What Memorial Day means to me

I’m going to cut and paste from some old posts because “I can’t brain at the moment” and I’m already dealing with fighting off my annual Memorial Day-depression/crash.

From 2011:  TRIGGER WARNING:  This is pretty soul baring and if you have family currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan you might not want to read this.

Memorial Day is tomorrow.  I can’t even type that without starting to tear up.  In 2006 I retired from the army after 21 and a half years of service.  The last job I did before retiring was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I had the honor of serving as the Rear Detachment Command Sergeant Major for the 1st Stryker Brigade while they were deployed to Iraq.  I took care of the families waiting back here, overseeing support for our soldiers in Iraq, and I was responsible for notification of families when we lost a soldier and for taking care of the memorial services and all the other things related to killed and injured soldiers.

Christmas week of 2004 was horrible.  That was the week a suicide bomber walked into one of my messhalls in Iraq and blew himself up, taking many of my soldiers with him.  I lost friends that day.  These are excerpts from my Live Journal from back then:

Wed, Dec. 22nd  6:21a

*sigh*

So.. this is all over CNN.. so I guess I can say this much about it…

the phone rang at 04am yesterday morning… my boss was on the other end of the line; almost incoherent he was speaking so fast… the gist of it was; he needed me to get every senior person we had to the headquarters as fast as possible.. with their dress uniforms with them…

That could only mean one thing… mass casualties… (we have to be in our full dress uniform to go and notify someone that their loved one has died)…

I guess it started really hitting the news here locally around 7 am or so…

So yes, that was one of my dining facilities that got attacked in Iraq; we’re still trying to notify the families of all the soldiers injured or killed…. we will probably still be doing that through the weekend…

I’ll cry after we get through this; when I have time to feel again….

Please pray for them… in whatever tradition you honor…

Tues, Dec 28th 6:13p

Peace.

(and no; you won’t see me on TV.. I’ve managed to write myself out of the script.. I’ll be running around in the background with a clipboard trying to keep everyone on cue)

How sweet the sound.

AND

It will be broadcast live (the whole thing); on one of the local channels..

THE MEDIA EVENT OF THE END OF THE YEAR..

It has now become:

Real update coming soon.. I promise.

current mood:  stressed

Wed, Dec 29th, 6:02pm  

Sometimes, really sharing, helps the healing begin…

My job is killing me.

Literally.

Bit by bit.. day by day.. it’s breaking down my mind, body & spirit to the point where I am barely functioning as recognizably myself.

Today; while I was doing the last run-through for the Memorial Service; one of my senior people came up and whispered in my ear, “(my boss, name omitted) is dealing with CAC (Casualty Assistance Command); we lost another one.” I bowed my head.. couldn’t let on to anyone else.. the media was already setting up.. and we can’t let them know about stuff like this until the PNOK (Primary next of kin) of the soldier we lost is notified… they deserve to hear it from us first. They deserve to have some scared, emotionally unprepared senior military person standing at their door, telling them; from the US government, that they have lost their loved one… they deserve to have us there; sharing their pain.. now-adays, we are constantly in a race with the media.

I breathed in deeply ( looked back up and went on… the ceremony today was hard… I cried a few times; ducking behind the curtains to wipe away the tears.. when the bagpipes started to wail… I almost lost it completely… had to hold on.. had to be the strong one; standing to one side in the front… setting the example for those who came to see how we honor our dead. I let them see some of the tears.. we all let them see us cry.. let them watch our hearts being ripped apart as we remembered these good men; taken from us so suddenly.

At the conclusion of the ceremony.. my peers.. those who know what I’m going through; drifted across to shake my hand.. there were few words.. what can you say at a time like this?.. They told me I did a good job.. that the ceremony appropriately honored these wonderful human beings… it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough.

I waited, while the media got the last of their pictures; some of them wandering around looking for anyone willing to talk to them.. few of us were capable of that… how do you put raw pain into a sound bite.. or headline quote?

We finished & I turned over the clean-up of the gymnasium where we held the ceremony to a soldier I trusted & headed back over to my office to deal with the next family; with the next loss; with the next piece of pain nailed through my heart.

Coughing and hacking my way across the parking lot.. I’m sick again.. the 3rd time since the unit deployed the middle of October.. that’s the most I’ve been sick in years..

Yes, I know the stress is breaking down my immune system…

Yes, I know I’m not helping by eating garbage every day.. too tired to cook in the evenings; too tired to make good food to take to work.

Yes, honestly, I know I’ve been drinking too much.. and yes, I know it’s not a good way to numb the pain…

Sitting down at my desk, I started to open the stack of mail from today.. the first one I picked up was from Clearwater Casino.. a casino?.. Why were they writing to me?.. I opened the letter and started to read it; glancing down at the check that fell out when I opened the envelope… I stopped reading and looked at the check again… $3,600+ in a donation to my non-profit memorial fund; in honor of the soldiers we lost last week.. to help their families through this difficult time. People are so very good to us.. every day I receive numerous phone calls, and emails and letters from wonderful americans; across all lines of political party, sex, religion, beliefs, customs.. all of them just wanting to reach out and help..

It makes a difference.. it makes such a huge difference. I read the letters; thousands of them in the last 2+ months; written by children of all ages; the pictures they’ve colored; the misspelled words and shiny stickers that they’ve included; wanting to tell “Any soldier” how proud they are of them; how brave they must be; and how they hope they all make it home safe.. they sign the letters with love; one and all. Some of them ask that god watch over us; watch over us all. It doesn’t bother me.. they are reaching out with faith to a higher power that they believe in… I package the letters up and send them to Iraq where my soldiers tape them over their bunks; paper the messhall with them.. thumbtack them up beside their work station.. knowing they are not forgotten.

I stopped by the grocery store before heading home… looked at the ramen.. shook my head.. and reached for a bunch of watercress; cilantro.. a red pepper.. vine-ripened tomatos.. some mushrooms… somehow I need to get myself out of this funk.. somehow I need to start eating healthy again.. somehow I need to find the time to meditate each day… to focus on Divinity.. and on the difference I’m making in the lives of those who are in a situation beyond their control.. and those who are left behind here to worry and hope and pray and sometimes; to feel their hearts breaking at the loss of all hope.

What I do is worth something. It’s making a difference.. I have to believe that.. I have to find the strength to go on.. and to not lose my true self in the process…

I’ve said for years, that my Dream, was to create a space to “heal the healer”.. maybe.. just maybe.. I’ll start with my hardest task.. and try to heal myself first.

and yes, I’m crying again.. but these tears feel different somehow.. Divinity sends blessings in many forms.. and sometimes; just maybe you only need to open your eyes and look at the possibilities of them shining in front of you.

Peace.

Out.

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Years have gone by.  The time has helped to buffer the pain of all that loss I dealt with for that year and a half.  Tomorrow, like I do on most Memorial days, I’ll post their names, I read each one out loud to myself, I’ll whisper into the wind, “Hey Mac, I miss you.  Asshole.”

For now?  I’m going to take my coffee out to the hot tub and cry a little bit.  I’ll look around at this place of sanctuary that I’ve helped to build and I’ll be grateful for my life and the amazing people that I get to share it with.  I honor their memory best by living a good life, staying true to my principles and doing my best to provide the safe and sacred space for others that I needed and couldn’t find.

Peace.

Out.

Memorial Day and I remember

May 30, 2011 at 8:01am

I will never forget.

From 2004 – 2005 I had the honor of serving as the Rear Detachment Command Sergeant Major for the 1/25th Stryker Brigade while they deployed to Iraq. The hardest part of my job during that time period was getting the calls when we lost a soldier, and dealing with arranging all of the memorial services and other things related to taking care of our soldiers families.

My heart broke over and over again for each soldier and their families; and for the names on this list who were my friends… my heart broke in ways I didn’t know it could.

MAJ Horst “Gary” Moore: 9 November 2004

MSG Steven Auchman: 9 November 2004

SPC Thomas K. Doerflinger: 11 November 2004

SPC George D. Harrison: 2 December 2004

SSG Salamo J. Tuialuuluu: 4 December 2004

SGT David A. Mitts: 4 December 2004

1LT Andrew C. Shields: 9 December 2004

CW4 Patrick D. Leach: 9 December 2004

CPT William W. Jacobsen, Jr.: 21 December 2004

SPC David A. Ruhren: 21 December 2004

SPC Nicholas C. Mason: 21 December 2004

MSG Paul D. Karpowich: 21 December 2004

SSG Robert S. Johnson: 21 December 2004

SPC Jonathan Castro: 21 December 2004

PFC Lionel Ayro: 21 December 2004

SSG Julian S. Melo: 21 December 2004

SSG Darren D. VanKomen: 21 December 2004

PFC Oscar Sanchez: 29 December 2004

PVT Cory R. Depew: 4 January 2005

MSG Brian A. Mack: 13 January 2005

PFC Gunnar D. Becker: 13 January 2005

SGT Nathan P. Swindell: 15 January 2005

1LT Nainoa K. Hoe: 22 January 2005

PFC Stephen A. Castellano: 28 January 2005

SGT Stephen R. Sherman: 3 February 2005

SSG Zachary R. Wobler: 6 February 2005

SGT Adam J. Plumondore: 16 February 2005

SPC Christopher M. Pusateri: 16 February 2005

SGT Frank B. Hernandez: 17 February 2005

SPC Clinton R. Gertson: 19 February 2005

SSG Juan M. Solorio: 4 March 2005

SSG Donald D. Griffith, Jr.: 11 March 2005

SGT Kenneth L. Ridgley: 30 March 2005

SSG Ioasa F. Tavae, Jr.: 2 April 2005

SGT Anthony J. Davis, Jr: 23 April 2005

1LT William A. Edens: 28 April 2005

SGT Eric W. Morris: 28 April 2005

1SG Michael J. Bordelon: 10 May 2005

SGT Benjamin C. Morton: 22 May 2005

SPC Tyler L. Cremean: 22 May 2005

1LT Aaron N. Seesan: 22 May 2005

SPC Philip “Nick” Sayles: 28 May 2005

SPC Nils G. Thompson: 4 August 2005

SPC Jose L. Ruiz: 15 August 2005