A soldier’s sacrifice

A soldier, a husband, a daddy, a son, and a brother died this week.  Tonight I learned the devestating news that a dear sister in Christ received the very worst and most unimaginable news that the love of her life will never come home.  He was killed in Afghanistan.  The thoughts and feelings that run through my mind and body right now are all too familiar.  I have never received the news that she had to endure this week, but something all too similar.

It was July 2004 and our first son had just been born a month and a half earlier.  We were blessed enough that my soldier was able to come home on leave from his deployment in Iraq to see his son be born into this world.  Those were the happy moments of 2004.  Then, there was July 1, 2004.  That day will forever be remembered in our house as the day that daddy came all too close to being gone forever.

My very best friend and I lived two houses away from each other on our military post at the time.  Both of our soldiers were deployed to the same base in Iraq.  We spent our evenings together, cooking meals for our kiddos and watching comedies to try and keep our minds off of our husbands being gone.  She was up that night chatting with her husband over the computer when suddenly he typed that he had to go.  The internet was being turned off.  There had been an accident, a very bad accident and families would have to be notified.  They didn’t want news leaking out to the family members before they could be contacted through Army channels, so all communication had to be cut off until it was done.  My friend’s last words to her husband were, “Do you know where (my soldier) is?”  His response: “No, I have not seen him today.”  Then, the line went dead.  She didn’t know what to do.  Should she call me?  Should she tell me what was going on?  We had a trip planned to keep us busy over the 4th of July weekend.  We were driving miles away and staying in her brother’s house while we shopped some of the biggest outlet malls in the area.  She decided to call.  “Have you talked to your soldier,” she asked.  “Yep, I did yesterday,” I said.  “He is on a convoy and will call me in a couple of days.”  Her heart sunk.  He was on that convoy.  “Well, be sure to tell your Family Readiness Group leader where you’ll be,” she said.  All Army wives keep in close contact while our husbands are away and its important that the chain of command know if we are taking trips or leaving base for any extended period of time while our soldiers are on deployment.  “I’ll email her,” I said.  I had a new cell phone number, so I emailed my Family Readiness Group leader my plans to leave town and my new cell number in case she needed to get ahold of me.  She never got that email.  I finished packing our bags that night and the next morning we left bright and early for the drive.

That night we stopped to have dinner at a restaurant and were just ordering when my friend’s cell phone rang.  I watched her reach into her purse and move things around looking for her phone.  Finally finding it, she put it to her ear and said, “hello.”  Within seconds her face went white.  She wasn’t smiling and didn’t look happy, but scared.  Without saying a word, she took the phone from her ear and handed it over the table to me.  It was at that very second that I knew something was terribly wrong.  I took the phone.  “Hello,” I said.  “Baby, its me and I’m okay, but there has been an accident.”  I knew it was him, but his voice didn’t sound right at all.  I later learned that it was because his tongue was swollen out of his mouth, so talking was extremely difficult.  The connection was also terrible.  He was calling from a satellite phone half a world away.  The conversation was short.  We said, “I love you” to each other a hundred times and then he hung up.

After that, I did all of the things that military wives do.  I called his parents.  I called my parents.  I called my husband’s commander’s wife and that is when I learned the details.  My husband had been riding in the back of an unarmed Humvee.  He was in the turret when all of a sudden he heard something that was so loud that he immediately couldn’t hear anymore.  He was thrown up into the air and then came back down, his leg and ankle getting caught in chains.  He was hanging upside down with dust and blood covering his face and eyes, so that he could not see.  There was chaos, voices, and dust.  Another soldier from the vehicle behind his ran to my soldier and got him down.  They took him to the side of the road and called for a medic.  “What happened,” he asked.  “An IED,” they said.  My soldier tried to get up, he kept telling them he was okay.  He was not okay!  He wanted to help, he knew his friend was dead.  He knew his other buddy was still pinned inside the truck.  He wanted to help, he wanted to get up, but they wouldn’t let him.  It wasn’t until the medic got to him that he knew that maybe he wasn’t “okay.”  A very young medic showed up beside my husband and hollered, “Holy hell,” when he saw his face.  Blown completely open like a banana when it is peeled, the flesh beneath his nose, mouth, and cheeks were all totally exposed.  Blood everywhere and debris too, my husband suddenly had the urge to spit.  He did, and then immediately regretted it, feeling metal and hard chunks leave his mouth and thinking that he may have just spit out his teeth.  After that, his mind is kind of a blur and the next things he remembers are all inside of the mobile medical station.  They x-rayed him, finding a metal bolt from the vehicle lodged inside of his shoulder and tons of metal shrapnel in his face.  As he lay there looking up at the ceiling his thoughts finally came around to us.  He thought about how scared I would be.  Moments later, he was in surgery.  After over 700 stitches were used to put his face back together and the bolt removed from his shoulder he woke up in recovery and was given a satellite phone to call home.  That is when he called me.

There were more days that he stayed in Iraq and when it was safe they flew him to Germany.  After a two week stay in the hospital there, they flew him to Walter Reed in Washington D.C.  After that, he came home to finish his recovery with me and the kids.  He doesn’t like to be called a hero.  He says he just survived.  To me, he is a hero!  Yes, he didn’t die that day, but he carries the scars of that event with him every single day of his life.  There is not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask him about his face.  NOT ONE DAY!  For a while we didn’t go too many places.  Having to explain those scars was just too much.  Now, he wears his scars with pride because it gives him the opportunity to tell people about his friend and fellow soldier who died that day.  He gets to tell people about his hero, the young man who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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When people say…

When people say, “I don’t know what you’re getting so worked up about… What’s going to happen will happen and there isn’t anything you can do about it.” — I want to scream and cry!

When people say, “Oh, I totally know how you feel… I miss my husband so much when he has to be gone overnight on business!” — I want to scream!

When people say, “Time will go by fast now, it’s the holidays.” — I want to cry!

When people say, “I don’t know why our troops are even over there anymore?”
— I want to scream!

When people say, “We love your family, what can we do to help?”
— I want to cry, only this time they are HAPPY tears!

Phone calls right now…

Phone calls right now are infrequent and short and sweet, but I love them! Getting to hear my husband’s handsome voice is like winning a prize! I get all excited and my heart starts to beat really fast! I talk about a million miles a minute and since we have a large family, there are updates to give him about everybody! It is precious time where we can reconnect and life feels normal again for a few minutes.

Being so far away!

Being so far away… it’s hard. My soldier is really struggling being thousands of miles away while I am getting ready to take “our babies” to court next week for the permanency hearing.

He can’t be here to hold them and rock them to sleep this last week before (possibly) all of our lives change. He has been there for everything this past year, just like me. He has changed the diapers, fed the bottles, cuddled the crying toddler after a fall, all of it! He is the most amazing dad! And, now he has to sit over there in a foreign country, away from all of us as I deal with getting things in order and take them to court alone. The call logs, the medical forms, the notes that I’ve taken, every “i” must be dotted, every “t” must be crossed. We must show that over the course of this past year that every available opportunity has been given to this other family… this first family. Every time they called, every chance they had for a visit, it all was documented.

Do I wish my soldier was here with me right now? That is an understatement! In one week, I will sit in a courtroom and the future of “our babies” will be decided by a judge. There are many possible outcomes. None of these outcomes will make everyone happy. My highest hope and my constant prayer is that God will provide us a just and caring judge, one that observes the law, but who still has a side of warmth and compassion. A judge with wisdom like King Solomon.

And, my other prayer is that God will grant me the grace and peace that I need to accept what He has for “our” babies whether I understand it or not.

It makes me happy when…

It makes me happy when I see…

Little Man and Oldest Boy sitting in the big chair in the living room playing video games together.

Baby Girl being pushed on the swing by Oldest Girl.

Little Man riding his big boy bike.

Oldest Girl playing soccer.

Middle Girl doing acrobatics or ballet.

My children getting along.

It makes me happy when I hear…

Middle Boy playing the drums.

Middle Girl singing Little Man to sleep.

Middle Girl reading to Baby Girl.

Baby Girl giggling.

My soldier’s voice on the other end of the line.

It makes me happy when all of my family is under one roof… Can’t wait for that again!

Four Days

Four Days…

That’s about how long I can go without talking to my soldier and still feel nice… after that all bets are off.

I feel antsy.  I feel stressed.  I feel mad.  I feel drained.  I feel sad.  I need him!

I look around and see other couples.  They don’t hold hands.  The husband doesn’t have his arm around his wife.  The wife has a sour look on her face and I just want to scream!  “Don’t you know how lucky you are?”  “Don’t you realize how special it is that you have the love of your life sitting right next to you?”  “Don’t take that for granted!”

He will call when he can.  He always does… every chance that he gets.  And, when he does, I will feel nice again.

A knee to the stomach

I guess when you are raising five kids and your husband is overseas, you should expect a bit of drama. I had no idea yesterday as I dropped our oldest girl off at her soccer game that it would end up the way it did.

I dropped our soccer star off thirty minutes early for the game and headed to pick up dinner for the other four kiddos. We drove home, ate, I changed the baby’s diaper and we were headed back to the truck to go get sister when my cell phone rang. “Your girl is hurt, you need to get down here now,” said the voice on the phone. “Sister is hurt,” I yelled, “everyone in the truck!” The kids did great! No shoes, no questions, we all ran outside to go get her! We arrived minutes later at the field less than a mile from our house. Now, there is something you need to know. Big sis does NOT cry! She is rough, she is tough, she is an athlete! So, when I drive up and see her flat on her back, not moving, and crying, my heart drops into my stomach! My baby girl! I jump out of the truck, run across the field and hear, “it is bad, she needs to go to the ER now!” Okay! Let’s go! Two men carry her to the truck, she still cannot move. I dial my phone, calling neighbors and friends. “I am on my way with the littles, our big girl is hurt,” I tell them. I arrive home, people are already there. I drop the little kids off, blow kisses and speed away.

I drive as smoothly as I can, but with every turn, she cries out in pain. It is breaking my heart! We arrive at the ER. We need help getting her from the truck to a wheelchair. EMTs meet us at the door and carry her in. I park the truck. When I get inside, they are already checking her out and I fill out the paperwork. Pain killers are ordered and given to her and a CT scan will happen next. We’re all worried about internal bleeding.

She was playing such a great game and had already scored 3 goals for her team when she and a young man on the opposing team both jumped into the air for the ball and his knee went into her stomach. She fell flat on her back, wind knocked out of her, and unable to breath. Once air filled her lungs again, she felt as though she may vomit and sat back, light headed. She laid down, the world was spinning and then she just couldn’t move.

We take her for the CT scan and then we wait. Three pastors from our church are there with us and several friends. Thank The Lord for our beautiful church family! We are all praying for my girl! The doc comes in and kind of smiles. I think good news is coming, but instead I hear, “The CT scan showed contusions on her pancreas and liver. We cannot treat her here. We are transferring her to the Children’s Hospital. The ambulance will take you now.”

To be continued…

Car Seat stress

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been absolutely terrified to deal with car seats. I don’t like buying car seats! I don’t like putting together car seats! I don’t like washing car seats! I don’t like installing car seats! So, when I knew my soldier would be deploying, I was totally afraid I would have to deal with some sort of car seat drama during the 10 months that he was gone. Before he left I made sure that he washed the car seats and reinstalled them properly again, praying that nothing would make it so I had to take those seats out of the car again before he got back. So, this morning when Baby Girl’s diaper exploded in the car seat I was horrified! I would have to take apart, wash and reassemble this car seat all on my own! Should I take pictures of how it’s put together? Do I need to download a manual from the Internet? Should I call someone to help me with this? I decided that I might be being ridiculous. I took it apart all on my own. I made sure to do it slowly, watching where each piece clicked into place. I washed the seat cover. I dried the seat cover and I put it all back together by myself.

I did it!!! I can’t believe I did it! I feel like such a grown-up! I guess car seats aren’t that scary after all!

The day I met him…

The day I met him, I was 19 years old. We were in college. I was a sorority girl, he was a fraternity boy. I was working and going to school. He had a scholarship. I had NO idea that I was about to meet “the one!” It was April 20, 2000 and I had just gotten off work. I went to visit a friend at his fraternity and there at the top of the back stairway stood the hottest guy I had ever seen! Yes, I admit it… It was his looks that first got my attention. We hung out with a group of friends that first night and pretty much spent every waking minute together after that until the day he left for Basic Training two and a half years later. By then, we were married and had our first daughter.

As I sit here tonight waiting for him to call and trying to relax after spending the day fixing meals, grocery shopping, washing clothes, snuggling babies, helping with math homework, and driving to and from soccer, I think back to that day in 2000. The day when I met him. It was that day that started it all! If you would have told me that night in 2000 that 14 years later I would be raising our 5 children alone while this super cute guy standing next to me spent 10 months serving overseas I would have told you that you were crazy!

I guess this is a bit “crazy!” But, it’s our crazy and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

First Day Off

Yay! My soldier gets a day off! It has been 29 days since he stepped foot into a war zone. 29 days of working 15 hours a day. 29 days sleeping in a plywood box. 29 days without adequate rest. 29 days without the comforts of home, without his family, without his bed, but today he gets a day off! Praise The Lord!