Monday, September 6, 2010

It Brings Back Memories. . .Farther Along

For the past few days my husband has been walking around the house quietly, tossing and turning in his sleep, staring out windows, and keeping to himself. We have gone through a few hard days since we heard about the losses of our friends. I stopped him earlier and asked.

"What's wrong?"

He walked over to the wall that we have our "memorial" on and reached up and lay his hand on the top middle picture and smiled. He turned to look at me and said. .

"This brings back memories. It hurts." and then he walked away.

He is right. Watching our friend suffer the way she is and reading the articles. . It is a flashback. A flash back from 2005-2006 when he was serving in OIF 3..It amazes me how freakishly similar some of these things are too.

On August 21, 2005, after only a month in country, 2/2 G Co. Raiders suffered their first loss. Marine Corps 2nd Lt James J Cathey was killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations near Al Karmah, Iraq.

It sounds so clinical doesn't it. A simple, generic, general, message that the people over at the DoD cooks up to give families to explain that their loved ones simply are not coming back. It some ways it is a blessing and in others it leaves so many questions unanswered that it drives their families crazy. It doesn't tell you how loved he was as a leader, husband, son, friend or how devastating losing him was to those who were parts of his life.

2nd Lt Cathey was a 24 year old man who was looked up to and respected by those he led and always had a teasing comment. He left behind a wife who was then 5 months pregnant and a legacy in the form of a son just before Christmas that year. He was the type of leader you would follow anywhere.

Most of you will remember the picture that made the Times that year as picture of the year, if not let me show you.

They plastered this picture everywhere. I saw it on the news, on the internet, in the papers, and in books. What they told you was "Passengers aboard a commercial airliner watch from the windows as the casket of a fallen soldier was unloaded from the cargo hold of the plane."

That casket contained the remains of a fallen Marine whose pregnant wife was waiting a mere yards away trying valiantly to hold herself together while they brought her husband back to her in the only way they could. While curious onlookers gawked from their seats aboard the plane and inside the terminals, this woman's goodbye was on public display.

By the time their tour was over, the 2/2 Warlords lost 16 men. Seven of those men were from the G Co. Raiders and six of those alone were from a single platoon.

Thinking back on this breaks my heart every single time. I was only 17 when he was KIA and it was my first ever experience with military life. I remember him telling Jon "Damn Painter, why don't you just buy a bus ticket and go see her. .I don't want to have to surgically remove that phone from your ear.". . I was utterly heartbroken. I didn't know how to process any of it and as loss after loss hit this company I couldn't help but cry too. From day 1 my Marine Corps family embraced my fully and guided me every step of the way so when they hurt, I hurt too.

It has been 5 years since 2nd Lt Cathey was KIA and I still to this very day cry over it. I cry for every single man they lost and every family that it hurt.

-PFC Shayne Cabino, 19
-2nd Lt James J Cathey, 24
-Lcpl Nikolas D Schiavoni, 26
-Capt. Tyler Swisher, 35
-Cpl Benny Cockerham, 21
-Sgt Michael Hodshire, 25
-HM3 Christopher Thompson, 25
-LCpl Kenneth Butler, 19
-LCpl Steven Szwydek, 20
-LCpl Andrew Russoli, 21
-SSgt Richard Pummill, 27
-LCpl Jason Frye, 19
-Cpl Nicholas Cherava, 21
-LCpl Patrick Kenny, 20
-Lcpl Tyler Troyer, 21
-Sgt Sean Miles, 28

On the memorial poster I recieved, it says they are immortalized as Warlords. . but even more than that, they are immortalized as brothers in the hearts and souls of the fellow Marines they served with and the lives of the families that they touched. Five and six years later their losses are still felt keenly.

I never got to meet or know them but they were family in a way that only combat can bind them together. Through the midnight conversations Jon has had with them since their deaths, I have learned to love them too. I wish more than anything that they as well as their families could know just how much they touched his life. While heartbreaking to hear, I am glad he has them still. He is so afraid he will forget them, but I know he won't. They are just as much a part of him as his children or I am . . maybe even more so. We keep them here in our home because Jon says that if he can make sure of anything, it will be that our boys will know that those men left the world as heroes, paying the ultimate sacrifice so that even one of their brothers could go home.

Yesterday I woke up to find an article and a picture eerily similar to the one I saw so many years ago. In the picture I saw that LCpl Joshua Twigg, who was KIA in Afghanistan this past week, was being taken off of the plane that brought him home. Spaced out between the plane that carried him home are various personnel standing at attention saluting this fallen hero as he is taken to his final stop before traveling to his family before being laid to rest.

Seeing it made me sick at heart and sick to my soul for Chrissy, his family, and his friends who are being forced to say goodbye to him years too soon. Seeing this beautiful girl broken and hurting and bearing this burden hurts my heart. There is nothing we can do to lift this pain or bear it for her and I know most any of us would in a heart beat. She has been the epitome of grace, poise, strength, and unfailing love during this devastating blow.

As her friends and as "sisters" we can only imagine what her pain must feel like but we are doing our best to rally around her and hold her hand. Earlier this week the support forum we are a part of started taking up donations for her to make sure she is taken care of and has what she needs. .. .I have never been more proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people in my life. They are all so beautiful and compassionate.. .together they managed to raise over $1,000 in an effort to show our friend comfort and let her know we care. How amazing an awe inspiring is that?!

It really is true what they say. The Marine Corps takes care of their own and by their own we mean every wife, fiance, and girlfriend. I have never been more safe, protected, supported, or loved in my life. I haven't had to bear a single burden alone or face a single uncertainty.

This week marked another first for me. As I sat in the recliner earlier this week I cried as I watched the video's and read the article's detailing this Marine's sacrifice and watching the love of his life hold her head high and try her level best to smile through her heart break.

Caleb crawled into my lap and our conversation went as follows. . .

"You ok mommy?"

"Yeah honey bun mommy is just fine."

"Mommy sad. Mommy cry. Why?"

So I showed him the video and tried my best to find the words to explain to him that this young man gave his life for his country. I searched for the words as tears ran down my face. The best I could come up with was this.

"Mommy is sad because this man had to go away because he was protecting us."

Caleb spent several seconds looking from me to the computer screen, back to me, and to the picture of Chrissy and Josh. He pulled my head to his chest and started petting my face.

"Shhh mommy." he said. "It's ok. He aww-right. He an angel." then my three year old son got down and walked away.

I was floored. My son managed to find the words that eluded me since learning of his death. In that single sentence he found a salve for the hurt that I felt for my friend and the family of this fallen hero.

I have come across so many songs as of late that seem to just fit for this that just keep rolling around in my mind.

Farther Along - Brad Paisley

Tempted and tried we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

Seems kind of fitting doesn't it? It was also one of my Uncle Rick's favorite songs. Sitting here listening to it I can only think that I hope I never stop being affected by this, it would be a grave injustice to all of the men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom.

If You're Reading This - Tim McGraw

If you're reading this
My Mommas sittin there
Looks like I only got a one way ticket over here
Sure wish I
Could give you one more kiss
And war was just a game we played when we were kids

I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up boots
I'm up here with God and we're both watching over you

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home

Heartbroken. This was the first song that came to mind after hearing about it. It is also one of the very few things in this world that makes my husband cry. The first time he heard it I watched with baited breath as his eyes clouded up. He hung his hand and reached his out as if resting it on something. I asked him once what that was. "I was back in Iraq. I was standing there in front of Lt Cathey's kevlar saying goodbye the only way I could. I could feel it underneath my hand.". . He downloaded it later that day and it is always with him.

Arlington - Trace Adkins

I remember daddy brought me here when I was eight,
We searched all day to find out where my granddad lay,
And when we finally found that cross,
He said, 'Son this is what it cost, to keep us free'.
Now here I am a thousand stones away from him,
He recognized me on the first day I came in,
And it gave me a chill, when he clicked his heels, and saluted me.

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company,
And I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done,
I can rest in peace, I'm one of the chosen ones,
I made it to Arlington.

And every time I hear, twenty-one guns,
I know they brought another hero home, to us.

No words. I have been in love with this song since the first time I heard it years ago. Having lived only miles away from this sacred place for three years now I have gotten to experience it first hand. Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of awe and humbling grace, and quiet honor that rolls over you in waves when you step inside the confines of that hallowed ground. You are standing among heroes, hundreds of years worth of heroes who gave their lives fighting to make this country what it is today.. If that doesn't bring you to your knees thanking God for creating such selfless people then you are made of stone.

Just A Dream - Carrie Underwood

Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
I cant even breathe
It's like I'm, looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now,
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream

The preacher man said let us bow our heads and pray
lord please lift his soul and heal this hurt
then the congregation all stood up and sang the saddest song that she ever heard
then they handed her a folded up flag and
she held on to all she had left of him oh and what could’ve been
and then guns rang one last shot and it felt like a bullet in her heart

Bagpipes Cryin'- Rushlow Harris

Every day I'm giving all I can because I'm damn proud to be American
Yeah, I made some friends, and I've lost some too
When I think about what they gave for me and you

I hear bagpipes cryin' Amazing Grace,
tears rolling down a mother's face.
Old Glory draped like Heaven's mercy over the fallen sons.
I see all the heroes who are willing to fight
in the name of freedom layin' down their lives.
And prayin' God's grace would keep us safe from harm,
until they bring us boys back home

Someone asked me a while ago how I could believe in a God who let such awful things happen to good people. All I could do was smile. They ask me how I can. .I ask them how can I not?

I live a life that would cause most people heart failure but I also live a life that shows me the value of sacrifice. How can I live among men and women who are willing to lay down their lives to protect the freedom of people they have never even met and not believe in God?!

If anything I have even more proof that God exists because people like my husband and Chrissy's boyfriend go at a drop of a hat to protect this country and those of others. I see the hands of God in every aspect of my life and if you took the time to breathe in your surroundings you would too.

So I challenge you to do this. Look around you and think about how many men and women have died for your right to have the things you do.

That right to vote? People have died for you to get it.. . .That flag you see? People die for it every single day so that you have the symbol of freedom to be and do as you please. . . That family on T.V?. . Their son died protecting you and your freedom. . . That star in the window a few houses down? A loved one has died in the line of duty. .That is one more goodbye that will never be spoken and one more kiss that will never be given and one more I love you that will never be said. . .

The men and women of our armed forces willingly leave their homes, families, lives, and comforts to afford you the right to be who you are and live how you live. Some families have said goodbye years to soon so that you may go home every day and kiss yours.

Remember always the families and friends who stand behind their service members with unfailing strength and support because they sacrifice too. In one of my favorite songs ever, sung by John Conlee, he sings this.

"They also serve. Those who stand and wait praying by the phone to learn their loved ones fate. But they're still in the war and let there be no mistake, they also serve. ..those who stand and wait."

In closing I leave you with these quotes from Saving Private Ryan. . .In the closing scenes of the movie as Captain Miller is dying, he looks at Private Ryan and says this.

"James, earn this. . earn it."

The movie then ends with an older James Ryan standing in Normandy in front of Captain Miller's grave surrounded by his family. He looks down at the gravestone and says.

"My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn't sure how I'd feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me."

Then he clicks his heels and salutes the man whose final sacrifice made the rest of his life possible. .

I leave you with these words alone. .


Until next time my loves


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