color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: November 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas in The Big City (and the Little Town)

They lit the tree in NYC tonight (sigh)...
As regular readers of my blog know, we lived in New York for many years... right outside of New York City. For the last few years there, I worked in The City... and at Rockefeller Center (which is a whole series of buildings above and below the Square where The Tree stands.

Other than the people that we called friends, there is not a lot I miss about New York or the City... but I do miss Christmas in NYC...

There is just no large city in the U.S. that does Christmas any better than New York City!

So if you have a hankering to visit The Big City -- go around Christmas time! Oh, and go for tea in the diningroom at Saks Fifth Avenue -- it has the best view of The Tree and the skating rink and the Angels... and, yes, go see the Radio City Christmas Show with the Rockettes... be sure to drop by Cartier's windows, the Saks 5th and Macy's windows... of course, St. Patrick's Cathedral... and the topiary dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History... Yup.. Christmas in the Big, Big City...
And, of course, if you're in Arizona, and you want to enjoy Christmastime in a small town, come visit Prescott -- "Arizona's Christmas City"... for a taste of Christmas in the Pines... The parade is this Saturday and then the whole town square and the Court House will be lit Saturday evening (see below for pictures of the Courthouse!)... and you can visit the World's Largest Gingerbread Village in the lobby of the Conference Center on your way into downtown... It is a special time in a very special place. It's where Christmas is cool!
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Prescott, AZ's Courthouse at Christmas

Here's two pictures of our fabulous Courthouse... so here's what our Courthouse looks like throughout the Christmas season...

Marriage Interrupted

Stop by Andi's World and give encouragement to my friend Andi... and say a prayer for her husband who deployed yesterday... Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Andi, and your DH!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thoughts of A Soldier's Mom in a Time of War...

As we approach the redeployment in the next few months, I have begun reflecting on these past 10 months. I have never been to war but I have sent a child to war.

We mothers joke that we would go over and cook, clean and do laundry for our sons and daughters, but the truth is, we would trade places with them in a heartbeat to keep them safe. To keep them from being hot, cold, hungry, tired, sore and from being shot at or being blown up. I have never had more enthusiastic agreement from military moms than when I say that sending a child to war really is the most counterintuitive thing a parent can ever do. We spend the first 18+ years of their lives making sure they are not too hot or too cold; making sure they are protected from biting bugs and making sure no one is shooting at them. And now we are called upon to wave and smile as they leave for places that are always too hot, too cold, they have bugs the size of small dogs and people are shooting at them all the time. Same for wives (but I assure you the intensity is different...)

People -- especially other mothers -- tell me that they can not imagine what that would be like... that they would be a basket case 24 hours a day. Yes, that's it. It's like you live standing on your tippy-toes every day your child is away... and you live on the edge of breathlessness... a mental asthma attack gasping and gasping for strength and sanity and peace of mind. On the outside, we smile bravely and say, "you find the strength." And we do find the strength, but the truth is that we really only find distractions from our worry, our anxiety, our heartache.
We go to jobs. We try to maintain some semblance of our lives, but those lives have changed. And we blog. We write letters. We send cards. We shop for things to send our soldiers. We pack things for our soldiers. We stand in line at the post office to mail things to our soldiers.
We talk about them. We live for the opportunity to talk with them. Then we talk to others about what we talked about with our soldiers. And we wait for another chance to talk to them again.

We learn to use all the technology available to stay in touch and to try and keep track of them. We listen for our computers to make odd noises when our soldiers are online. We listen for our phones... for the special rings we have programmed so we know if we have to answer that call. We forward phones; we pull to the side of the road to text message back to our soldiers; we give up our place in grocery store lines to run outside so the reception on the phone is better when they call. We get used to the smiling stares from people when we say, "I'm sorry, I have to take this call... my son is calling from Iraq." And we wouldn't care if they did mind -- we're taking that call no matter what.
We watch the news and when we can't stand it another minute, we stop watching the news. We have the television tuned to some news channel that supports the military even when we aren't watching it, we're listening to it. And we breathe in sharply and hold our breath when we hear, "soldiers were killed today and wounded in an explosion..." and we exhale when they say the name of the province or the town and it's not your soldier's town or province. If it is their province or town, we get online and begin searching for details because we know the news is hours old by the time it makes the television news and there might be something more somewhere...
We check newspapers and websites for pictures of soldiers from our soldier's unit in the hope that he might be in one... Never mind that the picture might be days or weeks old, it is at that moment proof positive that our soldier is just fine and he'll call any time now.
We talk or email other parents. We wonder what they've heard. We offer support when they're down (and we all get down) and we call when we're down 'cause we know they understand completely. We trade jokes, we trade information, we even trade recipes.
We think about our soldiers day in and day out. And not just the soldiers we're related to -- but all the soldiers we know in their units and don't know in their units. When we wake, we calculate the time in Iraq and wonder what they're doing. It's a task we'll do many times every day. When we're sitting to dinner, we wonder what they had to eat today... wonder if they even got a hot meal today. They'll pop up in our heads while we're doing dishes, walking to our cars, doing laundry.
We pray for our soldiers. We pray to keep them safe, we pray for their wounds to be healed when they are wounded, we pray for their souls when they die, we pray for the ones left behind to mourn. We pray for the parents in Iraq, and for their children who are now soldiers, too... and for those children protected by the soldiers there. We pray for peace. Every minute of every day we pray for peace and for our children to come home.

We cry. We cry when they haven't called or written and we cry when they do. We cry because we miss them and because we are so frightened for them. We cry when they leave and when they return and then leave again... We find that the smallest of things make us teary-eyed... walking in their room... seeing a picture... seeing a soldier. Watching the news, reading the news, hearing the news. Yes, we cry. There's nothing like a good cry to set your head straight. Our soldiers get used to it -- they don't understand -- but they know it just is.

Although we send one child (and my heart knows no limits to the compassion I feel for those mothers with two or more service members in the war!), we adopt many more... and eventually ALL soldiers -- every soldier, sailor, marine, airman -- become our sons and daughters.

We can not see a soldier anywhere without approaching them and thanking them and telling them that we, too, have a soldier.... because we all know that all soldiers have the same blood and speaking with that soldier makes us feel like we are talking to our soldier. We hug them if they let us -- and we hug them whenever we can. And we know somewhere there is a mom thanking us for taking the time to talk to (and for hugging) her soldier. She would do the same for me.

If we can not speak to that John Doe soldier, we smile wistfully... we get a pang... and our eyes may fill with tears knowing that when we look at that soldier, we are looking at our own soldier. Ask any soldier's mom -- she'll tell you... It's a universal response.

And mixed with this fear and longing is pride. Indescribable pride for these children of ours. Pride that they made the choice to serve. Pride that they accepted the challenge and met it spectacularly! Pride that they do their jobs under the most extraordinary of circumstances. We often ask ourselves, "Did I raise this person?" "How could I have done things so right?" We know we are blessed to have these spectacular creatures in our lives.

And for our entire family and the friends of our family -- and even the readers of this blog -- the rest of our lives will be forever altered by knowing how close we came.
And for the soldiers who have fallen and for their families, we will BE THERE. We will tell their story. We thank them. We will remember them. We will remember all of them. Always.
To our Guys... and those that serve with them, we thank you all. We live in Freedom and with Liberty because of you.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Milbloggies: Best Military Blogs Contest

Just a reminder that the MilBloggies are approaching and I need your votes. If you haven’t registered and voted for my blog yet, go HERE, register for FREE and add this site to your favorites (not into your browser, just on the site). It’s free and doesn’t require signing up for anything or giving money or credit info or watching pop up ads... You just type in your email address and a password... they send you a confirming email... it's that simple.
So I'm asking you to go on the site, register, then activate your registration when they send you the email... Search for "SOLDIER'S MOM" and hit the little button that says "Add to Favorites".

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Got My Red Ruby Slippers On

We're still on that emotional roller coaster that is the hallmark of deployment. News stories of soldier deaths and continued violence and just plain old missing your soldier are part of the down side of the ride... then hearing from your soldier or following the good news and successes in Iraq (and yes, there IS good news and there IS success) and talk of redeployment and coming home are parts of the UP side of the ride.
The Guys and I chatted online on Thanksgiving, so that was a great start to our day! The sector where they are is still busy (a little downward swoop) but they are all safe (up swing)... they said that the chow on Thanksgiving was actually pretty decent (which is saying A LOT at their outpost!)... there were a few deaths in their area (down) but none were Americans...
they would like me to send some things in the last package going out today... in between their missions they are sleeping as much as possible and playing Matchstick Texas Hold 'Em (playing for matchsticks!)... and dreaming of home...
I've been following the private message boards set up by family members of the 3ID, and you can feel the excitement and anticipation beginning to grow with the talk of redeployment -- COMING HOME! Those words just sound so GOOD!
And we know it's starting to get real because we received this communication from the Family Readiness Group for the unit:


o No definite dates as of yet

o The units will not redeploy as pure units. There will be a mixture on each plane when they return; therefore, the entire company will probably not be coming back as one group.

o Once they leave Iraq, they will spend [time] in Kuwait and then will be on their way home. We will know 12-24 hours before they get to Fort _______ who will be on the plane. As soon as Rear D [Rear Detachment] knows, we will notify the respective families.

o Reception will be at ______ Army Airfield.

o POVs [personal owned vehicles] will not be released until 24 hours after they have been on the ground.

o A 48 hour pass will be given to each soldier upon arrival. (this is regardless of [whether it's a] weekend)

o There is a Re-Integration Briefing... at the... Chapel. Redeployment info will be given so please try to attend one of the sessions.

o We have not been given an official day to stop mailing items, but CPT L. recommends not mailing anything after ____.

As I was packing Christmas decorations and baking dozens of cookies and cakes, and wrapping the small Christmas gifts for our Guys, I noticed that my "stuff for our Guys shelf" in our pantry was rather bare and that we were running low on boxes and labels and customs forms -- but I don't much care at the moment... I'm not going to need that many before the Guys come home -- and the smile on my face could not have been any broader!

I know that our son and the other soldiers that have been wounded and have returned home are anxiously waiting to greet the planes carrying their buddies. And while I have become attached to a large number of Guys in Noah's unit, I'm particularly close to three Guys who are all single (ok, one is in the process of a divorce) and all of whose families live far away. Which means that, like the day they deployed when I was the only "family" the Guys had to see them off, none of these three will have family to greet them after this year long deployment. I feel badly about that and am toying with the idea of going just to be there when they land. But frankly, 12-24 hours isn't a lot of notice to get from here to there, plus the frequent flier account is dry (a trip to Noah's base after his wounding and a trip for Noah to see his brothers and friends tapped the miles out.) On the other hand, it would be really cool to have been there when they left AND when they returned... and after posting about the river I cried when they left, I would love to be able to do a post about HAPPY hugs and HAPPY tears...

Of course, I'm still catching my breath every time I hear, "soldiers were killed today in two separate incidents in Iraq..." (down turn in the roller coaster ride) I will continue to worry and fret until every one of these Guys is home. Home. Home. How good does that sound??

I can already hear the clicking heels of red ruby boots all over the 3ID... no place like home... no place like home...

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 21, 2005


We have much to be thankful for this year...

I am thankful for my dear husband who loves me unconditionally, who thinks I am beautiful, smart, witty, funny without any evidence to support those ideas... who is my rock and practices and lives "love, honor, cherish" every single day.... and whom I have always loved and will always love, honor and cherish.

For our children J., E., H. (and her husband J.) and Noah who are self-sufficient, loving, happy adult-type people who gave us grey hair and wrinkles and aged us way too fast... and who make us smile and laugh and beam with pride and make life worth living every day. We are especially grateful this year for the return of our youngest son from the battlefields of Iraq just slightly worse for wear and thankful that his injuries continue to heal... And for our many sons (Our Guys!)who remain in the fray and who brighten our days with every email and message and about whom we worry and pray... and who we are looking forward to welcoming home soon with love and tears of happiness... And we are heartily thankful for the doctors, nurses, medics and case managers who gave 100% to our son when wounded and who give 100% to all of our wounded military on the battlefield, in the combat hospitals, the medevac flights, and the hospitals here and abroad.

For the love we have for and receive from our siblings and sibling in laws - Tom, Laura, Fred, Dick, Michele, Karen, Mark, Linda, Bob, Paula, Mary, and Dan and our nieces and nephews... Megan, Michelle, Amanda, Stephanie, Kelly, Heather, Benjamin, Ashley, Heather, Christopher, Timothy, Erika, Kyle, Alex... and our grandnieces and grandnephew Madison, Tyler and Brett... who give meaning to the term "family".
For our many friends new and old who share their lives and love and families with us even when there are many miles between us. And for new friends in foreign lands who rushed to help our son and then reached out their hands in friendship to comfort and aid us and to whom we are forever indebted and look forward to seeing again one day soon. For new friends who share a bond via the internet that is a wonder of the spirit... And for friends far and wide who joined in prayer in our hour of need and who proved that prayer is more powerful than medicine (or at least a key ingredient!)
For our beautiful home... for the food we eat... for our good health... for the love and devotion of our pets... for the wonders of Nature He has placed at our doorstep.
But this year -- as in every year -- we are especially and eternally grateful for our many Freedoms and for the men and women who serve in our military around the world protecting our Freedoms and our families and our way of life from those that seek to destroy it.
Dear Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors: We THANK YOU all. You are in our thoughts and prayers this Thanksgiving Day and every day.
Please pray for Dave, son of Military Mom and brother of Sgt. Dan (currently deployed to Iraq). Dave is seriously ill and had two heart valves replaced a few days ago, is still on a ventilator and undergoing dialysis. Stop by Dan's and Cathy's blogs and let them know you're thinking of them.
Wishing each of you and all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
I am Thankful:



















Friday, November 18, 2005

Message From A Soldier

SGT. HOOK received this letter via another soldier's mom. This soldier wants the following message to get out. Gladly, soldier.


Be my voice. I want this message heard. It is mine and my platoon’s to the country. A man I know lost his legs the other night. He is in another company in our battalion. I can no longer be silent after watching the sacrifices made by Iraqis and Americans everyday. Send it to a congressman if you have to. Send it to FOX news if you have to. Let this message be heard please…

My fellow Americans, I have a task for those with the courage and fortitude to take it. I have a message that needs not fall on deaf ears. A vision the blind need to see. I am not a political man nor one with great wisdom. I am just a soldier who finds himself helping rebuild a country that he helped liberate a couple years ago.
I have watched on television how the American public questions why their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are fighting and dying in a country 9000 miles away from their own soil. Take the word of a soldier, for that is all I am, that our cause is a noble one. The reason we are here is one worth fighting for. A cause that has been the most costly and sought after cause in our small span of existence on our little planet. Bought in blood and paid for by those brave enough to give the ultimate sacrifice to obtain it. A right that is given to every man, woman, and child I believe by God. I am talking of freedom.

Freedom. One word but yet countless words could never capture it’s true meaning or power. “For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know.” I read that once and it couldn’t be more true. It’s not the average American’s fault that he or she is “blind and deaf” to the taste of freedom. Most Americans are born into their God given right so it is all they ever know. I was once one of them. I would even dare to say that it isn’t surprising that they take for granted what they have had all their life. My experiences in the military however opened my eyes to the truth.

Ironically you will find the biggest outcries of opposition to our cause from those who have had no military experience and haven’t had to fight for freedom. I challenge all of those who are daring enough to question such a noble cause to come here for just a month and see it first hand. I have a feeling that many voices would be silenced.

I watched Cindy Sheehan sit on the President’s lawn and say that America isn’t worth dying for. Later she corrected herself and said Iraq isn’t worth dying for. She badmouthed all that her son had fought and died for. I bet he is rolling over in his grave.

Ladies and gentleman I ask you this. What if you lived in a country that wasn’t free? What if someone told you when you could have heat, electricity, and water? What if you had no sewage systems so human waste flowed into the streets? What if someone would kill you for bad-mouthing your government? What if you weren’t allowed to watch TV, connect to the internet, or have cell phones unless under extreme censorship? What if you couldn’t put shoes on your child’s feet?

You need not to have a great understanding of the world but rather common sense to realize that it is our duty as HUMAN BEINGS to free the oppressed. If you lived that way would you not want someone to help you????

The Iraqis pour into the streets to wave at us and when we liberated the cities during the war they gathered in the thousands to cheer, hug and kiss us. It was what the soldiers in WW2 experienced, yet no one questioned their cause!! Saddam was no better than Hitler! He tortured and killed thousands of innocent people. We are heroes over here, yet Americans badmouth our President for having us here.

Every police station here has a dozen or more memorials for officers that were murdered trying to ensure that their people live free. These are husbands, fathers, and sons killed every day. What if it were your country? What would your choice be? Everything we fight for is worth the blood that may be shed. The media never reports the true HEROISM I witness everyday in the Iraqis. Yes, there are bad ones here, but I assure you they are a minuscule percent. Yet they are a number big enough to cause worry in this country’s future.
I have watched brave souls give their all and lose their lives and limbs for this cause. I will no longer stand silent and let the “deaf and blind” be the only voice shouting. Stonewall Jackson once said, “All that I have, all that I am is at the service of the country.” For these brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice, including your son, Cindy Sheehan, I will shout 'til I can no longer. These men and women are heroes. Their spirit lives on in their military and they will never be forgotten. They did not die in vain but rather for a cause that is larger than all of us.

My fellow countrymen and women, we are not overseas for our country alone but also another. We are here to spread democracy and freedom to those who KNOW the true taste of it because they fight for it everyday. You can see the desire in their eyes and I am honored to fight alongside them as an Infantryman in the 101st Airborne.

Freedom is not free, but yet it is everyone’s right to have. Ironic isn’t it? That is why we are here. Though you will always have the skeptics, I know that most of our military will agree with this message. Please, at the request of this soldier spread this message to all you know. We are in Operation Iraqi Freedom and that is our goal. It is a cause that I and thousands of others stand ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice for because, Cindy Sheehan, freedom is worth dying for, no matter what country it is! And after the world is free only then can we hope to have peace.

SGT XXX and 1st Platoon
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
I love the line, "And after the world is free, only then can we hope to have peace." Thank you, Sergeant.
Melinda at Most Certainly Not tells us that this Sgt. received permission to be identified along with his platoon. He is SGT Walter J. Rausch .

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Funeral of SPC Tommy Byrd

As I posted Saturday, we attended the funeral on Veterans' Day of Noah's friend Tommy Byrd who was killed along with four others of Noah's squad in an IED attack October 15. Here's a longer-than-usual post, but a story that should be told...

The Central Church of the Nazarene is a modest church for modest people. There are perhaps 30 parking spaces in the front paved parking lot, but there are many more spaces available around the side of the church in the gravel lot shared at the rear by a commercial business. As we arrive, I wonder if anyone else is thinking that we only get together any more for weddings and funerals. The sky is so blue this day -- the kind that Doc Graham says in the movie Field of Dreams is “a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it.”

Walking through the open doors of the church’s vestibule through the throng of people greeting old friends and those savoring the last of their cigarettes, we spy Noah "handsome as they come" in his Class A uniform brimming with medals and ribbons and braids. He is standing against one wall with a waif of a young woman; her eyes rimmed red and dressed in a turquoise colored top and dark trousers. Besides being very young, she is diminutive with long hair streaked with the subtle shades of blond that are the fashion. People are greeting her and hugging her and she is dwarfed and smothered by these mourners. I know immediately that this is Mykel, Tommy’s widow.
Noah catches a glimpse of us, leans to whisper to Mykel and turns to us. I smile a small smile as he gives me a tight hug and a light kiss on the cheek and says, “Thanks for coming, Momma” as he releases me and reaches to shake his Dad’s hand and do that manly embrace that doesn’t require a full hug but rather hands to each others’ shoulders as they firmly clasp their hands and forearms. He repeats his thanks to his Dad, and begins to lead us to where Mykel is standing.
Mykel and I clutch each other in a tight embrace and I tell her how sorry I am about Tommy as I stroke her hair, and she tells me how glad she is that I am there and thanks me for having such a great son. Her mother and I also tightly embrace and cry on each other’s shoulders -- wordlessly conveying our pain for our children’s loss and she tells me how she has come to love my son…

We enter the nave and Tommy’s casket is already at the front of the chancel, draped in the American flag and it brings new tears to my eyes as we take our seats. The church is already filling quickly and by the time the service starts is standing room only with every aisle filled. Those in attendance include Marines, many soldiers, sailors and airmen – friends from school, neighbors, relatives. When I remark later to a Captain from the battalion about the number of Army Rangers in attendance, he tells me that they went through basic training with Tommy two years ago and who, like Noah, have paid their own way from their units to attend. Some young men and women carry infants or have toddlers tugging at skirt hems. There are old men with VFW garrison caps. Some men are wearing suits, while others are dressed in the clothes of working men.

We make our way to the front and introduce ourselves to Julie and Michael Byrd and while the fathers shake hands, we mothers embrace and cry while Tommy’s 15-year-old brother Michael, Jr. looks on. I tell him what a fine brother Tommy was and he thanks me and shakes my hand and nods. I think again how hollow and inadequate “I’m so sorry” is and how hollow it sounds.
The minister speaks and then Tommy’s high school wrestling coach, Dan Montaño. While he strives to maintain his composure, Coach sobs and his voice cracks throughout his remarks about Tommy’s humor, his drive, his smile. Holding on to the small thread of composure left to him, he closed by saying, "The next time you see our flag waving so proudly in the air, remember why it's waving and the sacrifice Tommy made.” Later I think how we expect teachers to influence the lives of their students and how unaccustomed we are to know that sometimes it’s the other way around.

Captain Lebo, from the 2/69AR reminds us that Tommy – the driver of the lead vehicle in a convoy every night – died doing what he loved, and many heads (especially soldiers and family) nod in agreement. Mykel’s best friend Rachael – whom Tommy convinced to join the Army – speaks next. She rambles that now as she trains for deployment to Iraq, the training has taken on a whole new meaning… and how she always told herself that if Tommy could make it through doing what he did, then she certainly could make it doing what she did… but now she needed a whole new courage.

There are two picture slide shows with music – the pictures we all have in our family albums – a laughing baby… the 8 year old with a center stripe Mohawk haircut that elicits laughter from us all… the 12 year old at attention saluting an unseen flag… prom portrait… pinning an opponent at a wrestling meet… clowning with his friends… lovingly holding the high school sweetheart that would become his wife. The wracking sobs of his mother echoing through the church are all it takes for the rest of the mourners and me to join her. I see Mykel’s shoulders heaving as she cries and I see my son comfort her. I watch those around us -- men and women, young and old -- weep openly and wipe the tears unashamedly from their cheeks. I see soldiers staring straight ahead and fighting for control. DH squeezes my hand a little harder when Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” begins to play over pictures of Tommy graduating from basic… standing next to a HMMVV, sitting on a tank… standing with friends in the desert sand.

Tommy’s aunt is the last to speak and she tells tale after tale of the laughing, mischievous first-born grandchild… how as a young child he plummeted down the side of a wooded mountain on a ride-on toy head first towards a tree with no way to stop to the utter horror of his aunts and grandparents as they pounded after him certain of the horrible accident about to happen when he suddenly pulled to a stop just 6 inches from the tree… How with the family gathered round nearly crying tears of relief at Tommy’s good luck he demanded to “do it again”.

We exit the church to begin assembling the elongated snake of autos that will follow hood to trunk in procession to the cemetery – a journey that will take almost 40 minutes through downtown streets. As I watch the lines of cars on side streets blocked by the members of the Tucson Police Dept. on motorcycles, I mention to DH that when I was a kid back in Illinois and we would get caught at intersections by really long funeral processions, I would think, “Wow! Look at all those cars! That must have been a really important person.” And I tell him through new tears that it could never be truer than today for there was no more important person in the world today than Tommy, and the two-tour veteran reaches for my hand and nods knowingly.

A canopy shades the area directly surrounding the open gravesite. A line of soldier-friends stands at parade rest. The white-gloved Honor Guard stands at attention next to the hearse and the Army riflemen stand back from the crowd. When nearly 300 people are assembled at the grave, the visiting soldiers are called to attention and the Guard gently removes the casket and slowly bears it to the grave; the crowd is still as the low sound of “step” as each pair of pallbearers reaches the riser above the grave where the casket will be placed. They lovingly lower the casket to the brace, dress the flag and salute this Hero with slow motion movements. The minister prays and turns the service over for military honors.

A few words are spoken, and a Command Sergeant Major with eight service stripes (one for each four years of service) loudly barks out to the seven riflemen, "Riflemen! Render three volleys!" and there is an audible gasp and weeping with each volley. The crying and sniffling escalate as Taps begins.

Two American flags are removed from the casket and each is folded with the well-practiced precision demanded to render the highest honor to the flag and to the deceased and each fold gathers and holds more than a hundred years of tradition together with the gratitude of this Nation. It is all Mykel and Julie can do not to collapse from their chairs as the folded flags are presented to them, first to his widow and then to his mother. I see our son place his hand over Mykel’s to comfort her as she cries and clutches the flag.
A Brigadier General reads the citation for the Bronze Star and Purple Heart that are awarded to Tommy and they are presented to each of the women. Again, the emotion is so raw and riveting that it competes with the sun to burn us. Noah rises and walks past the casket and is handed one of two doves, which, when released, circle above the burial site until our attention is returned to the task at hand. I hear the soldiers behind me murmur their approval. A representative of the Arizona Governor presents Mykel with the flag flown at half staff above the Capital on October 26.

As the coffin begins to lower, all the assembled military snap to attention and hold a salute. Mykel, Julie, Michael and Michael, Jr. step forward to place roses on the lid of the casket, followed by distraught friends before they lower the burial stone. Mykel sobs out her husband’s name one last time and she kisses her fingertips and reaches to plant the kiss on the coffin lid. Noah pulls his prized Combat Infantry Badge from his uniform chest and places it gently on his friend’s casket and recites softly the four lines of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from “Henry V” that names them forever members of the Band of Brothers before he returns to attention and holds his final salute to his fallen friend.
For the uncounted time that day, my heart breaks, and I lean on DH. With his arm around me, I cry tears of sadness for this family and these friends… and I cry tears of pride for my son for all he has been through at 20, and I know that they are also tears of gratitude that my son’s life was spared that day in August... and I cannot help but cry a few more thinking about Matt Bohling and Jason Benford and Tim Watkins, Jeff Corban, Vincent Summers, Rich Hardy… and I can’t help but think of V., and R. and M. – Our Guys – and Stacy’s Michael and Cathy’s Dan and all the others that are still there a while longer… On our way back to the church to join the family for refreshments, DH remarked how long this year has been. I can only reply that I hope it gets no longer…

Rest in Peace, dear Tommy… husband, son, brother, friend, Soldier. Hero.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Soldier's Funeral

Holding her husband's flag, Mykel Byrd kisses his coffin. Tommy Byrd's funeral took place at the Central Church of the Nazarene, with burial at Evergreen Cemetery & Memorial Park. In background is Noah P., who served with Byrd in Iraq.

This picture fills the entire front page of today's Tucson (AZ) paper the Arizona Daily Star. I will post more about Tommy Byrd's funeral when we're home. We are very proud of Noah... the paper did a good job on the story and there are more photos on the web page.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Thanks to my mother, our family learned early to honor those that serve. We attended Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans' Day parades in our town...

some years we sat and cheered from the curbs as we waved our American flags, while in other years we participated as Girl Scouts, pep squad members, cheerleaders. After the Vietnam War, honoring our service people was not particularly celebrated and, in many towns, the parades were discontinued because no one came to cheer the Veterans.

When we had children of our own, we took them to the parades... we cheered the vets, we saluted the flag. We waved at ships arriving home with fathers and sons on deck and mothers and wives smiling and crying on the pier.
We attended many wreath laying ceremonies at our war memorial on the grounds of our county court house in New York and cheered from the court house lawn on Main Street (really) as the Veterans' paraded by. The large court house square, the large military community and the community's patriotism were key factors in our choice of the town we now live in. Paying homage to those that serve is the least we can do... a few minutes from a whole day set aside to honor our Veterans.
I sometimes think that even without the influence of DH's career (he had finished his 25 years and started his second career by the time the oldest was entering high school), our patriotism and our respect for our service members might have influenced our sons' choices to serve in the military. We could not be any prouder of them.
This Veteran's Day we will not be able to attend the ceremonies and services in our new home town, because we'll be paying our deepest respects to the family of a fallen Hero, Tommy Byrd... one of Noah's comrades and close friends killed in an IED attack in October. This young man's wife thought it appropriate to bury him on Veteran's Day. Noah will fly cross country to render him all the honor and respect he deserves for his sacrifice.
I'm not sure I won't completely fall apart when I speak to the parents of this fallen Hero. Just the thought of his mother having to say a final good bye to her son makes me weep now. It's impossible not to know that it could just as easily have been me bidding farewell to one of my sons... to Noah. The horrible sadness that came over me the night we learned Noah was wounded now pokes at my heart, stabs at my eyes. It will be impossible not to feel guilty that my son is here and her's is not. Impossible to find words to comfort the young widow who spent the 10 months her husband was in Iraq making plans for the rest of their lives...
"We are so sorry" is insufficient to express how heavy my heart really is, how grateful I am for this man's service, how proud I am that he volunteered to protect his country and all that he cherished. I'll never be able to convey how much I appreciate this soldier's friendship with my son, how much my son loved being his friend and how much he misses him. What can I possibly say to this soldier's brother? It's true what they say -- there are no words yet invented that can convey what we feel for these parents, for this wife... for all the parents, all the wives, the brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, friends of our lost Heroes.
But on Veteran's Day, we each have the opportunity -- the obligation -- to thank all the Soldiers, the Marines, the Sailors, the Airmen, and the members of the Coast Guard who have served and are serving to protect us -- fought or just stood on the Wall.
To all those that raised their hand, swore the oath and said, "This we'll defend", from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Bottom of my boots sure are gettin' worn
there's a lot of holes in this faded uniform
My hands are black with dirt and so is my face
I aint never been to hell
but it couldn't be any worse than this place.
Tell my wife don't worry 'cause I know what to do
it makes you feel better sometimes, but don't know if it's true.
I know if I die it's just my time to go
but I pray to God every day that I may get back home.
Well when you've seen what I've seen
things don't seem so bad
quit worrying 'bout what you aint got, thank God for what you have
'Cause I could be raising my family in this place
but I was born an American
by God's Amazing Grace.

From Luke Striklin's "American By God's Amazing Grace" copyright 2005

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Capt Z. posts!!! If you don't know Capt. Z -- it's TCOverride -- an Army soldier wounded by an IED in Iraq and back at Walter Reed for further treatment of his injuries AND he's the brainiac behind the PROJECT VALOUR -IT. (Pardon the typos in the posting, but Chuck is drugged after another round of surgery for his injuries, is using one hand to edit but most importantly is using his voice-activated software promoted by this project for wounded service members.) The "Carren" he refers to is his devoted wife...

This is copied from Chuck's blog From My Position ... On the Way:

Mkay ... I dragged my drugged and temporarily one-handed body out of the hospital bed to tell ya'll about something most important.
Carren is gonna be on national TV (and live national TV at that) to let everyone know about Project Valour-IT. She will represent me (the nerd who thought of this project), and the many people who have made this project a success.
She is going to be on "Connected coast to coast" a show run by MSNBC. Don't know how long she'll be on, but for the love of god, please tune in, put your hands on the top of your TV, and talk to Jebus when the show is over. The show runs from 1200-1300 (noon to one fer ya civlians out there) (and that's eastern time) My beloved is supposed to be on around 1240, but I will rest assured that her looks, personality, and general charm will either get her on early, or the show will go into extra rounds like Rocky and the Big Ruskie in Rocky IV.
Here's how you can help. Send this to every one you know, post it on your blog, get them to post it on theirs. One side will say it's a failure of the gummint to not prvide this for the soldiers, others just see it as a way to help our brothers and sisters who have fallen but will be getting up. However they spin it, just get the word out.
There's less than 18 hours to game time, so let's get our blog on!
p.s. I met the Secrtary of the Army a few days ago. I don't remember most of our conversation (because pain killers do that to you, espcially at the level I'm taking them...think chevy chase (or was it Dan Akroyd?) in "Modern Problems". But I brought two things to his attention: 1. It's stupid and a waste of manpower to hold a medical review board for a guy who's lost a finger 2. I pitched Valour-IT to him. He thinks it's a great idea. He was pressed for time, so his aide took the info sheets we gave him and gave us his card...and told us to call if we don't hear anything about it in two weeks!
Cross post the hell out of this. (He means, get this up and run with it!!!)

Holiday Packages for Soldiers

2008 Information HERE

Project Valour-IT
Now through Veterans Day, Nov. 11
We all look forward to the holidays. We look forward to the comfort and happiness and nostalgia that the holidays bring and spending the time with our families. Imagine being thousands of miles away and having that day be like every other day... But you can make a difference to our soldiers...
The mailing deadlines are drawing near for packages to the troops, so I'm putting up some suggestions for things that can be sent to our troops.
First let me say that if you do not know a soldier or marine or if putting together a package is something you're not comfortable with, there are a number of organizations that are making every effort to ensure that No Soldier Goes Unloved... and they could use a helping hand by means of donations, especially the wonderful Soldiers Angels Holiday Spirit for Heroes. You can give money or send Christmas stockings to be stuffed, or donations of goods to be used for stocking stuffers...
For those looking for suggestions on things to send, here's a list -- certainly not comprehensive... IF YOU HAVE ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS.
Christmas Stockings.
- Individual packets of hot chocolate, cider or hot soup mix…
- Candy (bite sized, individually wrapped, all kinds)
- AT&T Phone Cards (this brand because it works in the Middle East area)
- Hand held games (battery games with batteries, please)
- Small puzzle books
- Small, signed Holiday cards from you and your families (include your name and address!)
- Cigarettes (no lectures, please. I don't smoke, but most soldiers we know do)
- Cigars (good ones!)
- Books (current titles are greatly appreciated
- Magazines
- Microwave food items (popcorn, all in one pan microwave deserts, heat & eat soups, etc.)
- Cereal bars
- Granola Bars
- Home baked goods (pack brownies and cakes in bread slices or package in tins and wrap in plastic wrap
- Pre-paid gift cards or gift certificates
from American Express, Visa,, or from specific stores - Best Buy, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, etc.) These soldiers have a range of things they need or want over the course of their deployments...
Holiday decorations. Look around your homes and see your most cherished reminders of the holidays... and replicate those for our troops.
- Garland
- Shatterproof ornaments
- Tinsel
- Lights (small wattage)
- Small artificial trees
Warm weather items (it's cool there now -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Germany -- and getting colder).
- Stocking caps (black only)
- Long sleeve t-shirts -- (M, L or XL) but must be Army brown... Under Armour is preferred but also (less pricey) Dri-Release shirts (Soffee, Anvil, etc.) (but good luck finding them in brown). You can also order t-shirts and other deployment items at AAFES (click on the "Gift for Troops" icon in the upper right corner!)
- Gloves (tactical gloves are preferred... which you can also find online or at gun stores or military or police supply stores)
- Lightweight fleece blankets.
DVDs, Music CDs... new releases are greatly coveted... and believe me, they pass them around and trade them so one DVD or one CD makes its way to a lot of soldiers...
Footballs, baseballs, baseball gloves, soccer balls, volleyballs...
Holiday Cards that they can send to friends and families back home (they do not need postage!)
Now for some practical suggestions:
Use FLAT RATE BOXES from the US Postal Service. $7.70 no matter how heavy you make the boxes!
Mail Early!!
Be aware that soldiers have a limit on the amount of "stuff" they can bring back so hold off sending priceless heirlooms and bulky items if your soldier is redeploying soon.
RESTRICTIONS ON CONTENTS: If you are sending to Iraq or Afghanistan, DO NOT SEND ANY OF THE FOLLOWING: obscene articles such as prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc.; pork or pork by-products; alcoholic beverages; any matter depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items; or unauthorized political materials.
If contraband is found in a package, the entire contents may not be delivered!
DON'T FORGET Project Valour-IT
Now through Veterans Day, Nov. 11