Posts Tagged ‘USAF

30
Oct
09

When you least expect it. . .

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieWhile my son was in Afghanistan, the pro US Military Twitter world, an ether community, provided a level of support that exceeded any expectation I could possibly have had, helping me get through an immensely challenging time.

One of the exceptional “tweeters” was ArmyMom101 – a woman by the name of Virginia Rice who lives in Illinois.

She is a prodigious tweeter.  Her “MilitaryMon” (military Monday) and “FF” (Follow Friday) lists of other pro-military tweeters were unsurpassed by any other Military tweeter out there.  The time she spent honoring our troops and our vets, in this 21st century virtual way,  was simply amazing. Her last tweet for the day would frequently be, “I’m leaving for work”, or “I’m going to pick up my youngest from work.”  Occasionally  she would  send me private direct messages with encouraging and uplifting words that seemed to be exactly what I needed to specifically hear that day.

A few weeks ago, after my son got home, she tweeted that she wasn’t going to be online for the next few weeks, because her deployed son was coming home.  Instead of spending time online, she was rightly going to spend this precious time with him.

And then, we saw a tweet that said her son was in a motorcycle accident, with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

And then, he was in a medically induced coma.

And then, her son, her youngest, died.

Wendel Rice was 28.  He was not Virginia’s deployed son, he was the son that she picked up from work.  The son that was home. The one she wasn’t as worried about. The one that didn’t seem to be in harms’ way.

When we least expect it, our lives change.  Those of us over 50, think we’re aware of the fragility of life. We think we remember to treasure each moment, count our blessings, be present to each other.  But we don’t remember. We take our blessings for granted.  And we aren’t present for one another – not like we should be.

Most days, we rush through a litany of urgent to-do’s, that really aren’t all that important.We have the best of intentions, but then we have one more report that needs to be generated, one more basket of laundry that needs to be folded.

We forget to tell one another how much they mean to us.

We forget to squeeze extra hard when we hug each other good bye.

We forget to smile when our loved ones walk through the door.

My heart is heavy for the Rice family.  We are all diminished by the tragic, sudden loss of her youngest son, Wendel.

As we remember him, we vow that tomorrow, we won’t forget.

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01
Sep
09

Home Free

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieWe’re allowing ourselves to feel a little better each day, as we’re counting down with less than 3 weeks before our son is out of Afghanistan and three days until he’s back safely inside the base at Bagram Airfield.

The prayers of multitudes have been answered: I thank each of you who have shared this effort over these months.

He’s physically in one piece, and by all interactions, seems to be handling the various stresses of this counter-insurgency, this deployment, reasonably well.

Having seen brothers in arms succumb to IEDs, a different type of insidious destruction has wracked havoc on a very dear friend of his back home.

The wife of his cousin, a woman whose entire adult life has been spent ministering to her family and to our military around the world, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor – a wicked, cancerous saboteur. This cancer is a cowardly enemy, growing, unseen, in the safety of the cranium like the Taliban continues to grow and train in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Last week-end after the surgery removed much of the tumor,  her struggle was touch and go.  This week, she’s made progress and is relatively stable.  The swelling is down, she’s now awake, taking nourishment, and talking a little with her husband and her kids. Her brain isn’t quite firing on all the right synapses, though. She doesn’t always know where she is. Her words don’t match the situation or conversation.  They don’t know if clarity will come back, or if the disconnections will persist.   The ultimate prognosis is that this wicked cancer will cut short her life.  The doctors don’t know when that will be.  They point to statistics that are quite convincing her time of grace will come to an end in the next year or two, if not before.

My son loves this woman. She’s fed him many meals; shared her family, her home and even her dog with him while he was getting settled at his assignment at Elmendorf Air Force base, in Alaska.

If you want to know the details, many are provided here: http://bit.ly/12JC4Z Dan is “tweeting” each day. So those of you who twitter, follow him @danbarbevans .

I’m asking yet again for your prayers, trusting that you’ll implore our Father to ease the pain and suffering and give this family joy filled moments and days, amidst the many days to come filled with doctors and hospitals and treatments.

Should you be moved to help bear their financial burden, you can find ways to donate here: http://bit.ly/Qfe0s

Some of you reading this know my brother died very suddenly of a brain tumor when he was 39.  “Home Free” by Wayne Watson became our grieving song, and our prayer.

I’m trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be
Home Free

Home Free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It’s sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering’s no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come

Oh Lord, not mine, but Your will be done.

22
Aug
09

Countdown to Homecoming

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieAs of this week, we’re counting down: in less than a month, my son should be on his way out of Afghanistan, on his way home.

I’ve been told the USAF sticks to the schedule pretty rigidly. I’ve been told we can count on this happening plus or minus a few days, depending on transportation, logistics and the weather. We don’t know exactly when or where we’ll meet up.  But we will meet up.  Sometime soon.

This time of year, when you say the word “homecoming” most everyone thinks of football games, kings and queens, parades, chaperones and dances.

But “homecoming” has now taken on the meaning of “After Deployment” for our family.  Having been in the middle of a strange country, our son will have another strange world to navigate. He’ll need to get beyond the experiences of war and  learn how to integrate those experiences into the next phase of  his life, without letting those lessons and experience consume him. I’m just starting to fully appreciate what this homecoming may mean.

Our military leaders are paying attention to the effects participating in these wars has on our soldiers. They are making significant efforts to educate our troops and their families on how to assimilate back into a society that really doesn’t understand, and doesn’t seem to pay attention to anything beyond the borders of our 50 states.

Sadly, military suicide rates are increasing, in spite of the attention paid to address the silent, but significant impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. We’re just starting to understand all the different types of pain our soldiers endure; physical, emotional and mental pain, each wrecking havoc on the strongest of our men and women.

My dad’s generation rarely spoke of what they went through. On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, one of my dad’s best friends shared how he stumbled into one of Hitler’s concentration camps as he was running telephone lines through Germany, ahead of Patton’s 3rd army. He had been silent those 50 years, never mentioning this horror to anyone, never telling a soul, not even his wife or his own children of this experience. It was an unspeakable event in his life, so secret that, even now, it feels as though I’m betraying a confidence writing about it. It must have been painful holding it inside all those years.

During the late 60s and 70s when my brothers served during the unpopular Vietnam era, no one paid attention to anyone’s homecoming.  Our servicemen were in the jungles in Southeast Asia one day, and plunked down in jungles of our urban centers the next.  There were no formal out processes, no assessments, no counseling.  Almost 60,000 American men and women died in that war. Tens of thousands more struggle to this day, and no wonder.

As a society, we’re getting better.  We’re learning to at least acknowledge their service when our troops return. We’ve set up chat rooms and webinars, online support groups and transitional assistance advisors in each state. Help is there, if we need it. If.

In the meantime, today I cut some fresh sweet corn off the cob and froze it, knowing the season will be past by the time he’s home. It’s the first thing I’ve allowed myself to do, in preparation for his homecoming.

The homecoming we joyfully await, with no expectations of anything other than the blessed relief of being physically present with him.

In about a month.

15
Jun
09

A Family Perspective; Military or Otherwise.

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple Pie My grandfather was in the Army during WW1.

My father and four Uncles were in WW2. A fifth Uncle, Rolf, was too young for WW2 or Korea. He was in the Army during the Cold War era.

Both my brothers were in the Air Force.

My husband was in the Army.

And now my son is in the Air Force, embedded with the Army.

That’s a pretty complete legacy of family members serving, yet none of them  were “career” military. We joined in service for a while, but then left to pursue other paths. Because of this, I’ve never really thought of our family as a military family.

The significance of our leaving was further iterated to me a few months ago when I sent a note to the guys heading up the “Milblogging” site. They very graciously reviewed my blog and gently told me I didn’t really fit into their military blogging community.

I didn’t argue with them.  It was kind of ironic, I never really considered myself  one of “them”, either. There’s so much I don’t know about the military: so many acronyms that escape me.  So many procedures that are mystifying to me.  So much war history – names, weaponry, battles fought and lost, fought again and won – most of it gets muddled in my brain. I thought having this military knowledge was necessary to qualify as a military family. I thought knowing this, or rather, the not knowing it, mattered.

Until today.

Today was the day I got an e-mail from my son, grieving the fatality of another near him, feeling that more could have been done.

Today was the day that the thousands of decisions and actions of others,

actions and decisions made by people known and unknown to him,

actions and decisions made in the past few hours and over the many, many years,

impacted him in profound ways, and ways for which no one can ever be prepared.

Today is the day some other mother’s son died.

Today was the day that I wrote the e-mail back; loving the son I have, grieving with him for the other son’s mother, and for all mothers whose sons or daughters are gone.

Today is the day I was reminded it’s not DNA, or predominantly intellectual knowledge that makes one a family.

Today is the day my family grew by one woman I’ve never met; whose name I still don’t know.

Today I know we’re a military family.

09
Jun
09

So far, no surprises

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieI guess I’ve entered a different phase.  I have no idea how many phases there may be to this deployment thing, so I’ll call this Phase Two of Two, or P2/2 for short. It’s starting to feel almost normal to have a son in Afghanistan.  It’s not shocking to hear myself say the words out loud. I don’t get a hitch in my throat anymore when I tell someone he’s there.  I don’t “freeze” when the tv news announces upcoming footage from Afghanistan. So far, there have been no surprises. So far, we’re all doing really well.  This feels like real progress.  It feels good. 

Even though it’s just a perception, I feel more in control because I’ve established a routine. Maybe this type of routine would help other moms, too:

First thing in the morning, I open gmail to see if there’s any direct communication from my son. 

Next I check Facebook – to see both the nation building and combat incidents the US Forces Afghanistan (USFORA) and the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) have officially posted. Most of the time, the USFORA covers what’s going on from a NATO/ISAF perspective, but just to be sure, I check at  http://www.nato.int/isaf/pressreleases/2009/.  Then on to Twitter – to see if I’ve missed any “hot issue”  that the military community is tweeting about.  (http://twitter.com  #USAF, #Army @Milblogging, and many others).

In the middle of the day, I check my gmail to see if there’s an email from him. He typically sends updates at the end of his day – which is about mid-morning here. If I wait until close to lunch, Central Standard Time, I’ll see anything he’ll send. If he sent something.

At the end of the day,  I repeat the morning process, in reverse order. 

It dawned on me this week-end that once my son comes home, his service isn’t over.  And that means it’s entirely possible he may volunteer to go back. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he does. Knowing that – and not being surprised, that’s a good thing, too.

About a month ago, my husband and I saw a huge double  rainbow, full from end to end, over the Mississippi River and our neighborhood.  It caught us by surprise. It was breathtakingly beautiful – each band of color was wide, distinct, vibrant. I hadn’t seen such an amazing double rainbow since 1988  – the day of my brother’s wedding.

God's Promises are Real

God's Promises are Real

While the rainbows themselves were a surprise, the message of the rainbow hasn’t changed in millenuium, since Noah: it was a strong visual reminder  to trust God’s promises, to have strength and hope in his unending love, and to rest in His merciful reassurances.




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