color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: May 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom

Mansions of the Lord

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight,
No prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep,
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep,
All through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Death of Osama/Usama bin Laden: A Personal Reflection of My Journey from There to Here.

The death of bin Laden earlier this week brought a sense of elation that surprised me. I suppose it was catching the enthusiasm in the voice of the youngest son -- the one wounded in Iraq -- who called with the news: "The motherfucker is dead! They got him!!" Surprisingly, the list of who the "motherfucker" might be was short. After dismissing the one U.S. citizen on my list, I knew it was the mass murderer bin Laden. (BZ ST6!!)

I recall to this day the thunderbolt that hit me the moment I -- as well as all the world -- realized our country was under attack. I suppose only a few did not immediately suspect it was Islamic terrorists; after all, the United States and all Western interests had been under attack by these nut cases for decades (DECADES, people!)  When I responded to an email from a high school friend that morning from my Manhattan office, "The world as we know it has changed forever", I could not have imagined how the events of that September morning 10 years ago would so intimately affect me and the members of my family. 

Of course, there were the immediate impacts on our daily lives: the seemingly endless stream of funerals and memorials in our close knit suburban New York community for those who were murdered that day; the barrage of news reports; the sensory assault of the flames, smoke and ash from the World Trade Centers that continued for months on my daily commute; the ghastly, haunting visit the entire family made to Ground Zero just weeks after 9/11 -- at the insistence of our eldest son home on leave from his overseas posting with the Navy who declared that he must be a witness for his fellow sailors.

The more lasting impacts of that day: the insidiousness of increased security at transportation hubs and the continuing invasion of privacy; the too politically correct environment foisted on us by the very monsters who shield the class of persons committing these grave acts of  violence under the guise of "tolerance" and the suddenly-abhorrent practice of profiling;  the media's incessant drone of "too much" and "too little" or "too soon" and "too late"; politicians' looking to blame someone for something or everything syndrome and their annoying whining; the plague that is the media and politicians that makes intelligent people mistrust and disbelieve the spin and any words that emanate from our so-called representatives and those cupcake news anchors of the world; not to mention how we have come to stare with more bewilderment than bemusement at the holier-and-smarter-than-you COMEDIANS and ACTORS who don't, have never and never will. 

Most importantly for those who do GET.IT is the nagging crick in the back of our brains that pricks at us often: when and where will the next attack come?  It's not a matter of IF. It is only matters of time and place.

I have said often that the events of 9/11 were one of the reasons we retired when we did. Both DH and I had good careers and we could have worked for many more years. The events of 9/11 three years earlier, the grind of a long daily commute and the seemingly endless security status changes, together with changes at our work places, caused us to look again at our priorities. And at the back of our minds was the knowledge that our youngest son WAS deploying to either Iraq or Afghanistan in the [then] near future.. We simply decided one day to "get where we are going".

bin Laden's attack on the U.S. also sealed our youngest son's commitment to military service. Having two brothers and a parent with military service (all Navy), Noah had already indicated his interest in enlisting; 9/11 gave him a laser focus on it and no admonition to consider all his options -- college, ROTC, military academies -- swayed him. He likes to tell people that we were opposed to his Army enlistment, but nothing could be further from the truth.

His unit's deployment was inevitable and we prepared for it like most other parents of children in the military: with trepidation and constant reminders to remain upbeat and to not focus on the dark side (yes, young Luke, there really is a dark side...)  We may have been more familiar with the military, but we were as apprehensive and as worried as any other parents... although our son's willingness to keep us in the loop (sometimes to complete distraction) was apparently not the norm for most parents. That said, however prepared we might have been to the idea of deployment, I can say unequivocally that it was no easier on me than on other moms and, because of his two tours in Vietnam as a Navy pilot, was probably harder on Dad. 

The idea of blogging my experience of having a child at war didn't dawn on me until weeks before the deployment as I began searching for information on what my son would need, want, experience, what services available and maintaining contact with him and his unit. It became clear in those early days of the Iraq war that the perspective of a parent -- especially of a mother -- was lacking. After a young sergeant in Noah's unit told me that information to parents was really an after thought because, after all, I was just some soldier's mother got me thinking about writing the stories not yet told.

I blogged regularly through Noah and his friends' ("my Guys") deployment; the send off; the waiting; the many deaths in his unit; our son's wounding; the deaths and funerals of some of his closest friends; on most of Noah's recovery (when he would let me say), his marriage, divorce, and the birth of his son, young Tom Terrific. I even posted the video of the bombing in which he was wounded.

I have blogged on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) and on the link to traumatic brain injury (TBI), the perceptions and the efforts to address the issues -- including the steps and missteps of the services and government and its agencies and efforts at redress.

Noah's medical discharge from the Army, together with the transfer and relocation of some of my Guys, end of service commitments, and the adventures and misadventures of others, meant my connection to the Guys' subsequent deployments and their lives in and out of the Army became tenuous and my blogging slowed. Eventually, I felt there was little of interest to blog about to which I felt a connection -- the connection that enabled me to write with conviction and vigor.

Added to the lack of material for which I felt a passion to write is the constant stream of requests from commercial enterprises to promote their products or web sites, from a million self-proclaimed "support the troops" or "veteran-friendly" organizations and enterprises, from the military services to participate in telephonic conferences or round table discussions of meaningless and uninteresting topics (pleas for topics more interesting than the new DoD energy policy falling to nearly-deaf ears...), the outright self-promotion of some bloggers and their patent dishonesty, made Some Soldier's Mom (the blog) seem more and more like unpaid work;  the serious affection I had (have) for telling the human side of service waned. I blogged less and less.


Add to all of this the very fact that there is life "after". Life after children at war. Life after wounding. Life during and after recovery. Six years at our new home and in the community, we have many friends and we enjoy their company often. We are involved in volunteer work. We have hobbies -- sewing, poker, pottery, metal detecting, reading, spending time together... We are involved with family: our eldest continues his career with the Navy. Our daughter continues her medical residency. One son continues to search for meaningful employment in a horrible economy. We have three grandchildren and are looking forward to the arrival of another granddaughter this summer. We travel. We entertain old friends and family at our home (we had so many over the Easter weekend that we had to break out the sofa bed and inflatables!!)

My Men

Tom Terrific & his Dad
Noah -- the impetus for the blog -- has completed courses of study for two careers and is gainfully employed. He is a single Dad in a committed relationship. He is probably as "recovered" as he will ever be. His life "after" -- physically and emotionally -- is significantly and profoundly different than he or any of us could ever have remotely imagined. He is vigilant in his care and follow up, but his extremely busy life doesn't leave a lot of time to dwell on the life "before" and often allows little time even for medical appointments; his life now is full of NOW and today... not a lot of time to dwell on any day before the list of what must be done today  (except for sometimes in the dark hours of morning and on the anniversaries of the darkest days). Every day is a new day. Every day, that is a good thing. 

Opa & Tom replacing batteries in a toy

That is where we are. This is where I am. So although we have arrived at "where we are going" our journey through life continues. It just doesn't currently include much blogging. If something catches my eye or peaks my interest, I'll be here. My email is still active (and I regularly answer many mothers' pre-service and pre-deployment emails.)  My posts on having a child deployed, on pre-deployment items, care package and holiday package suggestions still are accessed/read often. I still hope that they are helpful to people facing or in the midst of deployment. I hope some day they will all be unnecessary and simply historical "footage" of a time of great (but necessary) madness in our world.

We still think of and pray for our Sheepdogs every day. And we pray for peace. Every single minute of every single day, we pray for victory and peace.

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