I have a number of experiences from the Milblog Conference that I plan to share over the next few days. All in all, it was a truly remarkable experience and I was overwhelmed with meeting my favorite milbloggers. If you didn't make it this year, when the date for the next conference is announced, you better mark your calendars!! It is just not to be missed (really -- it was that good!)
Stacy, Greta, Rach, Chris, Melinda, Heidi, Kit, Andi (oh my gosh -- Andi!!), Matt, Jim, Smash, Chuck, Carren, Capt. B., Taco (and your Mom -- what a terrific lady!), Dave M, Bob... there's more. But I'll save that for a real post.
In the meantime, I started this post before the conference but was having so much fun, I didn't get it posted... A friend asked if I ever got emails... so I thought I'd share a few...
DEAR SOME SOLDIER’S MOM
Over the past year I have received many, many emails from parents, spouses and friends of soldiers covering many subjects: looking for advice, sharing the fear they feel, talking about the wounding of their children, the death of their sons. I respond to every one.
I want to share some of these emails. I have eliminated names, units and locations. They are in no particular order.
This was after I wrote about Tim Watkins after his death.
Dear Ma’am, You do not know me and I am sure that your son Noah does not either. Tim was my best friend and the one I loved. He was my everything. When I found out about Phelps and all that was to happen the day of his funeral it about killed me again. I was again looking online and became greatly encouraged by the testimony that Noah said about Tim. Thank you, so much. If Noah has any other stories about Tim and his work in Iraq I would love to hear about them. Thank you again for your encouraging website. In Christ, because He rose again, NZ
Dear Some Soldier’s Mother;
Good evening. I just read your post about the soldiers from 2/69. My husband just called me from Iraq today, desperate to know the names. He heard over there about the 5 from 2-69 and that they were from the same Company as SSG Benford. He's very scared that it's more of his close friends. Do you happen to know the names? If you don’t, or don't want to pass them out, I understand. I'll just hope that I hear from some of my wife friends from 2/69 in the next day or so. I just don't want to call any of them, in fear that they haven't heard the news from the unit, or that it might be their husbands. Take care, and I'm praying for Noah. I understand that it must be very hard for him to be back home while his brothers are still over there. I understand, because I think my husband feels the same way. So many of the guys from A. Co. 2/69 are his old buddies from A. 1/15 and it's only because he was moved from the company to another company in the unit that he didn't move to 2/69 with the rest of them.
I'll keep praying for Noah, for his physical recovery, and for the hard times ahead due to the loss of more of his brothers. -- A Soldier’s Wife
I wrote back with the names which had been released by the DoD. Her response:
That is so awful. I'm so sorry to hear that. I didn't realize that they were all from Noah's platoon and I must have missed two of them. I know SSG Benford and Bohling and now these 5, but I'm not sure who the other two were. I know that 2-69 has lost 12 total now since January. It's just so awful. They've have been hit so very hard this deployment.
Thanks so much for letting me know the names of the two that you knew. I really appreciate it and I'd really appreciate it if you let me know the others once you find them out. I'm sure it will be on the casualty report in the next day or so, but if it's someone we know, I'd rather be able to be there for them now, as opposed to in a couple days when the news trickles down.
Did Noah say how [Mrs.] Benford and the boys are doing? I haven't talked to her in a couple of days and wondered if she was okay. I always have a hard time catching her when she's not busy. -- A Soldier’s Wife
She wrote me again after I updated on the blog... but not all the families had been notified and although I knew the names, the names had not been officially released.
I just read your update. I can't imagine how hard it must be for Noah to have lost so many people close to him in such a short time, and while he's here at home. I'm sure it is very hard for him to endure. I talked to my husband today and we had 7 guys that were evac'd yesterday when their Bradley was hit by an IED and the fuel tank caught fire. Massive burns, but last I heard, they were stable. That's good news. It was my husband's guys, though, that he just left last week for a new position. He said there's a huge amount of helplessness and guilt because you feel like you should have been there with them.
C. said that he knew SSG Simmons... has known him since he was a Specialist. Like Jason Benford, they were all in the same Company the first time around. He's still anxiously awaiting the news of who the others lost were, to find out if they, too, were friends and comrades that he knows. Hopefully, the names will be released soon.
Please, tell Noah that we are thinking of him and praying for the families of these soldiers as well as his brothers that are still over there fighting. I pray for my husband and each and every other soldier every night. God bless. -- A Soldier’s Wife
Dear Some Soldier’s Mom;
I’ve just spent the last hour reading (and tearing-up over) many of your postings regarding your son, Noah; I am new to both “blogging” and the Army, as my eldest son (a recent college graduate) enlisted this fall. He is currently in training at Fort Benning and I am both extremely proud of him and terribly anxious about his future. I stumbled across your site while I was furiously trying to find as much information about his coming experiences as possible. I started reading your most recent postings, and celebrated with you over Noah’s return to relatively good health after being wounded. Then I looked back to your entries from last December, and I was struck by how well you were able to put so very many of my feelings into words.
I’m not sure if this e-mail is the appropriate response (as I said, I am VERY new to the concept of blogging, and don’t understand all the etiquette yet) but I wanted to thank you for letting me know there are other families out there experiencing what we will be. We are lucky in that Tim is home for 2 weeks for “Christmas Exodus”, but I know that this is most likely the last Christmas for several years that we will all be together, and I find myself close to tears several times a day for next to no reason. After Infantry training ends in February he is going to Airborne, and then, most likely “over there” – every mother’s nightmare! But he’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing, and as a parent I can’t ask for more than that for any of my children.
Again, I just wanted to thank you for putting your experience into words, so that newbies like me can learn from them. I plan on visiting your site frequently to follow your boys - and perhaps to feel a little closer to my own. -- A “new” soldiers mom
I have enjoyed (if that is the right word) reading your blog and have followed you since Noah was wounded. You have made me proud, made me cry, made me smile ... you have a great gift for describing things. I was most amazed at your recounting of the funeral and the beautiful pictures. Well done. I can't imagine how hard that must have been.
I came to your blog via the Soldiers Angels message board... I've just read your account of the phone call from Hell and it took me back to 6AM October 19, 2004, when the Washington Casualty Office called to inform me that my son, N, had been seriously wounded by a roadside IED. I think my bags were packed & ready to go out the door at about 6:10 that morning, but, thankfully, my trip was delayed by 4 days and to Washington (Walter Reed) rather than Germany. My prayers are with your Noah for continued recovery and with your family. May this be the most difficult thing we ever have to deal with for the rest of our lives! When you finally get to hold your son in your arms, thank him for his service from an Army mom. God bless your family.
Dear Some Soldier’s Mom,
I stumbled across your blog today after reading over at Blackfive, and I felt the need to reach out to you. I was very sorry to hear that your son was wounded in Iraq but very glad to hear that he is now home and recovering. Congratulations to you, your family and Noah. I hope and pray that for the rest of his days God will keep him safe and sound.
I know what it is like to hear that your loved one has been in an IED explosion, wounded, and going to Germany. My fiance was a 50 cal. [caliber] gunner with the gun trucks (armed escorts for the convoys) from ******, and had damage done to his lower back due to an IED that exploded beneath the bed of his truck. He was brought home in Oct. 04 via Landstuhl and has long since been medically retired from the Army, and now is awaiting his VA compensation. I pray for Noah that he will recover fully and if he so desires be returned to his unit. I say this because even though my fiance came home, only his body returned. He is a shell of the person I knew and loved deeply because he lived and breathed the Army, and now can't be a part of it anymore. He is angry and resentful about his disabilities, and often sinks into depressions that I wish no one would have to suffer through or witness.
When I watch homecomings on the news or hear of them, I realize that in my heart I am still waiting for ours. The one where the man I knew and loved walks towards me with his arms wide and I know not only know with my eyes, but with my heart that *all* of him is finally home. I say that because some where buried in the sands between Baghdad and Sadr City is the man I once knew and I pray that some day he, too, will come home to me. Don't get me wrong, I still love him and every day I pray that we can still have a future together. But every day it seems bleaker and dimmer because he's just not there to want it. I'm not even sure he wants to live. He's hanging on and some days it scares me that the reality is that he survived Iraq only to come home and cease to exist. I pray that you and Noah never know this part of it.
We were to be married at the first of October and it has in the past week been postponed indefinitely and he has since moved out, all his doing. He says we are still together but he needs to find himself and get help. I wish he were really doing that, but honestly I believe he's hiding out, and I just don't know how to reach him anymore.
(after re-reading the above paragraph it hit me that it could be misunderstood. please understand that I love him no matter what his disabilities are or aren't. It's my fiance who can't accept life as it is now and refuses to let go or at least try to take the first step to healing.)
Thank your son for me for his service and his sacrifice. I know they don't deem themselves heroes because to them heroes don't come home, but what they fail to realize is that they are all heroes because they will never fully come home. Each of them will leave behind a part of themselves in the sands of Iraq/Afghanistan and Iraq/Afghanistan will be with them forever. They are all heroes to me. God bless you and your family and your soldier and may He keep you all safe. Thank you for your words, your insight and your voice.
If you by any chance come across anyone else who's got their soldier home, but are still wait for that "homecoming" would you point them in my direction? I know they are out there some where and we need to lean on one another as we try to help our soldier's, ex and present, to cope with their losses, no matter what they are. Sometimes I feel so alone even though I know I'm not. much love, TM
Thank you for putting yourself on our map... thank you for the sacrifice that only a mother can understand... thank you for your tenacity and dedication and for your beautiful sweet son and the values you instilled in him... for your encouragement of others and for being an ARMY OF ONE.
I got my "Dear John-ette" letter 3 weeks ago. Left the lines of communication open as this is T's 3rd deployment to WAR. I love him more than the day is long and I only hope he is okay. I may never know. I cannot separate myself from the role of Mil-spouse as he is still every other beat of my heart... my pain and loss loom large but he cannot know that. I must be steadfast and strong and sunshine. Love. S
In many ways you and the wives of soldiers have the toughest job. My prayers are with you.
Though it's hard for you, because of your motherhood you do have a special authority when you do choose to speak. May God give you wisdom about when and where to do so. - JJ
I thank you for your comment to the mudville gazette post "Mike" regarding my son, SGT Mike Stokely. He was a good boy, great man. We miss him dearly. But, we have chosen to celebrate his life and what he stood for rather than languish in self-pity for what we have lost, for that is the best way we, as a family, can show how much we respect him and to honor him. thanks, RS
I found your blog today. I am here in AZ also. My son is a MP in Ft. S. He is soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. I will have him home for Thanksgiving. I am in PV. This is my first time with a deployment. You have a great blog and I have enjoyed reading it. PROUD MPM MOM
For goodness sake you live in P!! I live in ***. I lived in P for 10 ears as a kid and then moved to Safford. Always wanted to get back here, as this was always home to me. I have a son still at home T is a senior at BMHS. I had been gone from AZ for 20 years and have been back now for almost 2 years. I do not work as I am legally blind and am in the process of taking Braille and Cane Walking. My son C will be home for Thanksgiving. We are headed to Safford that Friday then back Sunday. He then has to leave the 1st back to Georgia. His wife is coming also whom I have never met. They met online and have only known each other 10 months and married for 4. Not a good deal. Long story there. Anyway feel free to call anytime would be great to meet you. Feels wonderful knowing you are here.
Hi!! I just found your blog (via Blackfive) and my company lost some good working hours from me because I couldn't stop reading!!!
You are a gifted writer and a blessed woman in many ways it seems!!
Anyway, I don't know if I can be any help to your son, but I can do care packages - and I get GREAT deals thru work on soap/detergent/etc.
So my question is, do the other guys still need stuff????? Or is there something else I can do to help?
Just say the word! Prayers you've already got - what else can I offer??? Thanks, R
So I sent R the names of a few soldiers I knew that could really use some things...
Consider it done!! My Dad loves to help me put the boxes together. He reads Muscle and Fitness magazine and always throws a couple of those in too. Thanks, R
Then a few days later...
We got 2 boxes out on Saturday - one with soap stuff and one with food stuff. Hopefully it all gets there! Hope Noah is doing well. Hope all the guys are safe! Thanks, R
My name is R and I am Timothy Watkins sister. I want to thank you for taking the time to put information about Tim and his funeral on your blog. It has been a huge encouragement to me to read the things others have to say about our soldiers. I also want to thank your son for telling my friend, Chris (the one who escorted Tim's remains), the story of his rescue. That is one of the many stories Tim did not share with me. My brother was one of my closest friends and now I know just a little more about him and what he did in Iraq. Thank you again. -- R
I'm just starting with the military stuff - my son is in the delayed entry program with the marines and heads off to camp in June. I really loved your "Two Worlds" article and shared it with my wife.
Thank you for your post about Tim. My name is M and our family knew Tim and we attend Calvary Baptist Church in Yucca Valley. Just wanted you to know that Phelps and his people were not at the funeral yesterday (thankfully!). This was an answer to prayer, as it would have been awful to have to deal with a situation like that.
The services were, while difficult, very honoring to Tim, his service to his country and to God. We were very proud of him and the other soldiers he served with. We continue to pray for all of our troops.
Also, the story your son told about Tim, was related at the funeral yesterday by the soldier who escorted Tim's remains home. Apparently he met your son at Dover (if I have the facts right). Please tell your son we are proud of him and thankful for his service.
Thank you again for your website and your dedication to it. It has been a comfort to me personally, to read more about the soldiers who served with Tim. We have told Pastor Watkins about this website, so they can read it and I am sure it will be a comfort to them too.
I did not want to post this publicly on your blog, as I wanted to write it more personally to you. You may use whatever info to relay the fact that there were no picketers yesterday. Thank you and God Bless you! Sincerely, MF
Great Site!!! I found it by accident and I am glad I did.
As a Proud Soldier and a father about to return to Iraq, I want to thank you as a mother and as an American for your support of democracy and us. I hope your son finds what he is looking for in the Army or elsewhere. I am a USMA graduate who was enlisted and attended the USMA Prep School. If he is interested, it is worth the look. I am always at your service. Respectfully; DRM, LTC
Got this letter after voicing my frustration at not having any advance notice to see Noah get his Purple Heart awarded:
Dear Some Soldier's Mom,
I too am a Soldier's Mom, actually I have two soldiers and one airman, all since 2002 from May - November they all joined. I have really enjoyed your blog and have been praying for Noah and a full recovery for him as well as strength for you.
Today's blog was especially moving as I work in a landscape company and was so sorry to hear about your other son's boss. Joe will be added to my prayer list.
Hearing of your frustration in the Army's short notice program brought back such memories for me. When our #1 son was in Afghanistan he was with the *** ID out of ***. My husband and I found that getting information out of *** to us in Colorado was non-existent. When it came time for our son to come home we wanted to be there to greet him and planning our trip and trying to get the best airline rates was touch and go... with prayers and luck we were able to get it arranged and just hoped that it really did happen at the time it was supposed to. We had to arrive at least 6 days before "the date" as it could always be early... and have enough time after "the date" to be able to see our son for his immediate pass. We reactivated his cell phone so that when he got into US air space / territory he could call us. When they made their last stop in Seattle he called and we started to plan when we should go to the post and it wasn't until one hour before they were going to be there that we got the official call from the **ID. If we had waited to hear from the Army we would have still been in Colorado!! Now he's in TX with the *** at least he's in the contiguous 48 and it's easier for him to get home. So I understand your frustration, and I hope that someone will take pictures for you.
Thank you for your blog, it's always a joy to read about another parent's views of what their kids are going thru. LP, Mom of Three Serving our Nation
Dr. John Driscoll was Noah's physician when he was born severely premature; I had mentioned Dr. Driscoll's name in my birthday post for Noah on his 20th birthday. And it turns out this was an attorney that had an office next door to the law office I worked at in Manhattan!
I wanted to find the email address for [Dr.] John Driscoll, Googled him and found your lovely story about your son (as well as Dr. Driscoll's email address). We recently celebrated our daughter's 21st birthday and are making a donation to the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] at Babies Hospital, where E spent her first two months, and wanted to contact Dr. Driscoll for his recommendation on how to direct it. E. weighed a bit more than your son (2 pounds, 15 1/2 ounces) and didn't have all of the same challenges but she still seems a miracle to us as well. She's a junior at Oberlin College and thriving (she may not feel that way just now, in the middle of finals). Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes to you and your son. Dr. Driscoll is such a remarkable person who has affected so many lives.
Dear Soldier's Mom,
I'm a newspaper editor, formerly embedded with [***] armor in ** bge 3ID.
I hope your son is OK. I'm writing because I saw he's in the same battalion as Michael [a blogger], whose entries I liked a lot, but he stopped blogging abruptly after reporting the death of a Sgt Bohling.
Have you heard anything from him? This is not anything I'm writing about, just personal curiosity. By the way, another reporter here, TC, served with 2/69 Headquarters Company as an intel sgt in the Gulf War, and was briefly with them when he was embedded with a Mass Nat'l Guard unit in Feb and March. Best, J
J, I did get an email from Michael this morning... The text is below. Yup... just as we suspected... Take care. And thanks for asking!
Thanks for the email. I'm doing well along with everyone else. We're all just anxious to go home, as you know. I haven't had the time to do the whole blog thing. I never bothered to register because they found out about it when we were back in B***. I might start writing on there again when we get home. Thanks for your concern though. Tell Noah I said hello.
This mother and I correspond. Her son was killed in Iraq. One of his NCOs was eventually charged with and found guilty of Dereliction of Duty and Negligent Homicide. This was part of a dialogue we were having on Casey Sheehan’s mother:
HEY!!!! I've only got this to say. THE press "haunted" me, from 8am on [date], daily, for almost 3 weeks. I have done 3 tv interviews and a local, weekly newspaper (hometown) interview, which lasted 3-1/2 hours. We went to a Memorial Day Service in a little town, 9 miles from home, and how wonderful??? THE F"ING press was there, looking for a story... I have 42 minutes of news footage on vhs and dvd, as it stands now. I have NO desire, to draw attention to myself, or my other 2 kids, and further more, I'm quite sure my husband would divorce and disown me.... AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, G* WOULD ROLL OVER IN HIS GRAVE, and proceed to haunt me for the rest of my miserable life... We've worked really hard, picking up the pieces of our lives, and trudging forward, without our star comedian... even though some days he lets us know his spirit is still within our reach....
I think what I’m trying to say is that I have always been very proud of G* (Even on those teenage days that I’d have liked to kill him!) I could NEVER DISRESPECT his life, or memory in any shape, or form. I had my SHITFIT the night the Army knocked on my door, at 9;30 pm. I wasn’t kidding when I said first you scream, & then you puke... and then you have to decide if you're going to open the F*KING door, because you already know, what's going on... this woman is looking for SOMETHING... maybe a movie offer???? I would in no way, shape, or form, associate myself with [organization], not ever, after seeing her performance.
on another subject... did you check out soldiers angels/Germany, yet??? I cried lotza tears, for my son today, also, but preferred the privacy of my own home! gotta go... feel free to pick up the phone .. I'm around, it's remodeling/construction season, in my world... love ya,. D
Hello, my name is D. I live in a small town near “**. My son, J is serving in the US Army. He deployed to Iraq in Dec. 2005. It has been one of the most difficult things for me to deal with in my life. I have been trying to find support, from other parents who have or are going through the same thing as myself. I really do not know where to turn. I do not feel like I am dealing with this situation very well. If you are interested in corresponding or can give me advice on where to turn, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for you time. I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you, D
I just read "The Funeral of SPC Tommy Byrd"
Thanks for the wonderful post about a wonderful soldier. My heart goes out to his family, as well as those who served with him and are hurting.
I'm reading back through some of your posts, and realize what a great Mom Noah has, your support for him is priceless. My son wants to leave for boot camp in January, and if I can be half as supportive as you seem to be, then I'll be doing him a great service.
Keep up your wonderful work. BB (Chief Petty Officer, ret.)
Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2006. All rights reserved.