mother-in-law who passed years ago was gonna get involved. It was just who she was. And one of the first things I was asked was if it was a woman I was trying to contact. I was then told that the woman was with my son and laughing. Her way of saying she was happily with her grandson in my mind. She truly loved Micheal and did not get enough time with him. I was then asked if he wore black glasses. the answer to this is is yes. Micheal always choose black frames. the thing is not a single picture of him online is he wearing his glasses. In all of them he is wearing his contacts.Next I was asked if he was bald... No but being very blonde and having a military very short hair cut it could appear that he was. The message Micheal sent to me was "Stop being a worry wart" which amused me because he use to tell me that all the time when I would be mom and tell him to be careful. He also told me to "Smell the Rose" . When Micheal was very young I had cancer. It really made me slow down and appreciate life and I use to say it taught me to "smell the roses". For some it sounds like a cliche being used but knowing my story and the conversation I had with Micheal about my having cancer I understood it. I was also told he was fine. And that the number 3 kept coming up. I couldn't figure out what the 3 was until the following day when I was looking for a photo in one of my folders and my mouse slipped and clicked on the picture of the Memorial they unveiled at Ft. Campbell in February. Each incident that took a life is marked with a star. Micheal's incident was the 3rd incident. His star on the monument is 3. I found a great deal of comfort in this reading. In fact the following evening for the first time in a very long time I had a feeling of joy and peace.

To Read or Not To Read

Tomorrow I will finally receive the AK 15-6 incident report detailing the day my son was killed. I requested it 18 months ago. The first copy was lost before it got to me. When things like this are delayed I have always found that the information comes to me when I am ready or need it. I will admit though I am absolutely terrified to read this report. But there is also a part of me that wants to tear right into it and read every word. I'm very torn.

The fact is I probably know 95% of what is in the report. Micheal's guys have been good about answering our questions. But there are still some what I call Rule 32 questions. Rule 32 being "Don't ask questions you don't want the answers to". I have never asked about Micheal's specific injuries. I have a good idea but I am content with the surgeon telling me he died of internal injuries. I also know there are parts they will have blacked out for security reasons. Like the names of the bastards who killed my son. I was told I had to wait 5-10 years for that information. Now honestly a year ago I would have gone hunting if I had had those names.

So tomorrow a SGT will drive for a couple hours to hand us a report. It is standard procedure to hand deliver these reports. Which is somewhat telling in itself. And I will either open it up and read it or I will put in a drawer with my son's things. One thing I will know and find comfort in is.. I will now have the choice to read it or not. As will the rest of the members of our family. And years from now it will be available to my son's nieces and nephews if they want to know a little more about their Uncle Pokey. And maybe it will keep them from romanticizing death in war. I think that is a big part of why I needed this report.

I know my husband is against too much information. Knowing doesn't change anything. But for me knowing helps me come to terms a little easier. As much as it hurts sometimes it is like I am cleaning the infection out of my soul. The scars will remain forever but if I don't purge some of this the pain gets far too intense. And sometimes the only way for me to purge is to make myself hurt by facing the things I often work hard to avoid.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Two Flags for Pokey.

For most Americans when they see the flag they think of the US and all it stands for. For some seeing it reminds them of all the men and women who fought to make and keep this nation what it is. I suppose the same is true for all nations people when they view their flag. It is a symbol of pride.

I have flown a flag on my house with pride in my nation, it's history and with hope for it's future for a long time. But now more than ever when I look on it I can not help but think of all those who have fought and died to make this country what it is. It's more than a symbol to me. It is what my son stood for. What he believed it. It stands for freedom, liberty, and sacrifice. Nothing comes for free. There is always a cost. And the price of this nation is the blood, sweat and tears of those who believed in it so strongly that they fought and died for this nation and trying to give a small piece of it to others around the world.

On July 4th 2009 a Pennsylvania National Guard unit stationed at Taji Iraq flew a US flag in honor of my son. This was arranged by a dear friend, Sgt. Steven Ryersbach, who I met through my adopting soldiers habit. Today the flag arrived in the mail. I now have two flags that honor my son. And both hold as much meaning as the other. One was from a grateful nation given to me at my son's funeral and the one that came today was from his brothers who never met him. But who stand for the same things he did. By doing this for me I am comforted to know that my son is not forgotten. That even in Iraq there are men who never knew him and never met me except through emails that remember him. His spirit lives on in these men and all those who serve. They share a common mission and values.

What the person who flew this flag and honored my son does not realize is that July 4th, 2006 was my son's first official day of bootcamp... his first official day of being a soldier. He had been in a holding unit until that day although he had arrived at Ft Benning several days before.

So now each morning as I step outside to fly my flag I am going to do it with more emotion than ever. As it flaps and snaps in the wind I will hear the voices of the past, present and the future. And I will remember that a man in Iraq cared enough to give me this gift. And I will remember my son and be inspired.



Monday, July 27, 2009

Ask My Mom How She Is


Sent to me by My dear friend Rachael McLamb..


Ask My Mom How She Is

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies
she never did before
From now until she dies,
she'll tell a whole lot more
Ask my mom how she is
and because she can't explain,
She will tell a little lie
because she can't describe the pain.
Ask my Mom how she is,
She'll say "I'm alright"
If that's the truth, than tell me,
why does she cry each night?
Ask my Mom how she is,
she seems to cope so well.
She didn't have a choice you see,
nor the strength to yell.
Ask my Mom how she is,
"I'm fine, I'm well, I'm coping"
For Gods sake Mom, just tell the truth
just say your heart is broken.
She'll love me all her life,
I loved her all of mine.
But if you ask her how is she
she'll lie and say she's fine
I am here in Heaven.
I cannot hug from here.
If she lies to you don't listen,
Hug her and hold her near.
On the day we meet again,
we'll smile and I'll be bold.
I'll say, "You're lucky to get in here, Mom
with all the lies you told!"
- author unknown

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Talking to Pokey

I woke up late this morning and as I was coming out of my room I heard my youngest son talking away. About the time I was in the hall and about to step into the livingroom where he was I heard him say"Pokey" and I stopped. He was talking to his brother and I didn't want to intrude or embarrass him. I listened as he told his brother about the pictures we have hanging on the wall to remember him. It then got quiet and I stepped into the livingroom.. I should have waited. As I stepped in I saw my youngest standing at Pokey's memory table touching a picture of his brother and telling him quietly he missed him. When he turned and saw me he smiled and tried to act like he was just there. I didn't say anything. I knew I had interrupted a private conversation and I felt bad. And I want him to be comfortable and have these conversations with his brother. If it helps him to talk out loud to Pokey I will not stop him or allow anyone to shame him for doing it.

Micheal and Anthony were buddies. When Micheal was home he would make sure to to take his little brother out to ride go carts, get icees, go to lunch. He always made sure to give Anthony a day of attention. Even on short weekend visit Pokey made time. And Anthony looked up to Pokey and looked forward to their times together. It was amazing how Anthony would light up when Pokey said " Come on Tojo let go do something". Micheal told me to buy a Hi Ho Cherrio game for Anthony for Christmas so they could play when he came home. For a while it was all Anthony would talk about. How he was gonna beat his Pokey at Hi Ho Cherrio. Pokey talked about it too. He would ask if Tojo had been practicing and I would tell him that Anthony cheats.

When Micheal died we weren't quite sure how to explain it to our youngest. He is not your typical kid you see. He is mildly retarded with developmental delays. So at 9 ( when we lost Micheal) it was like trying to explain what had happened to a 4 or 5 yr old. We avoided the usual " He's sleeping" explanation at the advice of a grief expert. We told him that a bomb had gone off and hurt Micheal really bad and that he had died. But that he was in our hearts and always with us. Anthony thought on this for few minutes and then put it together. He told us and others that a bomb had broken Micheal's body and it didn't work anymore. But that Micheal was everywhere now.

Often we forget that no matter how young a child is they hurt and miss those who have died also. It was very important to me that all of Micheal's sibling had a say in the funeral and were allowed to grieve as they needed to. That included the youngest. So when we were driving to the visitation and he started sing a song he made up as he sang about and to his brother we slowed the car down and let him have the time he needed. And when a year and a half later I find him standing in the livingroom talking to a picture of his brother I let him. And I keep in mind it is healthy that he feels he can talk to his brother.

And the occasions when he needs to talk to one of us about Micheal we let him and try to answer his questions honestly but on his level. And I allow him to say what ever it is he feels or thinks. He has said that Pokey being gone "sucks" and he has expressed his anger at the bad guys. Just as there is not right or wrong way for adults to grieve the same is true for children. It's their grief and they get to do it their way. The difference is they need our help because they don't always have the words to express themselves. Sometimes we need to listen to what's not being said. I'm lucky with my youngest though.. he makes it easier to help him because really has very few filters.

I'm glad Anthony talks to his brother.. it breaks my heart but I'm glad he has found a way to keep Micheal with him.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

People Come and Go

When we lost Micheal we were flooded with people coming with comfort and offers of help. The day after the funeral though the house was quiet. No more visitors or calls. My husband called it the vacuum. And I understood to some extent. Grief is a messy business. People don't know what to say so they say nothing. Just so you know saying the wrong thing is not nearly as bad as saying nothing. Unless you say something really stupid like " It could have been worse" and yes I have had that said to me.

Over time the very few people who stuck around are still here. And I do mean very few, as I can count them on one hand and have most of my fingers left over. All of them were my husband's friends from before who include me now too. I have manage to meet new people. Some who have been through the lose of a loved one. Some who are military and get it a little better than most. I allowed myself to become attached to a few of them but suddenly a few months ago they just up and stopped contact. Now knowing I was a mess I didn't really blame them. But then again I do. I was awaking up and thrashing about in pain and no one seemed to care. Oh I had my family but everyone else shut me off and went on about their lives. I know now I can't trust or depend on anyone. People have proven once again it's about what I can do for them. When I came very close to a nervous break down and was barely functioning and couldn't do for people they were suddenly too busy for me. When I was alone in a hotel room in Chicago there was no one answered my call. When I spent days wondering aimlessly there was no one responded to my IMs. I was not worth their time or trouble. I was an option. And better yet a used up option. People I had thought were my friends were gone.

So now weeks later I have a clearer view of where I stand. I stand firmly with my family. I have a lot of acquaintances and a very very select few friends that I share with my husband. I know I won't be getting a "how's it going?" or "Let's do lunch" call. And I know it will be a very long time before I allow anyone in my life again.

I have to admit this is a hard path.. and one no one should have to walk alone. I know I'm not truly alone. I have my husband and kids. But honestly there are times when I wish I could pick up the phone and call someone who is there for me to BS with, bounce ideas off of or cry on their shoulder. We don't always get what we want though. Even my husband get that there is family and then there is true friends. And sometimes you need a friend over family.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Waking up...

I was out running errands this morning and the John Mayer song “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” came on. Now I have heard this song 100s of times but today the words hit me different. “When you’re dreaming with a broken heart the waking up is the hardest part.” Never have truer words been spoken. When Micheal was killed my heart broke. It’s not the kind of broken heart you recover from either. And mentally and emotionally we all sort of shut down and went into a numb dreamlike state in a self defense survival mode. Over time the numbness wears off and you begin to wake up. It’s hard to explain but you know that twilight place between asleep and awake.. where you are aware of everything going on but you don’t really comprehend it fully and you can’t react to any of it??? That is almost what it was like emotionally for me when I heard Micheal had been killed. I understood what had happened. I knew what it meant but I couldn’t deal with all the emotions involved with it. When you’re in the emotional sleep you don’t want to wake up because even though you are aware of what is happening, you know waking up means fully comprehending and having to deal with it. You fight waking up because it’s safer and easier to roll back over and sleep.
I am finally waking up and the full impact of all of this is hitting me. My broken heart is now shattering and all the emotions I was aware of but could not fully comprehend are now flooding through me. I managed to stay in the twilight by working on one project after another. I now know that no matter how many projects I work on, no matter how many words I type… I can’t sleep any longer. This is not a sudden thing.. it’s been happening for a couple of months now. And for people in my life it was quite confusing because my responses to things changed. I was lashing out in stupid ways because I didn’t want to wake up. I am just not myself. Even though a part of me realized what was/is going on and tried to explain it I couldn’t because although I knew I was not being myself, I really didn’t know why until my husband pointed out I was waking up. I will get back to some kind of ok and normal again I’m sure. But for now I’m learning all over again how to do this while emotionally awake.
Waking up with a broken heart truly is one of the hardest parts of this path.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rubberbands....

Everyone has a habit that is a little different or strange. That little thing that they do that make people wonder why they do it. Pokey always wore a rubberband on his wrist. Not sure why or how it started. It was just something he had done since early high school. About the same time he became "Pokey". He would say it was lucky and a handy weapon. He could be in a tux and have a rubberband on his wrist. The first box i sent him in Iraq I asked his brothers and sister if they wanted to add anything. Pokey's youngest brother handed me a rubberband. "He needs his rubberband". So I wrote on it.. " from Tojo for luck" (Tojo is the nickname Pokey called his youngest brother) I look at videos and pictures of Pokey in Iraq and sure enough he has that rubberband on his wrist. In January he asked me to have Tojo send him another one cause the one he had was wearing out. So I bought a bag of rubberbands and decided to send him a bunch.. all with messages written on them from his friends and family. I remember the day he got them. Said they made him smile but he would only wear the one from Tojo.

When we heard the news one of the first things we did was put a rubberband on our wrists. All of us. Everyone that knew and loved him. No one had to explain it. When his friends came to see us they were wearing them. It was too soon to have the memorial bracelets to wear so instead we wore the rubberbands and checkerboard vans. Another of Pokeys "things" If he wasn't wearing combat boots he was wearing checkerboard vans. I bought a pair for every member of the family to wear to the funeral. Anyway back to the rubberbands... We made sure a rubberband was placed on his wrist before he went to his final resting place. We also asked friends over the internet to wear one the day of his funeral in memory.. I got a lot of pictures of rubberbands on wrist. It was very comforting.

A few weeks after the funeral his things arrived from Iraq. In them was a baggie full of the rubberbands I had sent in January. Among them was the first one Tojo had sent.. stretched and dirty. He had kept it. and now I have it with his things.

To this day everyone in the family still wears a rubberband on our wrist along with the black memorial bracelets that bare his name. Every once in awhile someone will ask about it.

When they unveiled the Memorial at Ft. Campbell each family had the opportunity to place something at it in memory... you got it, I placed a rubberband. My escort, Sgt Ritter, smiled and said " He always wore a rubberband. I never knew what that was about." And I told him about his habit and Tojo sending one for luck. I found out recently that every Sunday no matter what Sgt Ritter makes sure there is a rubberband placed on that memorial at Ft. Campbell for me. One of his brothers told on him. What he doesn't know is how much that small act means to me. He knows I can't go and do it so he does it for me. And he remembers and honors Micheal with that small act once a week. How does a mother repay this act? It seems so small but it is so large. And because only those who truly knew my son would understand it, it means all the more that this young man thought enough of my son to go to this trouble... to place a rubberband for him once a week.

Funny how something so simple and common can hold so much meaning.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Gold Star in the Window...

@RTRViews: Have I told you lately what an incredible person you are? I'm praying for the 7 families. You are my inspiration.

I received this message on twitter from a very kind man who I admire and respect a great deal. I have heard similar things from others and every time I do I want to say: No I'm not special. I'm not incredible, I'm just a mom taking care of my son by taking care of his brothers. It's my son and the men who served with him and others like him who should inspire you. The men who volunteer to go fight a soulless enemy and sacrifice time with loved ones, risk injury and life to better the world and free people to live without fear that should inspire all of us. It's men who come home with life changing injuries and keep trying and accomplishing so much that should inspire every single person in world.

My message has not changed. I have always supported our military. I have always done things beyond a bumper sticker to show that support. I've always encouraged others to do one act of substance , like senidng a box, to show they care about our troops. The only difference is now people listen to me. They listen because now I have a Gold Star hung in my window. I have said that it hurts to think that Taps had to be played for my son before people saw him as the hero he was. before they realized the courage and honor it took for this young man to dedicate his life, even a small part of his life to military service during wartime. But he believed in his mission and it was something he saw great value in. So as I said in my first blog here.. he invested his coin of life in it. I realized I had a voice of a Gold Star mom and was listened to months after my son died. I also realized that it comes with great responsiblity. My voice has changed but not my message.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

Just like most Americans we are planning a BBQ and a trip out this evening to watch the fireworks. But I want to stop for a moment and remind everyone why we celebrate this day. Independence Day.. On July 4th 1776 the first Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence. It would be several more years of fighting before we become an independent Nation. But many felt it was of such value to fight for our freedom and independence. And just as our military members and their families make sacrifices today to secure our freedom and freedom of others around the world our forefathers did.

When I sit and look at the fireworks tonight and in years past I am always reminded of the line from the Star Spangle Banner " The rocket red glare and bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there" and I am remind of all the men who have fought for our Independence and freedom in this country. And I am grateful.

Now I don't want to be a downer on this day of celebration. Because today truly is a day to celebrate and be joyous. So please go out.. celebrate the birth of this great Nation but do with a little humbleness for all those who provided and maintain it.

Be Safe.. Be Happy.. Take Luck

Friday, June 26, 2009

Trips, Airports and Troops.....

We took our 15 yr old daughter to the airport today. This is the first time she has flown and the first time she has been away from home for more than overnight. HUGE step for her.. and me. She's going to have a grand time with her Uncles in San Fransisco. I'm glad we could give her this trip. I'm proud of her for being independent and courageous enough to fly across country on her own. Sounds simple enough but it can be pretty scary the first time for a young person. She's growing up.. before I know it she'll be off to college and on her own. I worry about her and her brothers as much as I did Pokey in Iraq. Some people think it is strange because he was being shot at and had people trying to blwo him up but no where in the world is safe. And I worry no less about the 3 I have here at home than I did him. it's a different kind of worry maybe....

Being at the airport putting my child on a plane was hard. Not only is the airport we took Pokey to when he was shipping off to Ft. Campbell for the first time but there was a ever growing crowd of Air Force personnel waiting to welcome home a unit from Iraq. Family members joined them. I shook a few hands and thanked the group. I never mentioned my son. Only said I was an Army mom. I refused to put a cloud over their joyous moment. I spoke to a grandmother who was caring for her 16 month old grand daughter. The little girl was so beautiful and happy. She gave me smiles and hi-fives. She had not been held by her mother in 10 months. I wondered if she would recognize her mom. And I had to stop myself one more time and remind myself of the sacrifices those who serve make. We too often forget that those who are deployed miss out on things like first steps of a child and how huge a sacrifice that is. I simply wanted to hug each one of these men and women and tell them thank you personally... but at the same time I did not want to infringe on their moments with their families. So I stood back and watched after I told the group waiting to please tell them all thank you from an Army mom...

It seems really simple but it does mean something to tell these men and women thank you. And it reminds us when we do thank them of all we are thanking them for and all they missed and gave up to do the jobs they do..

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP

Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with cancer today. Michael Jackson also lost his life. My heart goes out to the families of these two celebrities. It truly does. But as I sit here watching the non-stop coverage of their deaths I have to wonder how many people who have their facebook, myspace and twitter status set to RIP to these two people can name just one Fallen soldier who fought to insure their freedom to have the careers they had. Or for that matter one living soldier.

As I allowed myself to be drug into a debate on how great Michael Jackson was for "changing music forever" and how he did so much to "feed the hungry" I question how society can not see all our troops do to change the world and free people who are hungry to find a means to feed themselves. As a society we truly look to the wrong people as role models. we look to be entertained and forget about the realities of life. The reality that there is truly evil in our world. Maybe that is why we put so much emphasis and time into celebrities. because they help us hide from reality. I know that people during the depression would say they went to movies to get away from the reality of their own lives. But we have become so emersed in being entertained and hiding from reality that entertainers have become our heroes. And I don't see it changing until we are so far gone and lost so much freedom that we are forced to face reality and look at those who battle to keep us safe and free as the heroes they are. the truly scary thing is how close we are to that point. Not the seeing our military as heroes but things being so bad we can not ignore them and hide from them anymore through entertainment. We can't hide from reality... No matter how much music we play, How may movies or TV shows we watch. No matter how many celebrities we swoom over... reality is still there and at some point we must face it fully and deal with it. No matter how painful or scary it is.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chili Mac

The last conversation I had online with Pokey was mostly about his R&R. He was due to come home for 2 weeks in May. One of the other guys had just gotten back and Pokey was worried we were going to have some huge party for him. He didn't want anyone to know when he was coming home. Wanted to decompress for a couple of days with just the family. I had no problem with the idea of not sharing him with the world for a few days. One of the things he asked was for me to cook chili mac. Now chili mac is poor mans food. macaroni noodles with chili dumped in and stir. Of all the things I have ever cooked I was amused he wanted chili mac. But he asked for it so I was gonna make it. Well I have not been able to cook chili mac since he was killed. I still can't. it's a stupid thing but I had planned to make it for him and knowing he won't be here to eat it is just too hard for me. It's weird the little things that get to me. Like cooking the meal he asked for.

There are other little things that I avoid. It seems silly when I look at it but maybe it's normal. I am not sure I know what normal is anymore though. I just know its not what it once was. There are movies I can't watch. And others I can't watch enough. I won't eat peach jelly beans. They were his favorite. I bought a case of peach soda once and was out the store before I realized I couldn't mail them to him. I sat in my car and cried. The big reminders, the obvious one are easier. It's the little ones.. like chili mac and peach jelly beans that are so much harder. You don't prepare for the little things.

Tonight my other children requested Chili mac for dinner tomorrow. I don't want to tell them why I don't want to make it. I don't want to open the wounds they have too. So I have encouraged my daughter to help out tomorrow and cook dinner. They will have chili mac. But it will be awhile longer before I can make it for them.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remember How He Lived

So often over the past month people have dwelled on how Pokey died. Yes he died in combat serving this country. But in doing so they have forgotten how he lived.

Those who knew Pokey have only to take the time to remember who he was. His smile, his laughter, his bizarre sense of humor. But also that he was sensitive caring person who would stop and help the elderly man load his groceries. Who would make the bigger kids stop picking on the littler ones. He had a work ethic that few his age had. When there was a job to be done he pitched in and worked hard till it was done. Pokey hated being idle. He had to be doing something. either goofing off with his friends or volunteering to take on some chore just so he could be doing something. Some would have described him as hyperactive but he wasn't he was just a doer. He had to be doing something. I think it was because he was quite intelligent. Pokey savored life. He valued it in a way not many his age do. Oh he had moments or sadness like we all do but he never allowed those moments to consume him.

When I think of Pokey or others who have given their lives in service of this country I try to think of how they lived. I like to hear the stories of how these young men and women lived their lives. What made them smile, what made them mad. Who they were and how they touched the lives of people around them.

It is a wonderful thing to know their names and remember thier sacrfice. But it is a better thing to remember how they lived and let that inspire you.

Pokey lived with honor, courage, and hunger for knowledge and laughter.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day


To far too many Americans Memorial day means a long weekend, BBQs, sales and lazy fun days with the family. Somewhere along the line we forget the reasons we can have all those things. We forget to stop one for just one day and do what we should do every day.... Remember those who laid down their lives to insure our freedoms. We hear often the phrase "freedom is not free" but I think all too often we only hear the words and not the meaning of those words. We take for granted the men who were willing to give their todays for our tomorrows. Men who know and believed there are things in life worth fighting and dying for. Values that a price can not placed on. Their blood spilled and now nurtures the roots of this Nation.

These men and women, who serve our Nation in the military, do not know me personally or you personally yet they put their lives on the line daily to protect our rights and freedoms. Stop and think about that.. be humbled that perfect strangers are willing to do this for you. Perfect Strangers died for your freedoms. And the only payment they would ask is that we remember them.

I ask each of you who reads this to please take the time to attend a Memorial Day service or to look up the names of those who have fallen and read about the men and women who gave theirs live. Remember them this weekend... be grateful and be humbled that there are people in this world who were and are willing to pay the price of freedom. Place a flag out to remind others. Teach your children and grandchildren the history of their freedoms and about the men and women who gave it to them. But most of all... Remember

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Pokey......


May 17th 1988 at about 3 am Micheal Eugene Phillips was born... he looked exactly like his father. He was promptly dubbed 'Pete" by his Grandma Barb. He would remain "Pete" until he was 3 yrs old. He came into the world quietly. He didn't cry, he just wanted to sleep. His quietness would not last long.. he made a very loud and lasting impression on every one who had the honor of having him touch their life.

From the time he could talk he showed a love of airplanes. He could spot them when they were just specks in the sky. He could also spot a Wendy's from a mile off in the dark. LOL Pokey loved aircraft. Especially military aircrafts. By the time he was 12 he could tell you what it was and the history of any military aircraft that ever flew. When Micheal was interested in something he became obsessed and learned all there was to know about it. History was his next love. He could not read enough of it. Not just the US side of history either. He read Russian, German, Japanese history also.

One of my favorite little kid memories of Micheal was when he was about 3. He came in from outside and ask if he could play with his tonka trucks in the dirt. I didn't think anything of it. Boys are suppose to play with their trucks in the dirt so I said yes. I didn't know the neighbor had left their hose running and the dirt was mud..lots of mud. A few minutes later I went to check on him and he was covered head to toe in this mud. He stopped and look like he was gonna get in trouble. But he instant brightened when I laughed and asked if he was having fun. "Yes mama".. he played in that mud for the next 2 hours. As happy and content as a kid can be. I remember thinking this was a moment that I wanted to never forget...and I haven't.

Micheal was the kind of person who hated bullies and it drove him nuts to see someone excluded unless they had treated people badly and deserved to be. So the new kid in school usually got taken under his wing and introduced to his friends. And Pokey had many friends. From every high school clique you can think of. He hung out with the football players, the "wrecking crew", the band geeks and the garage band crowds. Mostly though he hung out with the skateboarders. Cody in particular. I always blamed Cody for their escapades and Cody's mom always blame Pokey. Basically they were both very creative, shall we say, and fearless kids but didn't always think beyond the initial plan. The both join the military after graduation. Cody joined the Navy and is in Iraq right now. He volunteered... he said he owed it to Pokey. Another one of Micheal's inseparable friends was Mike. Mike was a year ahead of Micheal and had been in the Army for almost a year when Micheal left for boot camp. Mike is like a son to me. He is getting married in a few days. Now Mike and Micheal did their fair share of mischief too. There was no way you could be in the room with these boys and not have tears streaming from the laughter. They would make complete fools of themselves for a laugh. Micheal carried that talent to the Army. His men all independently have told me he would say or do just the right thing to make you laugh no matter how shitty the situation. He received a Distinguished Member of Regiment award for his ability to keep Morale up. I guess what I am trying to tell everyone is Micheal was a smile maker.

When I think about about Micheal and pull the memories out I just don't know which ones to share. There are so many. I remember him shooting bb guns at his grandpa's house when he was 8 or 9. Or him lining hot wheel cars up in perfect rows when he was a toddler. I remember the high school kid who was mad as heck he had to go to wal mart with Mom and Dad cause he got in trouble and I made him be my best friend and go every where I went. Arms crossed and head down pouting mad.. till his Dad grabs one of those fake fur rugs swung it around his shoulder yelled Captain Fur Cape and ran down the aisle.. sudden Pokey was laughing so hard he couldn't catch his breath. I know darn well the next time he went to wal mart with his friends he did the same thing. I remember the adult man who came home on leave and took my brand new car in the middle of the night to Dallas and called at 4 am because he was lost....I was furious. Not only that he took my car but that he called when there was GPS built into the dash. I remember being so mad at him till he put his head on my shoulder the next day and said " Are you mad mommy? don't be mad mommy" that look and that voice.. I couldn't stay mad. I remember the little boy who would crawl up in my lap and turn the pages to Mercer Meyers "All By Myself" book.

I remember the day he was born. The day we brought him home. The joy and love he brought to us. I remember how proud I was of him on the first day of school. So many smiles. So much love and laughter this one person brought to so many. For Micheal, life was a celebration. Today is his birthday.. He would have been 21. Old enough to finally drink a beer legally. Funny he was old enough to go to war but not drink a beer. So tonight I will go downtown and meet with others who knew and loved him. One of the local bar owners is opening up just for us and we will share our stories of how Pokey made us smile and laugh. We will celebrate him and how he touched so many lives. On this day I have made the choice to celebrate my son and his life...tomorrow I will go back to mourning him.





The funny thing about the last picture is his grandfather had absolutely no idea Pokey was behind him and we were all laughing and my dad had no idea why....

Friday, May 15, 2009

May

May is probably the hardest month of the year for me. most people think it would be February the month we lost Micheal but May holds so many reminders for me that is it like a constant scratching at the scars. And I know I am truly not myself during May. With Mother's day, armed forces day, Micheal's Birthday, and memorial day all one weekend after the next it is just plain difficult. add to that May was the month Micheal was scheduled to come home on leave. We had a lot of plans for those 14 days. His brother's State Track meet, graduation, his birthday. So many things that were just left undone or partly done. Yes his brother ran the state meet but his heart wasn't in it. And yes his brother graduated. But there was no birthday party, no hugs, no celebration with Micheal.

This is the second May I have had to get through and it is harder in some ways than last year. I not as as numb I guess and in some ways more alone. I know now that the people I thought were just scared to call last year really just don't care. Others have stepped back from me this year. I can't blame them. It's hard dealing with the overly sensitive over reactive scary lady. What really hurts is that I know I have been acting completely out of character but they just stepped back instead of seeing now more than ever I needed them. Even if I am yelling and pushing them away...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

This is the second Mother's day I will face without Micheal. I was warned by a very kind and loving woman last year how hard it would be. She too had lost her son but to a drunk driver. So last year I was prepared. I suppose I am again this year.

Last year, a few days before Mother's Day a delivery truck pulled up and I received a bouquet of Lilies. The card "From Your Boys in Company B" My son's brothers who I had not yet met had remembered me. It made the day easier. It is one of my most cherished mother's day gifts. Not the flowers... but that these men in a combat zone had taken the time to remember me. This year my phone is all ready buzzing with text messages. And pans for visits in a couple of weeks.

I have every homemade card and gift my kids ever made put away. I remember the text message from my son David last year (He was in his bedroom and I was in the kitchen) telling me he loved me and he would wash my car. Seems unusual but David does not show emotion so it was so very him to do it that way. It made me happier than if he had spent a $1000 on a gift.

My youngest made me a birdhouse at school this year. I will hang it on the porch in the morning and look at it daily when I go out to drink my morning coffee on the porch.

My daughter... she will make her famous chocolate chip pancakes.. I don't have the heart to tell her I hate pancakes. and I will end up cleaning the kitchen up afterwards. LOL and Tomorrow night we go watch her choir concert and I get to sit in the audience and be proud of her. She has an amazing voice...she didn't get it from me.

Tomorrow is Mother's day. I will try and pretend it is just another day for the most part. But I know I will get hugs and Happy Mother's Day from my kids. Only Micheal's will be missing. And I will pull out the box when I am alone and go through all the cards and gifts from past mother's days that he made me. I will dust his table and maybe get the nerve up to go out to the cemetery. By the end of the day I will be emotionally and mentally preparing for next Sunday... It would have been Micheal's 21st birthday.

Funny at the one year mark people told me I had faced all the first and I had for the most part. But I think the seconds are a little harder. I'm not as numb now. And no matter how long it is...there will be firsts that Micheal should be here for that he won't be.

Yep.. tonight I am feeling sorry for myself. Just a little. I get to do that a few times a year....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just talk to me....

I was asked to write an article on how to interact with Gold Star families. My first thought was just talk to them! So often people are so afraid to say the wrong thing or have no idea what to say they say nothing at all. That hurts worse than the poorly worded phrases we have heard repeatedly.

In the Beginning:

When Micheal was killed one thing I heard too much of was how strong I was. In that moment I was so numb that I could not respond to anything. It truly wasn't strength but numbness. later knowing I was expected to be strong made it very hard for me to take my moment in time to openly and truly grieve for Micheal. my younger children were told to be strong for us. Which was unfair to them. they had lost their hero and big brother. they did not need to be strong they needed to grieve and hurt too.

It was like being in a foreign country in a fog with no map or language dictionary. I had no idea how to do it so I did the best I could. I was given advice on how to deal with loosing Micheal but for each of it is different there are no rules are right way to grieve. for that matter there is no real wrong way to do it either

Something one of the guys said to me probably bugged me more than anything else said. i have heard it from others to. "You are taking this so well." Or "I'm glad you are recovering so well." Fact is I am not taking the death of my son well. I am just not behaving badly. When you loose your child or anyone you love for that matter you don't recover or get over it. It's not a cold or the flu. You don't recover. This pain is now a part of who I am. I have learned to cope with this "new normal" and live again but I will never accept my son's death. I understand it. I know he is gone but I do not and will not accept it.

Most of the people we knew before Micheal's death are no longer a part of our lives. By their choice. Not sure if it was guilt or fear that made them walk away but most did. Only one civilian friend remained. the rest that stayed were military. That hurt a great deal. Back to the saying anything is less hurtful than saying nothing at all.

And Now
When new people meet us now and find out Micheal was killed in action they are not quite sure how to respond. Condolences are of course given but beyond that they stammer away. Congressmen Charlie Dent of PA responded best of all the people who were told about Micheal. He sat down next to me and said.. tell me about Micheal. And I did. Fact is I like to talk about Micheal. I also like hearing other peoples stories about him. And I honestly do not want to hear how someone is against the war. I still support the troops and their mission. By tell me how it was wrong to be in Iraq and we just went for oil, you are telling me my son died for nothing and in vain. Well I don't believe that nor do the Iraqi people who are grateful to our troops for their new found freedom.

It really comes down to I am still me. I still love coffee so ask me to go for some. I still love books so recommend one. And I still love my son so talk or ask about him. Don't ask me about his injuries or how he died.. ask me how he lived! As much as I miss him. as much as it hurts to know he is gone, as empty as that place in my heart is... I am that PROUD of my son too. He inspires me. And of the other gold star families i have met I know their fallen loved one inspires them too. Let us tell you their stories and be inspired by these men and women. If hearing the story of our loved one is too much... then ask us about something else. Our grief is not contagious but our inspiration just might be.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A mission to focus on.....

Had no choice but to go shopping today. Just picked up a couple of things because I still avoid Wal-mart on Sundays as much as possible. It just takes me back....

Anyway I ran into the only other gold star mom in town. Her son-in-law was killed in al Anbar 3 years ago. She asked me how I can be so positive in such a short time. As my last blog stated I have tried to find my smile again. And when I really think about it I have been amazingly blessed in some ways this past year also. As much and I miss my son and hurt that he was taken from me I am that proud of him also. It is that pride in him that drives me. I have told people often that Pokey is my inspiration and that I hope he and those who served with him will inspire them also.

Sgt. Lewis, who knew my son well, told me just a couple days after we lost Micheal that is was easier in theater to loose a man because they had a mission to focus on. It would be some time before I told him that his word saved me from the deepest part of the depression I battled. I kept in touch with a lot of Pokey's brothers in arms. For a while they thought it was a gratitude thing. In some ways it was but in a larger much more important way they and all those who serve became my mission in life. I explained it to my son's brothers like this. My job was to be a mom and take care of Micheal as best I could while he was in Iraq. That meant being supportive, positive and sending the hugs in a box we call care packages. Micheal's job was to take care of the men he served with. when Micheal was killed he couldn't do his job anymore. Nor could I do mine. So I am now doing Micheal's job for him. I try to take care of his brothers and sisters in arms as best I can. It doesn't matter to me if the service member ever knew Micheal... the military is one big family in my eyes. I do as much as I can to help them. Whether it be sharing the positive news of all they do, send care package, talk to them on the phone, or try to get laws passed to protect them. My favorite part of my job is when I get to take care of our Wounded Warriors. These are some of the most inspirational people you will ever meet. Their positive outlook is heart warming. It is also a remind to me every day that if they can fight to over come what ever wound they have I can fight too. And I do look at some of what I do as carrying on my son's fight to rid this world of bullies. God he hated people who picked on the weak and defenseless. No I am not saying our military men and women are weak and defenseless. However they can't always get or bring attention to things I can as a civilian. I have been given an opportunity to be a voice. It is a gift in my eyes and I hope I am using it well.

I love our military. they have seen me through a very hard year and then some. I must give back to them. I must honor Pokey and all those who have fallen. I can't do anything more for my son now but mourn and honor him. I however can make a difference in the lives of those returning home. Especially our wounded.

Hug a soldier today.. tell them thank you. Hug the spouse or parent of a soldier today and thank them also. Those who love those who serve, serve too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finding a Smile Again

So here I am a little over a year since the knock on the door and my world fell apart. Some days I have learned to smile and even laugh again. Not as completely as I once did but still they smiles come now. And sometimes they come with guilt.

Two very wise men have touched my life in the past month or so. One gentleman was with the SAS and he spoke of how he lives his life so that in the next he can look into the eyes of those friends he fought beside who did not come home and tell them without a doubt he did his best to honor them. The second gentleman was a WWII veteran, Medal of Honor recipient and 99 yrs old. His words struck my heart through. " We can only mourn our fallen. We honor them by taking care of those who come home especially our wounded" It is those two thoughts, beliefs, that I have tried to live this past year by. Although only recently put into words for me.

We knew the moment they spoke the words that day there was no more we could do for Micheal but mourn and grieve. Which is why our first question was " Was anyone else hurt?" from the looks on the Sgt and Chaplain's faces I don't think it is a question they get often. To this day I am grateful now on my son's brothers were seriously hurt. Although I have found out since that some of the injuries they received were not as minor as they would have likes me to believe. All the same I have hug each of them and they are safely home now.

The smiles come more frequently now. Laughter is not as forced as it once was. I suppose we have found that place in life other Gold Star families have described to me as "the new normal". I have found myself on a path that I actually enjoy. In a way I share it with Micheal... I wish he were here truly.... but he does inspire me in what I am doing now. And I think he is sitting up there grinning and putting people and events in my life that will help me heal and grow.

Thanks Pokey.. I love you. I would trade it all for one more hug kiddo.