color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: April 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Damnit. (Updated)

Update: May 1, 2007:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Apr. 28 in Salman Pak, Iraq, of wounds suffered when their vehicle was struck with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.
Killed were:
Sgt. Glenn D. Hicks Jr., 24, of College Station, Texas.
Pfc. Jay-D H. Ornsby-Adkins, 21, of Ione, Calif.
Pvt. Cole E. Spencer, 21, of Gays, Ill.

Rest in Peace you proud sons of America... her Heroes.


Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 19:59:14 -0400
Subject: Velvet Hammer

On the 28th of April I was notified by LTC Q (3rd Brigade Rear-D Commander) that our Brigade has suffered the loss of three soldiers from D/1-15 Infantry. The soldiers lost their lives while conducting combat operations in Iraq. The next of kin of our fallen soldiers have been notified. I ask you for your prayers for these Sledgehammer soldiers and their families.

RDC, 2-69AR, 3BCT
"Speed and Power"

Our prayers are with the families of these fallen soldiers. We will not forget.


Friday, April 27, 2007


Veto the bill, Mr. President. I'm with you.

No surrender.

To the Dems and RINOs: Back to the table. Give our soldiers what they need with no strings. If you really want to run the war, join the Army.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Perspectives

Still in Illinois... working long days every day going through 70 years of accumulated possessions and collections of things. And doing some sprucing up on my husband's boyhood home. It's hard, physical labor most of the time. I'm blessed though because in addition to sharing this work with my loving husband, I have been able to spend time with one of my sisters who lives in the area. Linda lives 1-1/2 hours north of the town where we are working, but on every one of her days off since late March, she has driven to this house and either done back-breaking landscaping work
(she designed and then she and I built the white stone wall in the pic) or has worked in a large warehouse or the basement of this house sorting through "stuff". In the wee hours of the morning one day last week, she rose before the sun to personally dig up a number of beautiful plants from her garden (many hostas, day lilies, burning bush... she has 20 years of planting and dividing and says she has too many) to add to the garden here. Of course, we had to dig all the holes and make all the gardens for them here... but it was worth it!

We have had some wonderful conversations and walks down memory lane of our youth and family as we worked or shared meals together. On occasion she has brought along her wonderful husband Bob (who has two businesses and works 7 days a week) and one of my nieces and her fiancee to share in the work. While we are exhausted at the end of every day, it has been good work and good company.

However, I have a new perspective on "stuff" and I will never be able to look at a piece of paper or "stuff" I haven't been able to dispose of in the same way. It will be easier now to decide whether it should "stay" or "go". Next time I'm in our basement, I will take a marker with me and write "out" or "keep" on boxes for the kids in case they have to ever go through our "stuff". And while we can occasionally find ourselves missing the lush green lawns and abundant leafy trees of our Midwest roots, I have a new perspective and have forever been reminded how much work and upkeep the greenery takes compared to the natural high desert landscaping we enjoy back home of low water, low maintenance plantings, cactus, natural rock formations and underground drip watering systems when necessary.

Of course, while we have been busy, we have tried to catch the news and follow stories as they have developed these past few weeks. Last night I was watching the appropriations committee meeting discussing the Iraq War funding bill and listened to that dipsh*t Patty Murray say that if the President vetoes the bill -- as he has promised and Murray knows that there is no "if" -- then the President will have to answer to the Americans and the military on why they don't have the funding... and I sat incredulous wondering if she actually thought that the people listening believed her? Then a friend made a comment about how the Democrats have become pathological in their lying -- that they have dug their hole so deep and have said it so many times (you know, Bush lied... it's all Bush's fault... we've lost the war...) that THEY actually believe it and apparently that's all that matters to them. So I began to listen to the rest of the speeches with that new perspective and realized it to be true. Sad, but true. And it works across the aisle the same, but there is a quiet force when you have right on your side.

Alternately, I was watching the hearings on the future of Veterans and military health care. I was neither impressed nor unimpressed by co-chairs, Bob Dole and Donna Shalala (but Ms. Shalala, if you're going to chew gum or candy, please close your mouth! ugh!); their questioning was routine. Some of the committee members were embarrassingly lacking in knowledge of the military and veterans' medical systems --and it showed when they opened their mouths. After listening to the representative of the VA discuss the process of determining a disability rating and his fairly detailed -- but not confusing -- explanation of why the military "fit/unfit" process and attendant medical examinations aren't interchangeable or necessarily flexible enough to be combined or supplanted with the VA's disability rating examinations, one committee member asked a question that exposed her complete lack of comprehension of what the witness had just gone to great lengths to explain.

I found the statistics and figures the VA rep gave fascinating: of the 1.5 million military members that have served in OEF/OIF roughly 153,000 have filed disability claims with the VA. Of those, 17,000 have been denied service-connected disability and (if memory serves) about 20,000 claims are pending. The single largest cause of delay is caused by delays in getting documentation and proof. He was quick to dispel the harsh criticism the Army has received for the supposed lack of granting the same levels of disability than the VA. As the VA Director described it: the missions are different. The Army wants to know what is wrong with a soldier and whether or not it can be fixed and the soldier returned to duty. Their question is, "Can the soldier (sailor/marine/airman) function in the military?" The VA, on the other hand, wants to know everything that's wrong with the soldier, whether it can be proven to be service-related, whether or to what extent the condition affects the veteran's functioning in the civilian sector and whether or not a medical condition suffered in service has affected the earning capability of the person. The example given was tinnitus (ringing in the ears): it may not affect the soldier's ability to remain in the Army, but it may affect the ability to take certain jobs in the civilian sector. (I think I got that all right...)

However, given that Noah is currently in the process of being evaluated (Army MEB -- Medical Evaluation Board) and facing the VA Goliath later this year, I listened intently to the presentations and questions with a whole new perspective. I have a greater appreciation for the facets of the process and am certain that I will have an even newer perspective in short order. As for the MEB process, Noah says he'd rather be fighting real dragons in a sandbox than trying to slay the paper dragons in this process. It's not hard -- just tedious and long. He's continued counseling for his PTSD and has new (old) medications, and he's doing better with that. He's still pagued by transcient numbness in his extremities and pain in his back, but he has lost much of the mental "funk" of not being able to continue his military service... at least he sounds better to me and I have actually heard him speak positively about the future. To a parent's ears, sounding more upbeat after two years of hearing depression and anxiety is music to my ears. These occasional glimpses of the "old Noah" lift my heart and do me good.

Finally, I prepared a whole blog entry during my last flight between AZ and IL on why it was important to stay in Iraq and finish this. I started to post that here, but when all was said and done, I realized that the important part of the post was in this new perspective: Reid and the Dems' constant call to withdraw our military because it's a civil war in Iraq and we can't fix that with the military, doesn't have anything to do with "supporting our troops" -- I realized that Reid and the Dems KNOW that millions of Iraqis will most likely die in the violence likely to ensue if we leave -- and they don't care. THEY ARE TELLING THE WORLD THAT THEY DO NOT CARE WHETHER MILLIONS OF INNOCENT IRAQIS DIE -- SO LONG AS THEY "WIN" THE POLITICAL POINT. How absolutely repulsive is that? That democracy and "world peace" is only for Reid's white man's world... that "world peace" is only world peace if the Democrats say so and on their terms. They are willing to let MILLIONS of Iraqis die for political hay.

Forget why or how we got there. Inside the four corners of the box WE ARE THERE and whether it was intended or not, our military presence is keeping millions of Iraqis alive and if we leave, they will die. Of course, it's not the only thing our military is doing there -- they are taking the fight to the enemy (you do remember al Queda??), but they also are breaking up local militias and keeping common criminals from perpetrating even greater violence. While American soldiers and Marines are on the ground, there will be no genocide in Iraq. The Dems have said, "Not our problem, bring our soldiers home." Not because it's the right thing to do or because it will end the violence, but because it is a political position. I am appalled, aghast and ashamed that any person would take such a position KNOWING that so many men, women and children will die... (Smacks of selling infected blankets to the American Indians??) These are not the people I want to run my country. They have stood and declared to the world that they do not care how many die. They do not care what we have promised. They do not care that if this fledgling democracy is not helped to true stability and security (against all enemies foreign and domestic) that Iraq could become a greater threat to us than even under Saddam. THE DEMS DO NOT CARE -- so long as they can make a political point. I listen to them speak with this new perspective... appalling. Horrifying. They should be ashamed. Anyone who knows that even one person will die and does nothing to prevent it are guilty as if they had killed with their own hands.

I'm getting ready for the Milblog Conference May 4-5 in Arlington, VA. If you're still undecided, better register now: registration closes April 27 and there will be no registration at the door.

Copyright 2007 Some Soldier's Mom. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

We've Lost an Angel...

We were so priviledged last October to have been able to watch the magnificent Blue Angels perform. Not the first time for either the DH (a Navy pilot -- retired) or me, but we were so close to the flight line as the guest of a stunt pilot friend... it was a thrill and an honor. Our hearts are heavy today with the death of one of the Angels today in South Carolina. Devastating news.

Fair winds and following seas...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

America's Heartland

Traveling... in America's Heartland. I'd forgotten how green the midwest is in spring. I forgot how beautiful old farms can be... and how friendly farm people can be.

Still dealing with "stuff". So much stuff. So beautiful. Hope to get home for a few days before the Milblog Conference (registration is closing soon, so if you haven't registered, do it soon!!) otherwise I'll see you all there!!

I have a serious post (a rant!) to put up and a Noah update... hope to have time in the next few days... and access to some high speed... but everything's good.

The VaTech med school daughter got off the campus right after the second shooting (She answered the phone with, "I'm OK, Dad" when he called at first reports), and she is doing ok. Everyone's shook up, but that's a caring and cohesive community. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

Happy Birthday to My Little Stereo Speaker!!

Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2007. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Got a Favor to Ask...

In high school, I had a crush on the cutest guy -- ever (me and about every other girl in my HS class.) But he was this popular and talented gymnast and although we were in classes together and were acquaintances, I was too awestruck to ever let him know how I felt (you know -- it was HIGH SCHOOL.). We had a laugh over it at our 10th reunion and we have occasionally spoken and emailed through the years.

Well, his son Nick Mathis is an aspiring film maker and actor. He is in Los Angeles and currently a finalist in the Vice President of Pizza Hut contest. His family is soliciting as many votes as possible.

The contest goes through April 22nd so the timing is getting tight.

Your help would be very much appreciated.

The link is

He is the third one on the web page and is titled “The Great American Pizza Fan”.

SO PLEASE GO OVER AND VOTE!! (no registration or purchase required!)

Please pass this around to friends and family -- Anything for an old friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Damn. Just Damn.

On the 8th of April I was notified by LTC Q (3rd Brigade Rear-Detachment Commander) that our Battalion has suffered the loss of two of our soldiers from B/2-69 AR. The soldiers lost their lives while conducting combat operations in Iraq. The next of kin of our fallen soldiers have been notified. I ask you for your prayers for these Sledgehammer soldiers and their families.

I ask for your prayers, too. Will update with info on our Heroes when available.


DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 8 in Baghdad, Iraq, when their unit came in contact with enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Harrison Brown, 31, of Prichard, Ala.
Pfc. David N. Simmons, 20, of Kokomo, Ind.

I ask your prayers for the families of SSG Brown and PFC Simmons... and for all our Soldiers and Marines, Sailors and Airmen who serve so bravely and whose families serve as well.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Life and Death and Wasted Time

I have had many, many hours to compose this blog entry in my head and, being without internet access for the better part of two weeks, it may be more rambling than most, but I ask that you stick with it as I promise: there is a point or two along the way.

My dear mother-in-law was a collector. For all of her adult life, she collected what the family fondly referred to as “Mother’s Stuff”. Antiques, collectibles, mementos… along with every bill, receipt, note, letter and news clipping that interested her or in some other way passed into -- but never out of -- her life. For the most part and for many, many years, these items were categorized, filed and stored in a neat and orderly fashion. However, at some point, whether distracted by events in her life, the complexities of her collections or just the enormity of it, the orderliness of Ida’s “stuff” was displaced by a pile here, a stack there, a box over there… and eventually moved to warehouses, sheds, storage areas and the basement. Not unlike the spaces many of you or your parents have -- a life’s story and its work accumulated in a finite space.

A few years ago, my Mother in Law suffered a fire in her home of more than 50 years and some of her papers and her things were lost -- by fire, by water or just the efforts of the fire fighters to save her home. As a result, Ida moved to an apartment in town while a restoration company gathered up those things that had not been destroyed, cleaned them of soot and smoke (and dust), wrapped every item large or small first in bubble wrap, then in clean news print (paper without ink), and packed each into boxes. Many hundreds of boxes that were returned to the basement of Ida’s home after it had been repaired and restored. Given her advanced age and physical limitations, she could not maneuver the basement stairs and never had the opportunity to unpack or view these things again.

These many pieces of glassware, collectibles and furniture were collected in earnest for many, many years with the goal of opening a furniture and antique store. My husband’s parents were experienced and knowledgeable in their efforts and accumulated a collection that is surprising in both its quantity and quality -- not just the normal things or the normal quantities that you or I might collect in the span of a lifetime, but in quality and in a quantity that would have permitted them to conduct a robust business. It was a dream for many years. With Ida’s death, the last vestiges of that dream dispersed like smoke that wafts and disappears in the air.

But that still leaves us with those hundreds of boxes. In some of the boxes are the things of family -- a well-researched genealogy and family history painstakingly assembled over many hundreds of hours of research in old books, dusty basements, crumbling documents and then loving written by Ida on legal pads in excruciating detail. In another box are scraps of paper and notes of still more family information, but its importance and its source unnoted and now forever unknown. Another box holds the youngest brother’s college textbooks. Every check and check stub and every bill paid by the couple for most of the last 65 years are in boxes and each piece of paper contains copious notations of the who, what, where, when, why and how of each. She was seriously obsessive in her note taking. There are a number of boxes of family photographs, but now and forever the names of some of the relatives and friends are locked in the secrets of the pixels on the page.

In a small lock box tucked within a box, was a small stash of cash with the heartbreaking note inside the envelope that says, “For a trip around the world on our 40th anniversary.” There wasn’t much money in the box… and what was there was mostly $5 and $1 bills. The sons did send their parents to Hawaii for their 50th anniversary, but the folks had never gone on that trip around the world. A dream… a wish… tucked inside a small metal box and wistfully thought of from time to time but interrupted by life or events or something. A dream unrealized; an adventure unlived. When we showed the family our “find”, each sighed sadly that the trip had never materialized.

We have spent many, many hours UNpacking these boxes of Mother and Dad’s lovingly collected things in order to assess them and to plan for their disposition. Since these items did not come from the house in an orderly fashion after the fire, they were not cleaned, wrapped or repacked in any particular order, so it now requires that every item be unwrapped and removed from every box in order to sort and inventory them all (if there is a 60 piece set of china, the 60 pieces are spread in 60 boxes.)

I’ve stood many of the hours unpacking by myself -- plugged into my mp3 -- unwrapping the paper and the bubblewrap, examining the piece and determining whether a like item had been unpacked from any one of the hundreds of previously unpacked boxes and adding a piece to an existing stack or starting a new pile wherever space allows. There are many, many beautiful and exquisite pieces of china, dishware, serving ware, statues and bottles. There are some truly stunning items that when lifted from the paper immediately elicited a hearty, “Oh my Lord!” We joke that in every box there is at least one “OML” moment. Mostly the OML moments are in response to the striking beauty of a piece or a pattern or the delicacy of its construction and the awe that it not only survived through the years, but survived the fire and the process of cleaning, wrapping, packing, transporting and unpacking without a scratch. That’s not to say that a few of the OML moments come upon opening (what to me anyway) is some awesomely ugly piece or something that defies any attempt to determine what it is… and you find yourself saying, “OML, what were they thinking?” or “OML, what do you suppose this is?”

Many times I have unwrapped an item and said, “Oh, Ida, how beautiful!!” and was touched by a sense of sadness that I never had the opportunity to tell that to Ida directly because for all the things she collected, she never shared them with anyone. Even before the fire, these beautiful collections occupied an assortment of antique china cabinets, bookcases and shelving behind locked doors. Occasionally, she would escort us through the many rooms where her “stuff” resided, but the walks through these rooms were never long enough to stop and appreciate the beauty or to learn any of the stories that attached to each piece: who designed it, who made it, why it was important (or not) and how it came to be in Ida’s possession; for the most part, all the details lost. Of course I can research the pattern and the manufacturer, but the humanity of the glass or the dish or the woman who peers from the abalone picture frame has vanished now. I cannot count the times I have wondered over these past days whose glass it might have been or where Ida had found such a treasure… and even whether she had the same reaction to the beauty of a vase or lamp as I experienced. We would need a museum-sized home were we to take home all of the things that we covet for their beauty and elegance and timelessness.

Overall, as I have told my DH, I wish my MIL had taken more time to share her collection and the information with us and with other people for it is entirely evident to me that even if she had no intention of immediately selling anything, there are many, many people that would have enjoyed and celebrated the diversity and beauty of these things.

I have also had many solitary hours to think on larger things -- mostly in a series of bumper pool-like “conversations” conducted in my head. For instance, in thinking of the grave markers in my husband’s family plot and my family’s as well, I recalled that very early in our relationship while walking hand in hand through a very old graveyard, my husband and I had a conversation regarding some of the tombstones and the epitaphs they contained. In the course of our conversation, I asked him what he’d like to be remembered for when he died. After a few moments of thought, he responded that he’d like to be remembered as a good son, a good brother, a good husband and a good father. (Before I go on, I’d like to note here for the record that he has been a great son, brother, husband and father… there is no one better.)

Standing those many hours in the basement and a warehouse plugged into my mp3, I have also had the opportunity to sing aloud which I realized that I used to do all the time, but at some point I began to worry about what others thought of my singing instead of just enjoying the fun or emotion of the music, and I stopped sing when there are ears other than mine around. I also consciously thought how I needed to finish each night in time to get upstairs in time to catch “Baseball Tonight”… thought on conversations with Noah (doing OK) and the other kids (all good), chats with my sisters (they’re such good and fun people), discussions with my husband (I sure do love that man!) and trying to do some “big picture” planning of upcoming events over the next few months (still in flux). I thought about how Ida had never gotten to open that antique store… I thought of my own dear Mom and how much I miss her even after 17 years. And, every once in a while, many of these random thoughts and ideas would link up and morph into an entirely new train of thought such as answering the question of what I might want on my memorial marker some day far, far away and a long, long time from now.

As I thought about this, I decided that I didn’t want my marker to just be “titles” like Mother… wife… sister… but rather it should be a reflection of my life as I saw it. So, at the very top it would have my name and birth date… I suppose tradition dictates that the date of death be there. Here’s how I envision my memorial stone:

E, NOAH, J & H
BROTHERS & SISTERS (or maybe their names K, F, K, L, P & M)
NIECES & NEPHEWS (I think I'll list the 14 by name!)

I plan to run out of room on that stone.

Moral of the story: If you have a dream -- go live it!! If you have something precious -- share it!! If you have a gift -- use it!! You have a life -- GO LIVE IT!
Copyright 2007 Some Soldier's Mom. All rights reserved.