color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: Thank You!! And While We're Waiting (Part I)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thank You!! And While We're Waiting (Part I)

This post is published in The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by Matthew C. Burden (Simon & Schuster, 2006).
Since the purpose of my blog is to share the experiences of a mother with a son at war, I thought I'd start with what these last 24 hours have been like... while we're all waiting for other news...

First, let me say that I have always believed in the power of prayer (especially before we need something) and now believe more than ever!! When they called yesterday, they said "serious spinal injury" and "in surgery in Iraq" and today no surgery, maybe some damage to some cervical vertebrae but maybe just substantial bruising and swelling?? It's prayer (and the Lord's good Grace upon us!) Thank you! Thank you! Thank You all so very much for your thoughts and prayers... Almost 4,000 people have visited this site in the last 20 hours, and more than 200 left best wishes and prayers... We know that they have made a difference and they mean a lot to us. I can not begin to convey how deeply touched we are by the outpouring of compassion, care and prayers for us. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

So here's how the tale begins:
DH and I were just about to sit down to dinner... and the phone rang... caller ID said the name of the Fort where my son is stationed when he's not in Iraq. (Note to self: If the caller ID says, "Fort Benning", do not answer phone -- IT'S BAD NEWS. Of course, I didn't have that thought... and the Rear Detachment (they're the guys that stay behind and make sure things are going good back home) and I have the following conversation (as best I remember but forever seared in my brain)
RD: Hello is this _________?

Me: Yes... (tentative)

RD: This is Sgt. F with the Rear Detachment.

Me: Yes... (still tentative)

RD: I'm calling about your son, Noah...

Me: Yes.... (quiver in voice)

RD: Your son has been injured in Iraq

Me: Yes (sob) (grabbing kitchen counter)

RD: He was injured by an IED...

Me: (gasp, sob, sob) (laying across counter)

RD: he has a serious spine injury...

Me: Oh no, no (gasp, sob, sob)

RD: and he's in surgery.

Me: OK... (fighting pure hysteria) Where is he? Germany?

RD: No, he's in Iraq.

Me: OK, so my son has been injured by an IED, he has a serious spinal injury and he's in surgery in Iraq.

DH: Oh, Noah!

RD: Yes, ma'am.
[I think it was in here I asked if I should make arrangements to go to Germany and he advised that it would be premature to make those plans, something about the Army discouraging family members from going to Germany before all the details are worked out... and I think my response might have been a guttural "uh, huh" and the RD saying something about when they called back they would discuss those arrangements... but I was really reeling at this point and fighting desperately to maintain some semblance of control...]

RD: I'm very sorry to have to call you to tell you this.

Me: When will you know something more (gulp, gulp, whimper, sob, gasp, sob)

RD: I don't know ma'am, but I'll call you as soon as we know anything.

Me: Yes (gulp), please call (sob) me as soon as you (sob, gulp) know anything.

RD: Again, I'm very sorry to have to call you with this news.

Me: Yes, thank you. Please call me.

At some point, DH thought I was about to "go down" and he had stepped close and put his arm around my shoulders, and I quickly flip around and dissolve into gasping sobs, all punctuated with "No! No! No! No!" All the words I wrote eight months ago in Every Parent's Nightmare was upon us!

Almost immediately, I knew that there were things we needed to do, but couldn't get my brain to stop screaming long enough to know what they were. I knew that we needed to call Noah's two brothers and sister... we had to call his aunts and uncle... We made those calls... with healthy periods of wailing (on my part) during and between these calls. Our dogs were beside themselves because I was crying and began barking and had to be put in the garage so that we can hear ourselves think (but we're really not doing much thinking... more like a mental game of bumper pool -- lurching from task to task and bouncing from thought to thought.

I pull out a suitcase and begin packing clothes. I know we'll have to travel somewhere... but where? When? We talk about whether both DH and I should go to Germany at the same time or should I go and based on what's happening there, DH should come later? We decide that this will all depend on what the Army tells us when next they call. Who makes the travel arrangements? Do we do that? Does the Army do that? Questions not asked in the confusion that engulfed me during that call.

We answer calls on our cell phones from family and friends as word spreads and people offer their prayers and ask what can they do?? We don't know what to say because we don't know what we're supposed to be doing ourselves! My twin sister calls to say her bags are packed and passport is ready and she's going wherever I'm going no ifs, ands, or buts (none from this sis.)

I pull out our passports... I ask DH whether he thinks I'll need the power of attorney I have from our son. I get it out, too. I ponder for a moment whether I think I'll need the official Army record/file that Noah gave me before he deployed. I decide I'd rather not lose the file somewhere and if I need it, it can be overnighted. Although this seems like a logical string of actions, in reality they are herky-jerky tasks strung together by time and episodes of gasping sobs and crying... and praying to God to please, please let our son be OK. I'm not really praying, I'm begging God to please spare my son. I'm bartering... I'm badgering...

At some point, I decide that I have to let dear friends know and ask for their prayers, so I draft the 21 word email that became my last post and send it to the "Noah Network" of friends and family that have been devoted and loving since he left for Basic training almost 2 years ago. I decide I have to call his closest friends Mike and James and Nick and Mish and Veronika... they have all been friends since second grade... Inseparable whenever Noah is around and when he isn't -- well, he's mostly who they talk about -- especially since he went to Iraq.

Mike -- who was just here with Noah when he was home on R&R -- just about falls apart but promises to call the "kids" and let them know... none of the others answer their phones, but Mike knows how to find out where they are and locates them all... who then in turn, call us on our cell phones wailing and crying... some conversations taken over midway by weeping parents... This does not help me get control of my crying at all. I am wishing we hadn't retired and moved away from them all because these wonderful creatures are my physical link to my now injured son -- a link to the son who ran, played football, crewed (rowed), danced, bounded through the house.... and now had "a serious spinal injury." I told God it didn't matter to me -- just bring him back to me, we'd deal with everything later.

I was overcome on more than one occasion throughout the night by thoughts of my beautiful son being in pain and wondering if someone was there to comfort him and tell him it will be ok (which sends me into spasms of weeping). I know that there are nurses (angels in scrubs) and am truly comforted knowing that these angels will do whatever it takes to give our son comfort and care like no others. Oh, and did I mention that every 15 minutes or so after every episode of crying -- either collapsed in DH's arms, talking on the phone, seeing Noah's R&R suitcase still packed on the closet floor -- great waves of nausea would overtake me and I'd throw up? (Sorry for the visual.)

At some point (a detailed timeline is mental mush today) I decide that my Military Mom friends and Military Wife friends would want to know and I email them... They get to work and put out the call for prayers... they go all out soliciting God's love and mercy for my son. I putter on my desk... Michael's Mom Stacey calls and she and I cry a little and she offers me love and encouragement... I unpack the suitcase... I repack the suitcase... I look at pictures of my son... I cry some more. I try to eat some toast (nope). My head is all stuffed up from crying, my eyes burn and my head is splitting... I figure more prayers can't hurt and the people I know that can mobilize the military "family" (those in it, near it or grateful for it) for prayers and good thoughts are Blackfive and The Mudville Gazette, so I email them with the same 21 word email as it's all I can manage before I dissolve back in tears. In the meantime, I'm answering instant messages from Noah's friends but have nothing more to tell them. I stare with looks that could kill trying to will the telephone to ring with news.

I speak with Patti Bader (a true Saint on Earth!) from Soldiers Angels who gave me more information and comfort in the span of a 10 minute telephone conversation than I have ever experienced. She has mobilized (along with Blackfive) the Soldiers Angels worldwide network and tells me things that will happen, things to do, what the Army will do and what we (they) will do to help... that a Soldiers Angel will be in Germany to meet our son, comfort him, bring him necessities and a message of love from his mom... and another Angel will be waiting if he comes to Walter Reed Army Medical... they'll do whatever they have to in order to bring comfort and aid to our soldier -- to ALL our soldiers -- their motto is "May No Soldier Go Unloved." I tell you honestly that I could not have made it through last night without the assurance and calm of the Angels. (Go to their site right now and GIVE! GIVE! GIVE! Money, time, services, miles, volunteer...)

As you can imagine, I was an ugly blubbering momma for a good part of last night... Many people urged us to try and get some sleep because it was unlikely we would hear anything for a number of hours, we would need to have all our wits about us and our strength for Noah. So about 11:00PM (yes, all this activity happened in 5 hours!) I swallowed a few sleep aids and laid down, but sleep was elusive.

I slept off and on but tossed and turned a lot. About 3:50AM, my cell phone rang... once. I try to redial the number and a voice announces that it was a prepaid service and could not be reached that way. Noah! It must be Noah! Now I'm actually talking out loud, "Please call back... please call back." 4:00AM "Hey, Ma!" and voila! Sunshine where before there was darkness. No two more beautiful words than, "Hey, Ma!" Except that he told me the details of the incident in which he was injured, the results of our conversation are in the update to my last post.

We believe he left Iraq about 3:00PM Pacific time (which is 1:00AM Iraq time) but are still waiting for someone to tell us officially that he has left (maybe there is no "official" in these cases?), when he'll arrive, the nature of his injuries, how long he'll be there and whether he'll be moved some place else or returned to duty. We will now have to wait to see what the doctors in Germany think... he could be sent to Washington, DC if they think he has an injury that requires treating OR they could hold him there in Germany and see if the swelling and tingling in his extemities (from being thrown into a wall by the force of the explosion) subsides on its own (and then go back to Iraq) OR who knows? That's the phone call we're waiting on...

We hate that he may go back... All of us with loved ones deployed can't help but occasionally think about getting the call... it's unavoidable especially when we see and hear and read about others who got the call and such thoughts evoke repulsion and sadness... but imagining last night's phone call can not begin to approach the actual horror of it -- and now that I have experienced that, I'd prefer to not experience it again (been there, done that!) I know the nightmares generated by that call will be a part of me for all of my days.

We are otherwise hanging in there... suitcase and passport at the ready to travel wherever they are sending or keeping him. Waiting, waiting...


At 8/24/2005 8:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I truely hope all is well with your son.

My prayers go out to you.

At 8/24/2005 8:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with your family and your son. There is nothing that God can't do!!
Erik's brother inlaw

At 8/24/2005 9:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I sat waiting for one of those calls last April when one of the Big Windy helicopters went down. For two and a half days we were in a sort of suspended animation - I didn't even want to breathe. We were VERY lucky and our son was not aboard that flight. But when I got the call from Big Windy that he was okay - I still broke down and cried for the men who weren't coming home.

I have always felt that when it's your time - God will take you. I can't tell you how happy I am that it wasn't Noah's time. I continue to pray for him.

At 8/24/2005 9:41 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

You sounded much better tonight my friend, and I am so thankful for that. Glad I decided to call and check on you guys. I can only hope and pray that you hear something real soon.

My heart still hurts for you, and it will continue as long as you are in need. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do.

I will keep spreading the word and asking for prayers for everyone. Hope you are able to get a decent night sleep tonight. I also hope that your phone rings, and it is your soldier on the other end saying "Hey Ma". No sweeter words in the world right now.

Take care, and remember we are all here for you.

Lots of love coming from Mississippi. You have one hell of a soldier and we are all so proud of him. I will give My soldier a hug for you tomorrow.

At 8/24/2005 9:47 PM , Blogger sher said...

My husband is there in Iraq with a unit from Mississippi..... I am so very sorry for your son's injuries. I cried just reading this. We all dread that phone call and I am so sorry you got one, but so very happy that he is alive and his injuries are healing. Please keep us all posted and know that our prayers are with you.

much love and support,

At 8/24/2005 9:58 PM , Blogger Rachelle Jones said...

you have just lived through one of my biggest nightmares.....and you did it with grace my Dear, cry all you want...and need.

Honey I cried, and I do not even know Noah.

God Bless each of you, and I hope the next 24 hours brings positive news.

We just keep on praying here....

Tell DH,thanks...

At 8/24/2005 10:38 PM , Blogger Household6 said...

If you need help while in Germany or a ride to another installation please email me and I will give you my phone number. I am 15 minutes from Landstuhl.

I know Soldier's Angels will be there to assist you as well, but it can't hurt to have all the help you can get.


At 8/24/2005 10:39 PM , Blogger Jack said...

Good thoughts and best wishes for a speedy recovery for your son. God bless him and your entire family.

At 8/24/2005 10:42 PM , Blogger tempo dulu said...

I feel really sorry for you and your son. It's an absolute disgrace that he should be out there in the first place risking his life like that. And for what? I hope you get to see him soon. Take care.

At 8/24/2005 11:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading about the phone call, informing you of your son's injury, got me all choked-up. Being a Mom of a Soldier myself, I sensed what you might be going through all during the night, after receiving such a call. Hopefully, Noah's injury isn't as bad as first thought. As I continue to pray for my own son's safe return, I'll include your son in my prayers as well. I hope you're able to sleep better tonight. Take care.


Mom of a Soldier

At 8/24/2005 11:56 PM , Blogger sparrow said...

Thank God you got his call and Thank God for prayer and those who prayed.

I will follow this. You, Noah and your family are in my prayers.


At 8/25/2005 3:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My prayers are offered up for you and your family. I am also a soldiers mom. Finding your blog is a gift that helps me deal with the situation. As a friend told me...everything is in God's hands. May you find His peace! Tina

At 8/25/2005 3:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't say anything that hasn't already been said. My prayers are with Noah, you, DH and the whole family. I'm also sending prayers out to all the wonderful people out there. It does go to show you the power of prayer.
Thanks Noah, and all the other service personnel, for keeping us safe and trying to make the world a better place. Thank you SSM and DH (and many, many others) for raising such a fine young man

At 8/25/2005 4:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soldiers Mom...

Wow.. the power of prayer is amazing, isn't it. I am so glad Noah's injuries aren't as bad as they first thought. You are a strong woman and you will get through this and we are all here to help.

I am just a trainride away from Walter Reed...I will contact Patty and let her know. The Babes are here to help you in anyway possible.

Take care and hold on... Noah is going to be fine.

Lisa @ Two Babes

At 8/25/2005 4:44 AM , Blogger Call Me Grandma said...

Thank God things are looking better with every passing minute.
This is excellent news. Keep me posted.
Dear Lord, please heal Noah and protect him. Give wisdom to the physicians so that they know how to treat Noah's wounds. Please heal Noah's buddies and keep them all safe an under your protection. Amen
The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over you; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 7-8

At 8/25/2005 5:34 AM , Blogger Melinda said...

We continue to hold your family in our prayers. I'm amazed by you and your son's courage and strength and determination. Even though I don't know Noah, I can tell the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.

{{Hugs}} and remember to just ask when you need something.


At 8/25/2005 5:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mom, my families continued prayers are with yours and Noah.


At 8/25/2005 6:13 AM , Blogger Chevy Rose said...

Noah, and you and family remain in my prayer as well.
God bless America and all her military.

At 8/25/2005 6:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your son and family remain in my prayers. I'm so glad you finally got to talk to him.

God Bless!

At 8/25/2005 6:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mom - the power of prayer cannot be understimated. I'm so thankful that your Noah is in good spirits and I continue to pray for him, your entire family and his fellow soldiers.

Please keep us posted on how he's doing (and also how you're doing).

Hang in there.

Mega (((hugs))) from D.C.

Love - Andi

At 8/25/2005 6:57 AM , Blogger barb pfister said...

I checked back and am amazed at the prayers and good wishes left by so many. I cry for you for I know somewhat of how you feel and this brings back a lot of memories. I will continue to pray for Noah and your whole family throught this. Thank God for so many wonderful people who are praying for you daily.( The amazing power of prayer). God Bless you and keep you.

At 8/25/2005 8:18 AM , Blogger Erik Holtan said...

I hope another day brings more improvement! Even though the rest of us are still here doing the same things we did yesterday, we still DO NOT forget the ones who were hurt getting us to today!
NOAH and the other injured in that incident are in our minds! Let him know that, and I don't know him and he doesn't know me!
Have an inspiring day!

At 8/25/2005 8:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

From one military family to another, we will be praying for you.

At 8/25/2005 8:38 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG.... just reading this update just had me in tears. Hey Ma, had to have been the greatest words for you to hear. You and your son and all the soldiers continue to be in my prayers. I hope Noah continues to improve by the minute.

At 8/25/2005 9:11 AM , Blogger LoveMyTanker said...

Thank you for sharing your journey.

Thoughts and prayers remain with you and your family.

At 8/25/2005 9:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading you for some time now... I'm an AnySoldier supporter.
You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Hopefully, you'll know more soon and you will be able to see your son.
All the best from Denver, CO.

At 8/25/2005 9:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Everyone has been pulling for Noah. I've seen it all over the blogosphere and decided to come and personally say - Thank you for your son. Thank you to your son. May his wounds heal quickly, may he come home soon.

At 8/25/2005 9:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

May God bless you and continue to look after you and your son. My prayers are with you.

At 8/25/2005 11:03 AM , Blogger said...

I saw two good words in your update post, movement and pain. I'm not a doctor but it sounds to me that this is something that your son will be able to recover from (physically at least) and be on his feet again. Hopefully the pain will decrease soon and the movement will improve quickly. Either way, your son (like all those serving) is owed a debt of gratitude for placing himself in harms way. Here's to his quick recovery and safe return home.

At 8/25/2005 12:17 PM , Blogger Fermina Daza said...

Prayers on the way for more good news!

At 8/25/2005 1:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ps 41:2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.

Just a little something from a regular guy

At 8/25/2005 1:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gob bless you and your family. You are all in my prayers.

Chris D
Merritt Island, FL

At 8/25/2005 2:26 PM , Blogger Lisa said...

I just want you to know that your son is in my prayers. I can only imagine what you are going through. I just discovered your blog today & cried my eyes out. It's my worst nightmare. My husband is also in Iraq with the 3ID & there have been many scares since he deployed in January. I hold my breath every time a car pulls up in front of my house... I am terrified that it could be the notification team. Your son & your family are in my thoughts & prayers.

At 8/25/2005 2:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a horrifying thing to go through, I cried while I read your post. I will keep Noah, you and the rest of your family my prayers.

At 8/25/2005 3:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a nurse I can tell you that is such good news! God Bless you we will keep praying for you, Noah and all of our soldiers.

At 8/25/2005 4:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our continued thoughts and prayers are with Noah and your family.

At 8/25/2005 5:34 PM , Blogger airforcewife said...

We've had Noah in our minds and he will continue to be so.

God certainly does listen.

At 8/25/2005 6:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hallelujah, glory be to God. I've lit enough candles to St. Michael that he must think he was martyred in a grease fire!

At 8/25/2005 7:24 PM , Blogger Maggie Goff said...

Noah, you, your entire family and friends, and most especially the medical staff attending to Noah are all in my prayers. I'm so happy you got to talk with him.

At 8/25/2005 7:33 PM , Blogger pacos_gal said...

What a shock. I logged in tonight to check up on everyone, since it had been a few days, and the first thing I saw on Mustang's blog was that Noah had been hurt. Thank god, the news so far seems to be very positive. I'm sure the prayers are helping and our family will be adding our prayers and good thoughts to the cause. I hope you continue to hear even more good news, and I hope you hear it really quickly.
Big hugs all around to you and your family. :)

At 8/25/2005 9:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across your site Wednesday afternoon when i checked Blackfive. I put Noah on our prayer list at church Thursday morning and passed word thru other friends in email to pray for him.

At 8/26/2005 10:58 AM , Blogger Peter said...

My rayers for Noah, your whole family and all those in harms way will continue.
I know He hears my prayers, the creaking and cracking of these old knees simply must get His attention.


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