Monday, February 23, 2009

24 Feb 2009 One Year

At 10:05am Baghdad time 24 Feb 2008 an EFP (explosive formed projectile)was fired up on the second vehicle in the convoy. It hit the driver's door. My son was the driver. The medic attended to him on sight. Once stable enough he was medivac'd out to the 86th CSH ( combat surgical hospital)where a team of surgeons worked on him. He died in surgery at 11:31am Baghdad time. For 1 hour and 26 minutes he fought his final battle. The others in the vehicle received minor injuries.

At approximately 1pm ( US CST ) two men knocked on my front door. I was at the store shopping when my son called to tell me they were in my livingroom. I knew.

In the past year my family has experienced pain so deep that it is impossible to put into words, joy that we feel guilty for having, people who have amazed me, anger with no outlet, and an emptiness there is no way to fill. I chose to dwell on the amazing people.

Joe, who reminded me early on to look to my son for strength and later imparted the wisdom to let the memories of my son inspire me.

Sgt Lee, who brought my son home to me and then became our friend.

Cliff, who IM'd with me from a hospital in Baghdad and made it ok to have a conversation not about my son. And who told me I don't fight fair. ( We mom's don't)

Doc Strong, Who did everything possible to save my son then had the courage to come to us and sit across from us at a table. Opening himself up to any possibility but giving us comfort.

Howie, Tommy and Peg, Who have all given me a chance to use this voice of a Gold Star Mom to make a real difference. And who answer the phone when I call at any given hour and need to just talk.

Jenn, A BTR host who gets fighting mad when she even thinks someone's word may hurt me. And that makes me smile every time.

Ron, who befriended me and encourages me to continue to write my heart.

Bravo Company 1/502nd, All of these men and their families who accepted us as one of their own and who make sure my son's stories are heard by us. Who embrace us and call me Momma Ang.

CPT Ussery, who took the time to invite me to his home and then shared the details he somehow knew I needed to move forward. His and his wife's friendship is one I will cherish. ( I still want to steal his dog though)

Those Marines and Soldiers who served in Iraq who helped me understand that those who we fight in Iraq are not like you and I. I now know what Pokey meant by "soulless Muslim Bastards" They were raised on hate and evil has truly taken their souls. And that my son and all those who fought there truly made a difference in this world.

There are so many people that have touched my life in this past year. People I know I would not have met had it not been for losing my son. As much as I love these people and the gifts they give me, the price was so very high.

I miss Pokey.. Nothing and no one will ever change that. I want him running through the door yelling Mooommmyyy! and asking what's for dinner. I want him here to run my finger through his hair and have him tell me to stop. I want him to fight with his sister. Then laugh because she gets mad so funny. I want him to take Tony for icees and pickles. I want him to trade CDs with David then complain David has his CDs. I want to make his damned chili mac for him like he asked me to. Of all the food in the world why chili mac was what he wanted me to make for his homecoming I will never know. There will be no 21st birthday party. No wedding. No late night conversations. No making new memories. What we have are a blessing and we hold them dear.

I want my baby home... But a year ago they came and told me he wasn't going to ever come home again. And since that moment a part of me still screams for them to take it back. He's gone but he still inspires me. He still gives me strength and courage. And every once in a while he still lays his head on my shoulder.

I love you Pokey. I miss you more than words can say.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"I was told to call you"

A few months back I got a call I was not expecting. It was a soldier who served with my son and who had come home after being injured. I could tell he was scared to call me. He and I had not emailed but one of the Sgts. had told him he should give me a call. Later the Sgt got an ass chewing for tell this young man to call me without knowing first hand what kind of reception that call would receive. Not every family is prepared to talk to the men their loved ones served with.

But anyway.. I talked to the man for some time. He is a very kind person and we hit it off. Later I got to meet him when I went to the Homecoming. He spoke of my son but never in any details. So when I heard a story from my son's commander I was floored.

This man was my son's gunner. He was on the gun the day my son's vehicle was hit. He never told me. Nor did he tell me that because there was incoming fire he stayed on the gun to lay cover so that my son could safely receive medical attention. keep in mind the vehicle was on fire. this man stood with his legs burning to make sure the Medic and others could safely attend to my son. He did not leave that gun until there was no other option. He was doing his job. That is what he was trained to do. I don't give a crap how much training you have it is take HONOR and COURAGE to stay in a burning vehicle on the gun to make sure that others are safe. I was told that the others in the vehicle received minor scratches etc. No one ever mentioned this man's burned legs. My heart cries thinking about what this man did. No one person that day deserves more credit than another. They all did their jobs and did them well. But I have this imagine in my head of him on that gun, flames around his legs, waiting until they could safely move my son before he relented. He gave my son part of the chance he had to live. His cover fire, the medic's incredible skill, the team effort and speed of which that got my son to the hospital... all adds up to Pokey had a chance because of these men. It was a flicker of hope. And no one.. NO ONE.. can ever say they did not do everything to save him. I can find peace in knowing that. It is something I have known from the start. But hearing stories like this brings home the humbling fact. And if you ask them.. They were just doing their jobs.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Who is he angry at?"

I spent five days at Ft. Campbell for a Memorial dedication and just hanging out with the guys of my son's company. I had many good times I will be writing about but one particular conversation with my son's Company commander burns in my memory. It was not a serious in depth conversation but it set me to thinking.

The CPT. had asked about how my family was doing in all this. I am always honest about the different stages we are all at. With this man I let him peek behind my carefully constructed walls. I made the statement that my son David had finally turn the corner and was moving beyond the anger and starting to learn to cope with the pain. He asked me " Who is he angry at?" And I told him that was just it there is no one to be angry at. You are just angry with no one and no where to direct it at.

The more I think about that statement the more I realize I too hold a great deal of anger. Not directed anger, just anger. I know it's there just below the surface but I also know it would do no good what so ever to allow it to surface. In some ways I use the anger to fuel what I do. I refuse to succumb to it and allow it do more damage that what is already done. It's a hard concept for some people to grasp I suppose. How can a person be anger at nothing and everything?

I suppose also that anyone who knows me or has meet me would be shocked to find out that within me is a rage so hot that it would scare most people if I allowed it to show. How can anyone with that much rage not release it? I am not sure how to be honest. I just know I keep it carefully guarded. I allow it to release in small burst which i work hard to turn the energy of into something positive. I use it to research cases that our Military men and women are not getting a fair shake. I use it to be involved in politics so that maybe just maybe the right people will lead this country and not allow this to happen to another family.

Who is he angry at?... no one. The anger is simple there. we are just angry at the emptiness in our lives. And I hope my family wisely softens the anger with good works.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It happened in Iraq.. did you hear?

I received this in email this morning. I was joyous in reading it but at the same time angry. Why email? Why is this not on the front page and the mainstream news? This is a VICTORY! My son laid down his life as did so many others. American men and women made sacrifices to make this happen so where is the “Job Well Done!” from our nation. Where are the heads hung by those who did not bother to vote in our own national elections? I don’t care if you supported our reasons for going into Iraq or not you cannot read this and not see that something amazing and wonderful has happened. The people of Iraq now have a voice and they are using it. Thank you Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and the families who stayed strong here at home for them. You made a difference in the world. You created REAL HOPE and REAL CHANGE.

I took off all identifying info to protect this Brave American Marine and Hero who sent this! I am also forwarding to Fox News in hopes they will report the story. I truly believe the work and sacrifice these brave American Heroes are doing in Iraq will ensure Iraq as our ally, unless Obama pulls them out and screws it all up! With all my heart, to my Son, who served 4 tours, and all his comrades, Thank You and President Bush for your perseverance. Little Iraqi children sleep safer in their beds because of your selfless sacrifice. I have no doubt you have secured a safer future for my grandchildren and yours. This news should be ringing all over the world! You Are Heroes, Every Single One of You! I hope this email gets passed all over the world!

General George Washington left us with this warning and Americans should take heed:

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Beverly Perlson
The Band of Mothers

I don't suppose this will get much coverage in the States as the news is so good. No, the news is unbelievable.

Something didn't happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.

What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives.

With the expectation of all of the above (suicide bombers) they walked miles (we shut down all vehicle traffic with the exception of some shuttle busses for the elderly and infirm) to the polling places. I slept under the stars with some Grunts at Combat Outpost Iba on the far side of Karma, and started driving the 200 miles up the Euphrates River Valley through Karma, Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi, Hit, Baghdad and back here to Al Asad. I stopped here and there to speak with cops, soldiers, Marines, and most importantly, regular Iraqi men and women along the way. It was the same everywhere. A tension with every finger on a trigger that broke at perhaps 3PM when we all began to think what was almost unthinkable a year ago. We might just pull this off without a bombing. No way. By 4PM it seemed like we'd make it to 5PM when the polls closed. At 4:30 the unbelievable happened: the election was extended an hour to 6PM because of the large crowds! What are they kidding? Tempting fate like that is not nice. Six PM and the polls close without a single act of violence or a single accusation of fraud, and nearly by early reports pretty close to 100% voted. Priceless.

Every Anbari walking towards the polling place had these determined and, frankly, concerned looks on their faces. No children with them (here mothers and grandmothers are NEVER without their children or grandchildren) because of the expectation of death. Husbands voted separately from wives, and mothers separately from fathers for the same reason. In and out quickly to be less of a target for the expected suicide murderer. When they came out after voting they also wore the same expression on their faces, but now one of smiling amazement as they held up and stared at ink stained index fingers.

Norman Rockwell could not have captured this wonderment. Even the ladies voted in large numbers and their husbands didn't insist on going into the booths to tell them who to vote for.

One of the things I've always said was that we came here to "give" them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy - they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.

Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province . Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.

Semper Fi.
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Monday, February 2, 2009

Back To Ft Campbell

In a few days I will be making yet another trip to Ft. Campbell. The official reason is to be present for a memorial dedication. The Army honors their own in many ways. I remember touring the existing Memorials when we were there in may of 2008. I found great comfort in knowing that those who have fallen are remembered and honored. I found bittersweet comfort in knowing that my son's name would someday join the names of so many honorable men and women.

The unofficial reason for my visit is much more joyous. I get to go hang out with my soldier son's. The text and phone calls increase daily as they call and check to make sure Momma Ang is really coming. It does my heart good to know they are as excited for me to come as I am about going. So far the best stories are about how the NCOs and officers announcing I will be there and a chorus of "Yes we know" goes up and it causes confusion. I suppose it is odd that I keep in touch with these men as much as I do. But I love hearing about the new girlfriends. The new houses and cars. I find comfort in knowing that when things are not going so well that they know they can call me for advice and comfort. Few people understand how and why I love these men so very much. Even the ones I haven't met yet. I am really looking forward to meeting the newbies who just got to the company. Yes they too are part of the family.

Not sure exactly what all I am in for when I get up there but at least now I know who my escort is likely to be and it made me smile. He is one I haven't gotten to hug yet because he came back after the rest. And he is not quite sure what to make of his friend's mom. I know how men hate dealing with tears and hysterics. I hope he realizes I am not like that. Oh the tears are there but they are mine. I know they will come at the memorial but the rest of my visit will be to celebrate my son, his friends and life.

I'm excited! It's like getting ready to go to a family reunion.. in fact that is exactly what this trip is. Hmmm I may have to make it a yearly thing! nahhh Once a year is so not often enough for hugging my sons.