Friday, August 31, 2007

First, if you have any suggestions on good wines to try, please let me know as my consumption is going to increase. Not for any particular reason. I just like feeling "comfortable numb."

Jan Wesner published an article featuring me in the St. Petersburg Times today. The online version doesn't have the photo and I wanna see the photo real bad. I looked around "our town" and could not find a paper. We are in the next county over from St. Pete and there probably aren't a lot of readers over this way yet. Jan wrote that some parents turn to alcohol or sedatives to cope with their son's deployment and that I turn to support groups such as the Blue Star Mothers. Well I also turn to alcohol AND sedatives to cope with my sons' deployment. I've made several attempts to try to sleep without xanax and give up between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m.

Today I attended Sgt. Britt's funeral in Longwood, FL. It was a very nice service, very sad of course. The CAO had told me yesterday I would be doing a private presentation to the family after the service. When I arrived at the church today the CAO told me there was a change of plans and that I would be doing the presentation before the congregation. The representatives of the Patriot Guard also gave their presentation in the same manner and they did very well (thank you Susan).

One of the reasons I attend the funerals and make the presentations is to permanently imprint the faces of the families in my mind and heart. We sometimes say so casually that "they will never be forgotten" and a few weeks later we cannot remember their names. I've seen so much sorrow over the last two months and I want to honor my vow to never forget these brave soldiers and their families.

I truly feel honored to be allowed into the lives of these families for just a few minutes to show them that we care, that we can only imagine how much they are hurting. And after each presentation (or during it) I cry and cry and cry and it helps me to have a long emotional cry because afterwards I feel somewhat cleansed and ready to face a few more days or weeks of fear for my own children's lives.

During this long weekend I am going to do a lot of nothing. I'm so tired that I could probably sleep until Sunday night.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sgt. Sandy R. Britt, Fallen Hero, and Yet Another

I will be attending Sgt. Britt's funeral tomorrow to present the Gold Star Banners to his family.

Today I was notified that another soldier from our small town was killed in Afghanistan; Cory Clark, 25 years old. He was deployed from Ft. Lewis, WA (as is Austin).


Today I went to a dentist who uses nitrous oxide on wimpy patients like me(my former dentist refused to work on my teeth because I have panic attacks every time I go into a dental facility). I should NEVER have used the gas. At first I felt really good, really, REALLY good. I thought to myself, "I get to do this for an hour!" Then it went very wrong. All I could think about was Austin (probably because we had an IM chat today) and these were NOT good thoughts. I think if you are basically happy the gas will make you feel happier. But if at the core of your being you are terrified, the gas makes it easier to imagine the source of your terror.

When I started crying the dentist asked me if I wanted to reschedule. It's hard to breath through a snotty nose (that's where the gas goes in) and I'm sure he didn't want his fingers in the mouth of an hysterical person. But I wanted to get this over with and not have another appointment to dread. I was able to calm down and after the last Novocaine shot for the second procedure I had them take the gas off. I handled the rest of the procedure w/o the gas and, other than trembling all over, did just fine. They were very kind and understanding but I was very embarrassed.

Thursdays are meditation class nights but I just wanted to come home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Fallen Heros

Florida has lost two more heros. Staff Sgt. Sandy R. Britt,, 30, of Apopka, FL and Sgt. 1st Class David A. Heringes, 36, of Tampa, FL, both out of Ft. Bragg, NC. Sgt. Heringes' funeral and burial will be at Arlington; Sgt. Britt's funeral and burial will be in Apopka, FL. If the family chooses to allow the Blue Star Mothers of Florida to present them with Gold Star Banners at the funeral, I will be the presenter. Everything is ordered and on the way; I await the family's decision. Strangely, if the funeral were on Saturday I would attend even if they did not invite us; but attending a soldier's funeral on a weekday costs me a day's pay. Why should that matter?

The Blue to Gold Star liaison from Michigan called me this afternoon and she too finds that attending these funerals and presenting the Gold Star Banners helps her cope with her son's deployment. Personally I think it is extremely important that the presenter be a mother/wife of a currently deployed serviceman because we can honestly say that at any time the next Gold Star Banner could be presented to us. Which thought, statement, or whatever, gives me chills up my spine and sends me into complete denial!

Tonight I am going to read up on "anticipatory grief," as was suggested by "She Who Waits" (see Blogs I Read). I honestly believe there is no way to prepare one's self for the death of a child, but something in my head tells me there is. Isn't it odd to look at a person and know that 24/7 they are living in fear? I still cannot even imagine 11 more months of this constant state of terror. But I have no choice but to live with it.

I've mentioned before that I should buy stock in Kendall Jackson (if it is a publicly traded company). My first act after walking the dogs is hitting the bottle. Gift cards gratefully accepted.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Deployment Letter

Dear Deployment:

When you came around again for Kris he was very excited to see you. He is Army through and through and he actually even likes you. Other than missing his wife, I think he'd stay with you. You offer him the opportunity to be a leader, a warrior, perhaps a hero. For that I thank you.

But I don't like you much at all. Over the past 11 months I have become accustomed to you; kind of like a shoe that doesn't quite fit. What was at first an oozing blister is now a tough callous. You and I are on the back stretch, just about to round turn three, breeze into turn four and cross the finish line in four (hopefully) short months. Your grip on my heart is loosening and I can imagine the time when that gigantic sigh of relief will put you out of my life for a very long time.

When you came for Austin he was determined to get along with you even though you took him before his leg was completely healed from surgery. You took hold of his mind and convinced him that loyalty to you was more important than his own personal safety. You offer him the opportunity to be a man, a soldier, perhaps a hero too. For that I also thank you.

We are just getting to know each other in this relationship and you have scared me beyond the point of sanity. My heart is firmly in your tightening grip and unless I strengthen myself, you will win this fight.

Deployment, I am resolved to not allow you to destroy my life. You had me down on the mat and the count was at nine and 1/2, but I'm up now. It's "no holds barred" from here on out. You keep my son for another 11 months --- almost another entire year --- but you keep him SAFE! He is completely dedicated to finishing YOUR job, part of which is to protect him. Deployment, if you take my son from me you will win. I cannot lie. You will win. But you will also suffer because I will admonish you from "sea to shining sea" as a hateful bastard who should be banished to hell.

Kris and Austin's Mom

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A New Day

This will be short because a friend is coming over to help me redecorate my bedroom because she thinks it will help me to feel better -- is that sweet or what?

I'm not deleting the two paragraphs from my last post YET because I'm getting the feedback and advice I desperately need!

My husband is working today -- I sent him an e-mail "Do you want me to buy new painting tools or just destroy yours?"

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why Does My Son Rage?

I really want all of you to know that I appreciate your comments, your love, your hugs, your advice, and everything about those of you who read my ramblings! Every day when I get home I go straight to my blog to "hear" from you all. You make my days brighter!

Regarding the helicopter crash on Wednesday, the unit initially identified as being involved was incorrect. The two pilots and two crew members on the helicopter were out of Ft. Lewis, WA --- Austin's unit. If I had seen that before I heard from my sons, more than panic would have happened; probably a lot of screaming, crying and I'd definitely have less hair.

Most tragically, one of the soldiers killed was the second son in his family to be killed in Iraq. How horrible for his family. How does life go on?

My older son is very upset with me for my recent "interference" in things of war. He's been brutally open with his disapproval of me for panicking when I heard of the helicopter crash ("if something happens to one of us you will find out w/n hours through official channels"); becoming involved in getting generators fixed; sending an e-mail to the White House to try to get Austin home; and on and on. When he was home for R&R and I mentioned some things I had become involved in he said, "Why don't you just live your OWN life?" This IS my OWN life. If one of my sons is killed in this war it would not only be the end of them, it would be the end of me!

Sometimes I want to change the name of my blog to ArmyMomOfOne because Austin is really the only one who cares that I care that he is in danger. He listens to what I have to say, appreciates what I am willing (and sometimes able) to do, he knows how much his being killed or wounded would destroy me. Katie is in grad school in Kansas and Kris is fighting WWIII and emulating George Patton.

I know tomorrow I'll delete the last two paragraphs, but for now they stay. This is my life. This is how it is. This is the truth.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Panic Attack!

This morning when I signed on to Yahoo messenger at work to be available if Austin was able to IM, there it was: "Helicopter crash kills 14 soldiers." After I saw that, nothing else penetrated my brain --- I just shut down. Nothing mattered to me except trying to find out that none of those killed were MINE.

I knew that either Kris or Austin were going to be on a helicopter going to visit each other and I just knew whichever one was on board was gone. I started breathing heavily, sweating, couldn't focus, couldn't really even understand what people were saying to me even though I was trying to act like nothing unusual was going on.,, . . What I read was somewhat reassuring --- they actually published the name of the unit involved. I think that is horribly wrong for the families of those who were killed (or even in the same unit) but selfishly right because of the relief it brought to others, specifically ME.

Austin hadn't IM'd me in over a week yet a few minutes after I saw the news, there he was! I e-mailed Kris just saying "I need an e-mail!" He e-mailed back 10 minutes or so later and blessed relief set in. Both of my sons were safe.

Kris told me that I was annoying and that if I didn't get help soon I was going to have a heart attack. Austin told me his company had lost a soldier last week and when I asked for details he just said "don't worry about it." Unfortunately I will be long dead and gone before these sons of mine realize that parents don't have an "off switch"! If I did, believe me, I'd throw it!

All day I just kept thinking about the soldiers who did die in that helicopter crash and about the 14 families that would get that dreaded knock on the door today. Those soldiers were just like mine; those families just like mine.

I was trying to explain how I feel to a co-worker (mother and grandmother) and all I could come up with was either Russian Roulette where the trigger is pulled until a bullet discharges from the gun and kills SOMEONE's child; or that casino wheel where the ball goes round and round and eventually lands somewhere --- on SOME MOTHER'S number?

Eleven and 1/3rd more months. If one of them goes again, give me the gun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A BIG DAH!!!!!

If it weren't for my other blog, I'd think nobody loved me any more! I must have changed the setting by accident! I kept looking and looking and thought if nobody is reading this, why write!

Thank you so much for telling me you COULDN'T COMMENT!

Both boys are A-OK. I did have an e-mail from Kris this morning (yeah!) and Kayli and Kylee IM'd w/ Austin yesterday.

More later (I'm at work).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Doesn't Anyone Read my Blogs?

I'm feeling lonely! Where are my pals who usually leave comments? Have I become too boring? Boo-hoo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Doggone it!

I hired a dog walker! Because my husband gets home from work at least two hours after I do AND I work 20 miles from home, I was feeling really tied down by having to be home by a certain time every day to walk the dogs. Now, two days a week they get a nice long walk with a very nice woman and I can stay in Lakeland and do fun stuff. Yoga was on the menu for this evening but I forgot my comfy clothes and had to work late anyway. Definitely meditation tomorrow evening.

We are hearing from "the boys" on a regular basis these days. I'm still scared of everything unfamiliar or unexpected; still wishing this was all over.

My sons don't even think I am entitled to worry about them. And they won't understand how I feel until they have children of their own who go off to war --- but even then they won't be mothers! They just think I should be able to go on about my regular life as though they were just "at the office." Come on! We're talking about maternal instincts here. I haven't found the "off switch" yet -- have any of you?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Say Cheese! Newspaper photographer -- for an upcoming article by Jan Wesner

stpetetimesphotos 002 good

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fallen Hero Pfc. Cody Grater

Today I attended the funeral of Pfc. Cody Grater, 20, Spring Hill, Florida. I drove up last night and stayed w/ my new wonderful friend Jan, and together we presented the Gold Star Banners to Cody's mother and stepfather. Cody was buried at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. I rode to the cemetery on the back of a Harley w/ the Patriot Guard. The streets were lined for miles with people waving flags, saluting, crying.

All of this was an amazing show of love for this young soldier who gave his life in America's continued battle for freedom.

People ask me why I go to these funerals. Here is my answer: I can do absolutely nothing to protect my two sons in Iraq but I CAN do THIS to help comfort the families of our Fallen Heroes. Attending these funerals on behalf of not only the Blue Star Mothers, but on my own behalf AS a mother, is the only real contribution I can make. It is doing SOMETHING --- the opposite of doing NOTHING.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Learning to be Still

After work this afternoon I went to an introductory Yoga class. In my quest to deal with the my emotions during the deployment of my sons, I am trying many different ways to calm myself. Since I was the only person in this Intro class, I had a "private lesson." The woman instructor is a school teacher with an amazingly calm voice. During the relaxing times after the stretches she read to me peaceful passages from a book on learning how to live in the moment. This woman also teaches meditation and I'm going to that class tomorrow night. I often think of the Eagles' song "Learn to be Still" when I try to describe how I want to feel.

It’s just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You'd give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head

. . . But you never will-Learn to be still

I'm not turning "weird" or converting to Buddhism or anything like that. I am simply participating in activities that will "restore" my mind and ease my tense body.

Florida has lost another soldier, Spc. Christopher T. Neiberger, 22, of Gainesville, Florida, who was killed on August 6. This Saturday is the funeral for Pfc. Cody C. Grater, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida, who was killed on July 29. Another Blue Star Mother has invited me to stay with her near Spring Hill Friday night so that I won't have so far to drive on Saturday, but I'm still don't know if I CAN attend this funeral.

At Sgt. Howdeshell's funeral yesterday, as the Honor Guard was folding the flag w/ amazing precision and while taps was played, I watched his wife gasping for breath, barely able to stand, and I wanted to go hold her up. But I didn't.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Fallen Hero Sgt. William R. Howdeshell

Today I attended the funeral of Sgt. William R. Howdeshell, United States Army. I want to write about this Fallen Hero's funeral, his life, his family, his little boy, but I want to do that when I am not emotionally exhausted.

Presenting the Gold Star Banners was a humbling experience for me and I will do it as often as I am called upon.

One of my favorite quotes (though I don't know who wrote it) is "If your child can stand in battle to ensure my freedom, then I will stand in grief with his family to honor him." It was my honor and privilege to stand in grief with the family of St. Howdeshell today.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Presenting Gold Star Banners Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will present Gold Star Banners to the wife, mother and father of a Fallen Hero. His funeral is being held about 50 miles from my house and he will be buried in Arlington later this week.

I've never seen a Gold Star Banner presentation and I have certainly never made one. However, either I'm in this war all the way or I'm not in this war at all. I cannot go on as if nothing is happening and not do "my duty" when called upon.

Please think about me around noon tomorrow as I hopefully am able to honor this family and console them in their loss.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My New Blog Is Up and Running

Instead of redesigning this blog, I decided to have two going at the same time. This one will be mostly about my sons' experiences and how I interfere in their lives trying to be Super Mom. The other one is going to be about BLISS.

It's really beautifully designed. I haven't added all my personal info yet or any links, but I'll get to it soon.

My "opening statement" will be repetitive to what you already know about me, so go back in a few days for "fresh" stuff.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mom, did you call the President?

Well, ah, no, not call, certainly not call, but, um, wait a minute, I think I might have e-mailed the White House; yes, that's it, I e-mailed the White House several months ago. Why?

Tuesday, July 31, Austin was "summoned" to his Commanding Officer's location and told that the White House had authorized him to return to the US because his mother had contacted the White House stating that she did NOT want both of her sons in a war zone at the same time. Can you believe that? One e-mail sent months ago when Austin was deployed to Iraq six weeks after having knee surgery and wasn't sure he'd even be able to walk, much less run, achieved the goal of allowing Austin to come home from Iraq!

Austin is not coming home from Iraq. His initial reaction was NO, he was staying with his fellow soldiers and serving his country. His fellow soldiers told him he'd be crazy not to jump on this chance to go home. He spoke with his CO, his sister, his girlfriend, me, and his firm decision was NO, he did not want to go home.

His CO called me from Iraq about 1 in the afternoon (our time) to discuss the information he had been provided. He said that Austin is an excellent soldier and a vital part of their team and that if he chose to leave, it would be their loss. The CO was VERY kind and understanding, assuring me that Austin was not in trouble of any kind -- I guess it felt like being called to the Principal's office in elementary school; only a lot worse.

I had truly forgotten about sending that e-mail because a few weeks later Austin had adjusted to life in a war and no longer wanted to come home. And to think that ONE E-MAIL to the White House would actually be acted on, much less the request granted? I was absolutely stunned. I was also extremely proud of Austin for making the brave decision to stay and fight the battle with his fellow soldiers. For a few minutes when I thought he MIGHT be coming home I felt a tremendous sense of relief, but this is his decision to make and I think he made the right one.

After I talked with Austin's CO, he put Austin on the phone. The connection was really bad so I couldn't hear much of what he said but about an hour later we had a lengthy IM discussion and got things cleared up. On his MySpace page, Austin put "My mother is way more awesome than yours" and "You better not mess with me, man, or my mom will send you an E-MAIL!" I'm so proud!

Apparently none of the officers in Austin's unit knew that his brother was also in Iraq. Austin told me that if siblings are serving at the same time the Army sends them both to a green zone to visit for a few days now and then. So next week Austin and Kris will get to see each other for the first time in over a year and a half. Kris is going back to Battalion Staff in a week or so, but hopefully Austin will get to see him "in action" as the CO of the 111th Sapper Company.

Kris is seven years older than Austin and he left for West Point when Austin was only 11. Four years at West Point and then seven in the Army didn't a foster close relationship between. After Austin joined the Army the only time Kris and Katie saw him was at Basic Training graduation. Then they were all here, there and everywhere, just not at the same time.

So I'm hoping these two sibling soldiers can get to know each other better in the Sandbox and develop a bond that will last way beyond the end of this war.