The First 3 Casualties From Our First Deployment

***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which appears each Monday morning on storiesofourboys.com. Click here for last week’s chapter. In this series, all names of service members and their wives are changed. However, names of the fallen soldiers are their correct names.***

Preparing for the Worst

We all supposedly knew going into this that they wouldn’t all come home, but I never dwelt on that bit of information. Call it a defense mechanism, I don’t know. Being happy is important to me. I couldn’t let worries over things that may not even happen steal my joy.

Alan’s mother and I used to discuss what we would do if we found out before the other that Alan had died. I certainly did not cherish the thought of telling a single one of Alan’s family members that sort of news.

I knew that if Alan died, a casualty officer would be dispatched to my house to give me the bad news in person.

However, what I now know is that IF your spouse dies in war, there are usually multiple people in uniform that show up at your door. Not only that, but they have to arrive at your door at exactly the same time as they arrive at the door of the soldier’s parents.

So the good news is you should never have to tell your mother-in-law that her son has died. That’s not your job. They do that for you. That’s a relief and something I didn’t realize until I befriended a war widow many years later.

Meanwhile, there is the news.

If you watch the news regularly, they will tell you how many have died and where, and if you know where your loved one is serving (as we did), there is added anxiety until you find out for certain who it was.

Alan’s parents were more devoted to the news than I was, so they clued me in to lots of things that year, both good and bad.

 

Thurs., Sept. 18, 2003

Alan,

I’m SO sleepy. It’s 10:30 already. I got BAD news from your parents today. 3 men were killed and 2 more wounded in a shooting VERY close to Tikrit. We’re really worried. I just have this HAUNTING feeling.

I’m so afraid. I can’t help it. I won’t feel secure until I hear your voice, and that will be a while because I JUST talked to you like 3 nights ago.

Man, Alan, I love you so much. I don’t even want to think of “what if.” It scares me so much. I don’t ever want to lose you!

Fri., Sept. 19, 2003

Alan,

Hey! Well! Only 1 more week of teaching! I went to a 4-42 coffee tonight at the Irish Pub at the mall. It went well. It was another sad one though because there were 3 more deaths and 2 wounded yesterday. But of course, you know that.

That was really hard to talk about. Did you know any of them? Were you nearby there? All I know is that it was a team in support of 1-10 Cav, from HHB.

Other things were difficult too. Holly Marsh got switched to the 4th ID unexpectedly, and will be deploying within a month, leaving their 15-month-old to a relative for roughly six months. [editor’s note: Holly Marsh’s husband was deployed already with Alan’s unit. That left their baby without a parent at home.] Plus, her family’s house was destroyed in Hurricane Isabella that struck the east coast this week.

[Holly was devastated. Yes, her mind raced to find a way to stay home with her baby, but what could be done? This is another of the harsh realities military families face.]

I stayed up after the meeting talking to Sarah and Kayla about what I learned at the meeting. Plus, Sarah said that one of those soldier’s wives is expecting a baby soon. How awful is that? I was okay until they said that, and then I was a mess.

I was so relieved to know you’re okay.

I love you,

April

 

Those of 4-42 who gave all. Photo courtesy of Rachel Jack.

 

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the men honored the friends they lost and were all prevented from calling home until the families were properly notified. And the mission went on.

 

Monday, Sept. 22, 2003   9:05pm

April,

Hey! Today was the memorial service honoring the three soldiers of ours who were killed.

Then, at almost 10 this morning we had our first try at a city council meeting and, well….let’s just say we learned a lot about how we’ll do the next meeting!

They’re talking about moving us to the Brigade Support Area (BSA) which is this really big camp that’s just a bunch of tents in a bunch of fine sand we call “moon dust.” It wouldn’t be fun. Here we have hard shelter, paved areas, and a routine, you know? We’ll supposedly know if we’ll move or not by October 1st.

I hope we get to Tikrit some time soon and are able to use the phones. It feels like it’s been so long since we’ve talked on the phone, but when we went up last Friday, we were restricted from using them because of those guys getting killed and their families had to first be notified.

Those $40 Thurya phone cards are sometimes difficult to find. I’m looking though! I love you. I miss you it seems every moment.

Missing You,

Alan

Oh, and if you’re wondering, they thankfully did not move Alan to the “moon dust” area mentioned in the letter above. He continued to live in his rat-infested building with electricity, in Ad Dwar, where there were many, many adventures left to be had. We were only halfway through this deployment.

The families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country are our heroes. As a part of the military community, our hearts break for them, and we always know that we could be next. Just talking about it leaves me with a heavy feeling.

Don’t live in fear that your service member could be next. It won’t help.

Just live with gratitude, being thankful for what they have done for us.  And be generous with their families, not jealous, when they may sometimes need your or your husband’s help. Hold them in honor always.

I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of our adventures. Come back next Monday for the next chapter!

 

 

 

 

 

What Being a Military Family Means

 

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It’s tempting to think that being a military family means moving a lot, long term separations, being tough, hanging the American flag, and feeling honored on Veteran’s Day. We are the patriots. We make the sacrifices. Go us.

But you know what? It’s not about that, not really. It’s really all about freedom and protecting that freedom. It’s about being there when your country needs you. It’s about doing things other people do not want to do–doing things I don’t want to do either. And sometimes we all know that we may not have tomorrow. Every military spouse or parent lives with that fear– that feeling of driving home, seeing a strange car in your driveway, while your service member is away at war, and you think, “Oh, God, please don’t let that be a casualty officer.”

This morning Alan got a text message from our friend Max, telling him that Major General Greene was killed in Afghanistan.  This all happened on Tuesday, and I just hated getting this news. For more information, you can visit this page:

Major General Greene obituary

Alan worked for General Greene during our DC years and in Afghanistan, and he was an excellent person, boss, family man, and military officer. This is a great loss to his family and to our country. Alan said he was the kind of general that actually came out and played dodgeball with his team at the Pentagon. He even called Alan, when Alan was in Afghanistan, on Thanksgiving Day, to thank him for what he was doing.

When a death like this happens, it reminds us of the reality of our situation. There is no “safe place” in a combat zone. Any time we send someone over there, the risks are great. Our service men and women sign up knowing the risks. We families know them as well. Still, the news is hard to take.

It’s important to enjoy the fun and the glory that the military life does bring. Enjoy the good times while they are good. We got married straight out of college, in 2002, in over our heads in the aftermath of 9/11. I had no idea back then what patriotism meant. I never dreamed of all the things my family would be called upon to do. The things that have gone on politically ever since have always hit us so close to home that I really couldn’t even form an un-biased opinion on any of it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to think of issues like the ongoing Middle East crisis and terrorism as “What’s best for our country?” and not “Oh no. Will this send Alan overseas?” But of course, if we don’t fight terrorism, terrorism will show up at our door. Sometimes we are quick to forget what started this war in the first place.

But I can’t write talking points on the war. I quit watching the news in 2009, during Alan’s second long tour in Iraq, when Joshua started seeing footage on t.v., and I just couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t watch it, and I couldn’t stand to have my little bitty boys hear it. I didn’t want them to worry.

Yesterday morning I picked up a copy of an actual newspaper from the hotel lobby. At eight and seven years old, I think it’s time for them to begin to “get it.”  No, the world isn’t a “safe” place. It never has been. However, I do not want them to be ignorant. It grates my nerves when I see people on Facebook posting all of their uninformed opinions. I don’t want that to be my children. I want them to know why we have made the sacrifices that we have made. I want them to have a firm grip on reality.

Today our prayers are with the Greene family. This was a terrible loss for our country.