Gold Star Dad

The thoughts of a father who has lost a son to war

Archive for August, 2009

The guilt of getting on with life;

Posted by fozzynok on 08/31/2009

I’m not even sure if guilt is the right world. It seems that there are a lot of issues for me and my whole family as it relates to the death of Micheal. There is the strange fact of certain phases my life and time have just stopped. Time as it relates to my sons loss is stuck! The topic causes pain and maybe that’s why the time is frozen there. Maybe to move past this time is so difficult because it means moving on when he cannot. My wife and I escaped the other night and went out for coffee. We talked about lots of stuff and basically caught up with each other. It sounds like it would be easy to stay completely in touch as we both live in the same house and share everything as we always have. I really don’t think it’s that easy and I can only speak for myself and my own observations of people.

When I got the news about Micheal, a big part of my world was instantly and forever damaged and probably damaged beyond repair as it relates to several things. The 800 pound gorilla in the room when you send your son off to war is that no matter how much you try and convince yourself and each other and no matter how you try and shrug it off, your son may not come home from this. Not everyone does you know. I guess it’s a part of that “it’s always the other guy” aspect of everyone’s world. The numbers are overwhelmingly with your loved one coming home safe and at least mostly sound. You try to put on that brave face and send them off with a big hug and a smile and send them off to hostile places with that nagging feeling that something bad could happen. It did happen. It happened to Micheal. When it happens all you have are those feelings that no matter how much you hoped, now matter how much prayed, no matter what could have happened. The worst did happen and no one out there can change that.

Speaking personally since that day in February, I have bunkered down a lot, sealed myself away from the whole world to some degree with the hurt and the angst. I make small little raids on the real world, testing the waters, checking the stability of the whole thing. I think for me and probably my oldest son, we cannot get past this without feeling as if getting on without Micheal is in at least a small part abandoning him to a certain degree. I cannot seem to let go of him to the degree that will allow me to come out of the self imposed bunker. I need to, but how to do that without the feeling of leaving a member of the team behind is something that I do not know how to do.

So where are we now? It all depends on the day and the mood. It all depends on what sights, sounds, smells and feelings that happen to you today. I guess, that getting on a bit more means that you do not dwell on Micheal every moment of every single day. The problem is when I drop my guard and am just living some “new normal” day when something triggers the feelings that lie just below the surface. They are there and I really do not have much control over them. I think that as a man is one of the main problems. Men like to feel like the control their world and their path and way. Will I ever? I’m not sure.

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“Wow! Is that your Son?”

Posted by fozzynok on 08/27/2009

I get this asked now and then where I work. And I see it coming almost every time. Right above my desk, on the window that overlooks the truck shop is a 5X7 picture of Micheal in his military gear with his weapon slung across his chest. In the picture he is smiling ear to ear as he is in almost every picture he is in. I have people in and out of the office all the time. We share the office (or they share with us) with a truck rental and maintenance facility. There are always drivers and salesmen and various others coming through. I cannot take the picture down. I would not take the picture down. I can exactly put a black ribbon around the picture either. I do get a little uneasy after having to explain that we lost my son in February of 08. It’s a little embarrassing really for both parties I’m sure. They see this good looking young man who is alive as alive can be in the picture. They seem to be drawn to the picture. They see a tough, 101st Airborne trooper who seems invincible. When I have to tell them that he was killed, they don’t really know what to say. And for a few seconds it’s just almost agonizing. They then have to quickly tear off in another direction. I guess it is almost unfair to them. What can I do? I won’t hide the pictures but cannot place a huge warning label over it either.

I encountered another problem personally that crept up and hit me right upside the head. There are photos all over the place on my computers and home of Micheal when he was in the service and out and about in Iraq and with is Military brothers here and there all over the world. There are very few of them before this time in his life. There are rare glimpses of him as a child anywhere but the big box of scattered family photos and albums in the closets at home. I have not looked at the photos, I am a little ashamed to admit that I fear the photos. Not the photos themselves, but the feelings of pain and despair that the photos will almost assuredly bring to me. I had an internet acquaintance ask for a few photos of Micheal through out his life. I cannot even go into the closet and get the box out. I cannot share those for now I guess.

I cannot speak for the rest of my family but I know that over the last holiday season, that we glossed right over the whole previous twenty years of family Christmas’. We didn’t even crack open any of the old. Well worn and traveled family boxes of holidays past. The old trinkets, the hand made ornaments from the children, the various decorations that we all enjoyed to open and spill throughout the house and share with each other. Now, there are for me too many jagged, sharp edged memories in those boxes of when we were “whole” as a family. Those boxes are still out there waiting, Those memories are laying there waiting for me. Someday I will be forced to open the boxes of old holidays and let them out…

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A great and chance meeting:

Posted by fozzynok on 08/19/2009

Saturday I had decided to drive up to Northern OKC to pick up a old awesome Kirby vacuum that I bought for $25.00 off and ad on Craigslist. On the way back, I decided to stop in Purcell. OK and have a quick lunch. As I was nearing the counter to order those damned addictive McChicken Sandwiches, I noticed the local paper with the Patriot Guard logos all over the front of it. It seemed that the Oklahoma Chapter was having their annual get together there that day. There was a local policeman standing in line so I asked him where this place was. It urns out that the place was less that a mile from there. Cool!  I ate my addicting Chicken Sandwiches and read further about the event. There was a parade there earlier in the day that I missed, but the activities after the parade were just about to get started. The paper also showed the grand marshal who was WW2 101st Paratrooper Jake McNiece. A veterans, veteran who survived four combat jumps into “Fortress Europa” I finished lunch and drove to the site of the event and as I approached the building a car stopped at the front door and as the car door opened, I saw an old gentleman wearing a WW2 era paratrooper uniform, getting out of the car. I walked up and shook his hand and told him what an honor it was to meet him. The next thing he asked was if I wanted to carry some books into the building.. I told him again that it would be an honor. So I carried the box of books into the building and began to walk around and see the sights. I saw Mr.McNiece sitting at a table resting and walked up to shake his hand again, we talked a bit and I told him of my son and his love of being with the 101st Airborne. We talked a bit more but I realized that I was probably taking up too much of his time and moved away so others there could visit with this great bit of American history.

I walked around the hall looking at the pictures and the items up for bid in the silent auction, I looked at the beautiful chopper that was made in honor of  fallen 3rd Infantry Division’s Cody Carver. The bike is awesome and you can tell that there is nothing but respect and love that went into the making of that machine.

I wandered down the hallways to the two vendor rooms and there were a few folks selling items for motorcycle riders, Patriot Guard gear and Military mementos like patches and buttons. At one of the tables I noticed a couple whom were wearing riding gear and matching t-shirts with picture of their son and dates of the day they lost him in Iraq. He was Navy Petty Officer 3rd class Doyle W. Bollinger who was a Sea Bee who lost his life 6/6/2003 in Iraq. I introduced myself and offered my condolences to them and told them about my son. The strange thing is that I could really feel the same pain from them that I feel at times like this. The wife made the comment that I was still pretty fresh at this and I agreed but told her that I could tell that this doesn’t get easier, just a little easier to deal with. I thanked them for talking with me and moved off to see more of the things there. It was nice to meet these people, but the changing of emotional gears was wearing me out.

I walked into the next room and had breathed deep enough a few times to recover and done my best to get my mind off that for the time being. I noticed a lady selling and sewing patches on vests for the biker folks there, I looked at the patches on the different boards and came to one that made me a little angry. There are various traditions in bike clubs from the outlaws to the club racers folks. In the hobby of motorcycle riding, you are going to lose friends. It’s inevitable and a fact of life when running on two wheels down tracks, trails and the highways. These friends are sometimes remembered with memorial patches or even painted names on the bikes themselves. There was a patch there bearing a headstone that said “ In memory of all you dead fucks”. Just reading that took the wind right out of me and I had to leave the area before I got mad. Getting mad would not have been respectful at the venue, but the patch should really never be in a place for a group that does what this club does. In your own little motorcycle clan, hanging out and the club house or on a private run somewhere fine. I get the intent and in another venue, it could be humorous. In an event for a group that escorts these military men and women coming home to be laid to rest and their families, its just rather crude. I do not say this like I’m saying anyone did this on purpose. I do think however that they did not put a lot of thought into the people who would be there that day.

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The 2nd Memorial Day:

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

The second Memorial Day has come and gone. This was the second Memorial day without Micheal. It’s kind of strange that I have always taken the time to remember the reason for this day. Most of this comes from being a military brat raised by a military man and being a veteran myself. The day has always been honored. I can definitely say that it is more important now for obvious reasons. I so see that there are more and more people out there trying to remind people that this is not all about weenie roasts and getting drunk, sunburned and then passing out in the lake somewhere.

May is probably my toughest month next to December. May 17th is Micheal’s birthday and then the same month is Memorial Day weekend. We spent last years ceremonies with my fathers VFW group in Gainesville TX. We were still pretty numb last year and really its just a blip in the memory banks. This year’s ceremony was a little more memorable for me. The old soldiers from the VFW put on a short ceremony that really describes what the whole day is about. A few of the VFW senior members take turns speaking and placing flowers or other items on small monument there. My dad is one of these. This year he got a bit choked up when he was speaking.

There are two gold star mothers that attend the ceremony. One of them lost a son in Vietnam and of course my wife Angelia. They are there as a real symbol of the toll that American families pay along with their soldiers who are lost in wars around the world in service to their countries.  The fallen pay the ultimate price, the families pay a different fee and far too many people in this country don’t even pay attention.

We had some special guests at our home this year. Three of Micheal’s unit members came down from Ft Campbell to spend the weekend with us and to visit my son’s grave. They are all great folks to be around of course one of them I only now am finding out or remembering that a few days after Micheal was killed was “blown up” in Iraq. This is a term that I have heard several of the men I have met use. They use it as a “matter of fact” and common every day term like we use common terms like “the flu” or “sick day”. It did bother me a lot that one of Micheal’s friends and one of the men who I talked to and who wrote to comfort me is now home but probably permanently damaged. He just seemed very quiet and a little pale when I came home from work and greeted them. He just seemed a little out of sorts. Not completely out of it, but there was something just not right. I was a bit ashamed that I didn’t know.

This fine young man was working as the gunner in a Humvee when they were attacked by an IED. The blast caused a brain injury that he is still working with and probably will for some time. The good news out of this is that he is getting some marvelous help and if there is one thing that doesn’t get reported enough are the fine things that the military is doing these days with these men. We owe these fine men everything and it is America’s duty to do everything they can to make these men right again or as damn close as they can get them and take care of them as they took care of us!

These men are welcomed in my home any day and all hours of any day, they have free room and board if they ever need it. I forever owe them for the things that they do, and what they will continue to do.  I don’t think they are ever taken care of enough.

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The Holidays, Better luck next year?

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

I’m not sure how this will be received by some people. Not really sure how any of these blogs are being received by anyone. For me these blogs are away of getting some things out of my skull and to chase away things that are getting too me. The trip to see the guys come home was nice. I admittedly have been a lot less involved in keeping in touch and keeping track of the guys during this deployment. I have been worried about all of them and keep them in my thoughts almost constantly. I through my wife’s fantastic efforts have supported my son’s brothers in arms the best way that I could. I went on the trip even though I feel like a bit of an outsider and even an invader to some extent. We are the reminders of things that people do not like to admit exist. We thankfully in a sick way are relatively few in numbers and if there is a benevolent god somewhere, I guess I can thank them for that. Something happened during this trip that really made me a bit self-conscious. One of the guys I thought the most of seemed to be pulling away from me in discussion and in his body language. I asked if there was something and he basically admitted that while he enjoyed our company, he was just getting a little uncomfortable about HOW we met. It really kind of took me off guard and some of my reticence about being involved too much with these guys proved to be a little truer than I had imagined.

I have come to the realization that I have been living and that’s about it. I’ve not done a very good job and getting on with things and this has affected my whole being. Now to preface this statement, I must admit that I’ve never been a huge bag full of optimism and love of my fellow man or even my life in general. My good friends can tell you this more than I can. I do not generally have much love for the generic human animal. Something with the potential to be so warm, loving and beautiful that has historically been everything but. I don’t see humans as anything special or extra-ordinary. To me a human is no more special than a tree or blade of grass. As long as the human monkey has been trying to eliminate themselves as a species, the more they seem to infest the planet.  I wrote a while back that the deep dark basement was a real thing and that I realized that it was there and that I was doing my best to get the hell out of it. Well…. The attempt really is sometimes not going too well obviously.

Now before everyone panics and runs to the phones and or the computer to get me tossed in the loony bin, let me assure everyone that I know what the heck is going on and why. I am depressed and I will be for some time. If there is a reason in this crappy world to BE depressed then this would qualify. I don’t like this, but this is what I’m stuck with for now. I will eventually get back with the program and feel like there is more to life than hiding at work and hiding at the house. My job requires a lot of me. I work 6 days a week most weeks and 7 days on some weeks. I am on call 24/7 365 days a year. It HAS saved my sanity to a degree, so I do not think that with the continual calls and tasks and running about is necessarily a bad thing. There are times where I’d love to find a cave somewhere and become a hermit, but caves are very hard to come by around these parts.

We had a huge gathering for Thanksgiving and really feel like I’ve probably not done too great a job as a host. I realize that there is another world out there and that at least me, personally have not had much part in it. The relatives and friends were all there and they seemed like they had a decent enough time, but I found myself almost bitter and honestly a bit resentful for their happiness and their lives that seem to be going somewhere. This is my problem and I know it! I hope none of you reading this take it personal, its not. I do not know how to get out of this and a problem I think is that to get out of means getting over it a little and that right now is just not something that I can or even really want to do.  My best friends are worried about me I guess… I’m not like I was in the “good old days”.

Christmas was coming.. I honestly dreaded the very thought of it. We scaled way back and gathered in a small group and try to share something between us. Nothing from the huge stack of Christmas’ past in boxes in the garage was included this year. The memories of all that shall and should remain locked up for now. There is nothing really to celebrate this year. For me here is no cheer, there is no hope of trinkets and toys. There is just the same kind of hollow feeling that some of us feel when we catch ourselves thinking of how things have changed for us personally from the carefree exciting days of Christmas’ past when it was we who still believed in the whole thing, and selfishly knew that even after the magic was gone and we could no longer “hear the Christmas bell”, that there were still going to be great things to enjoy and family there to share in the whole thing. It changes quite a bit when you are the purveyor and or the illusionist for your own children and other kids around the place. You can see the magic, feel the excitement. For a short period of time if you are in to it, you too can kind of slip into the excitement and live like a child.

I have been catching myself in these past few years really missing being the child and having that level of blind faith and pure excitement in something. Those days are gone for the foreseeable future and especially this year with the loss of someone who was pretty integral in the whole scene for me. Micheal was our “Christmas kid” and would have probably been our honorary Christmas family nut. He loved the season and did it for all the right reasons and could “let go” of the real world for the whole Christmas thing. My mother was the Christmas nut for our family. Through many years of Christmas’ she was the one person for the whole clan who dragged you kicking and screaming into the season. She exuded it; she wholly enjoyed it and made it enjoyable for all but the most grinchie of the grinches.  I lost my mother when she was only 49 years old. For years I personally have been looking for that person who can turn Christmas into Christmas again. It is not something that anyone can do even consciously I feel. It finds them and it is just who they are for that season. I think I have lost another one who could have done that for us. I hope they are out there somewhere doing what they do and enjoying the hell out of it immensely.

Peace on Earth

We sure need some…

To all the servicemen and women all over the world, Thank you for doing what you do every day of every year.

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Pokey’s Brothers Come Home:

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

The day that we have been waiting for has come and gone. We traveled to Ft Campbell to welcome my son’s unit home and to personally meet and thank these fine men who my son shared this experience with. Almost 100% of the unit is home. The upper echelon command folks and a security detail of a few troops are still over there waiting to rotate out and one of them is my son’s best friend.

There were going to be two planes that we had to be there for, one on Thursday and the other on Friday. We got to the airfield and met with some of the family who we met on our last visit to Campbell. The time of arrival for the plane was announced in 15-minute intervals. The last few minutes were announced and we moved outside of the hanger to see the plane land. I was pretty nervous to be honest. I found that one of the toughest parts of this whole thing was actually watching the huge 747 come into view on the horizon, land and taxi to the gate. Seeing the troops coming off the plane was actually a huge relief for me. My son obviously was not going to come off the plane but his spirit came off the plane home with all of them. We are very thankful that all of them got home safe and sound. I’d love to think that my son was watching over them all to make this happen.

The troops assembled outside the hangar as we all moved back inside to load up in the bleachers there. There were probably double the number of well wishers than troops and that made me feel pretty good that even though these guys came home early, loved ones were able to muster there to greet them. The marched into the hangar in a large formation and after a few words were spoken; the formation was dismissed to spend a few moments with their families. I hanged back in the bleachers to allow these fine men and women’s families’ unfettered access to them. I did not want to be in the way or even really be seen by these families. I kind of just tried to stay in the background with our escort. The men of my son’s platoon sought out my wife and they got a lot of hugs and pictures and the emotional weights on both sides seem to have been lifted from both parties.

The first flight and the majority of my son’s unit were home, we had to do this all again the next evening, but it was with a lot less apprehension for me. We met with some of the guys in a hotel lobby with their family and had some real great conversations and of course a few of them indulged in some adult beverages. We were getting pretty loud and a rather large gentleman appeared and announced something about being a federal marshal, we thought that we were all busted for being to loud.. in reality, the federal marshal just wanted to welcome everyone of the guys home and buy a round of drinks. I thought it quite nice that these young men brought my youngest over and bought him a shot too.. it was a shot of cola.. but they included him just the same. He will never forget this. The evening ended as we poured a coupled of the guys into a taxi back to Campbell and we went back to our own hotel. These men brought back so many memories of my own old days as a young infantryman. There are always the guys who drink too much and there are always a couple of soldiers who do not drink much or at all to run interference for those who do. It was nice to see that some things never change.

The flight the next evening was very similar with the all of the same going on. There was a bit of a difference as there was one man on the plane who had a special story for us. I met my son’s 1st SGT. He was with my son seconds after the blast and held his hand during all of the activities of the fine medic to stabilize him and stayed with him until the put him into the medivac chopper. He told me that my son gave him that same silly smile as they put him on the bird. This man was obviously hurting and I talked with him and we came to an understanding that these men did everything they could do and that my son died doing exactly what he wanted to do and he was among the finest men and finest friends that he would every have the honor of knowing. I had a few conversations with some of my son’s closest friends. I only hope that we all gained a little more understanding and peace over the subject. I know that these men are all affected by my son’s life and untimely death. I only hope that they realize that there is really absolutely nothing that they could have done to stop this, there is no ill will or blame on our parts towards anyone but the assholes who set up the attack. We all have lost Micheal, but there is no sense in trying to kick the lid off of the “what if” bucket and torture ourselves with that. I know that these are the finest men in the planet and all of them did what they could.

We all need to remember that we need to live and live well and that while a piece of us all died with Micheal.. there is no sense in continuing to torture ourselves to the point where we stop living. Micheal would never have wanted that, we all need to take Micheal with us through the rest of our lives and live for him. There are days were I feel him with me and that’s got to be enough for now. Stop thinking or dwelling of how he died, remember how my son lived.. there are a hell of a lot better stories in that category! That kid just wasn’t right sometimes.

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The Division Says Goodbye:

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

We got an invitation to travel back to Ft Campbell to attend the Eagle Remembrance Ceremony. This is a Ceremony that the division holds every few months to remember, honor and say goodbye to the members of the various units in the division. My son’s best friend who was in country when Micheal was killed came along with us for the trip. We arrived at Ft Campbell and were greeted at the gate by a couple of men from my son’s unit. Both of them knew my son, one of them was the trooper who escorted my son home to us. We dropped our car off at the hotel and were shown around the base for a while and then went to the home of one of the senior NCO’s home for dinner. That was pretty scary actually.  I found myself to be a bit self-conscious about going into a family’s home who still have their family member in the same place that we lost our son. There were wives of other deployed soldiers there also. I definitely did not want to be the reminder of the almost constant strain that these wives and children worry about every second of every day.

The next day was the Eagle Remembrance ceremony we got to the Division Headquarters building and was shown around and given the red carpet treatment by all of the fine people we met. We were escorted into the Division Commanders office and met with the Division’s Executive Officer. A very tall bald headed man with the presence that was even larger than he was. He greeted us all personally and gave us all a rundown of the things that were going to happen at the ceremony. We were there with other gold star families and one young wife was there with her two children. They of course were graphic reminders that we lose more than sons in far off hostile shores. She was talking to the Lt Col about the process she was going through and how they had to leave the base housing and move off post. She explained that she had to find schools for her two kids who have only known the schools that were on post. The XO just flatly told her that her children would never be tossed out of the base schools and he would see to it personally that they were welcomed at the school. The relief was clear on the mother’s face that this was one fewer worry to have to face in the loss of her husband and her children’s lives.

The XO was explaining what was going to happen and he got to the part where he told us that a bagpiper was there and was going to play for the ceremony. At that instant my wife and I looked at each other and she and I knew I was in for a tough ride at this one. We left the office and toured a little more and met with the escorts and went to the main lobby of the headquarters building. It was a huge place with art and sculptures around the halls. There were guest books to sign for the fallen soldiers arranged on tables under large pictures of each of the men. They all looked so young and as if they were almost the same person in each photo. All of them looked so full of life and their spirits were there with us all.

It was time to gather for the ceremony. There were roses on each chair to be placed on the “battle Cross that was up in front of the assembly. (The battle cross in the helmet, rifle and boots set up that people are familiar with) The rest of the division was in formation right there behind the arranged chairs for the guests. There were a few speakers, the twenty-one-gun salute, the playing of Taps and then the worst part for me, the bag piper started the playing the song “Amazing Grace”.  The song has a lot of history and I have no idea why it affects me so, but I just could not stop the tears from flowing no matter how I tried. The escort with me handed me his handkerchief and it made me feel even worse. I know.. it’s not rational to feel embarrassed, but I’m odd like that. Thankfully the song was over and we were asked to take our seats. Then the names of the fallen were announced and each of the family members would rise, move to the battle cross, place the flowers there and then walked to the rear of the formation. This was pretty tough with all of those people there. We were all there to honor each other’s loved ones as well as our own.  The ceremony ended and we spent some time with my son’s unit a little more and then it was time to say good-bye to them. We wished them all well and stay in touch with them to this day.

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The final days of farewell

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

I am the first to admit that I’m an odd duck and that I do not generally like people especially strangers and really not in large doses. No one is really experienced in deaths of their family members but a few of the traditions I do not accept for I find them to be totally self-serving and frankly ghoulish. I with my wife had to make decisions about things regarding the final days of my son’s real existence on the face of this planet. From the first day we had to meet with the funeral director, it seemed all too easy as my wife Angelia and I have been over so many roads and trails as one, that there was no second decisions or really hard choices. We were informed basically how odd that was by the director. We knew what we wanted this to be without even really discussing any of this. My wife was the main thing in my life that really made this time bearable and kept me as strong as I was and had to be during these days.

The visitation was Monday evening. This was something that I had originally set my mind on doing without. The community reaction and some long thoughts about it caused me to change my mind about it. We had a visitation and it was as good as these things go. I figured that I was being selfish after all and frankly I’m glad that I decided to change this plan.  The funeral home had asked for photos of Micheal throughout his life. We also provided a CD with music to be played for the time of the visitation. I picked some rather unconventional music that my son got me into. Anyone ever hear of Drop Kick Murphy? They are basically an Irish Punk rock band. I chose three songs by them to play for my son. Amazing Grace, A Cadence to Arms and the Warrior Code. They all were songs that my son and l shared and enjoyed and when he was home last. Had I been able to find the title song from the Movie “The Boondock Saints” I would have played that as well. When this song plays, I instantly can see my son and feel his strength.

We had the visitation open and arrived as it opened and stayed well after the last family member left the area. It started snowing heavily during the visitation. This was almost eerie!  I finally got to meet the fine young man who escorted my son home to us.  I don’t really know where he was when we brought Micheal into town. Another soldier from my son’s unit was there also. I never thought that I would stay for more than a few moments but the time and the guests just made the night something that was to important and so full of people and emotions that the time escaped all of us. I met several of the local patriot guard group and the local Army reserve motorcycle group. The visitors came and went. During this visitation I was given my son’s dog tags, his Combat Infantry Badge and several gold star pins for the family.

March 4th was the day we buried my son, the ceremony was something so surreal and so emotional to behold and was touching in so many ways. The fact is that honestly of all the days before and the days following, this is the day I have the fewest actual recollections from. I’m not sure if it was shock, depression, pride or abject remorse. I got through this day unlike those before. I had to bury my son this day and I had to do it front of close to a thousand people looking on. Any thoughts of doing this privately were done away with during the first days when the town mourned for and with us and shared the grief of a lost son.

The Army unit from Ft. Sill that handled this was fantastic through all of it. My son came home and brought rain, tornado’s a huge thunderstorm on Sunday and a darned near blizzard of snow on Monday! We got about 3 inches of snow the night of the visitation. It seems that we got all of the seasons except the one that I dislike and that was the furnace like heat from this place.

We awoke to brilliant blue skies and warmer temps. The funeral was today at 1400. The members of the patriot guard again escorted us to the cemetery. They were all over the place and were the standard bearers for numerous flags. When we got within sight distance of the cemetery, I was extremely moved. We almost could not get into the gate! There were hundreds of people to see Pokey off and wish him well on his next journey. The ceremony was proper military fare, short and sweet. His Chaplin was a VERY sharp fellow who was Korean. I loved having him speak over Pokey. He did a great job and added that Army family flavor. The rest of the ceremony was full military also. The hardest parts to get through were known and expected by me. The medals that my son was awarded, the flag folding and presentation were helped in a way by the fact that a very experienced Major General who presented each also had tears in his eyes and could barely speak. The 21-gun salute was there and the playing of taps was very hard. This was like some movie that you knew the ending too, but didn’t want it too.  But we as a family “closed ranks” held on to each other and continued to live and breathe. The final act of the color guard that I could witness was the color guard loading up the now bare casket into the hearse for the short trip into the cemetery and the gravesite. I could not do that. I may end up in some sort of hell for that.. but there ya go.

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The Homecoming:

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

My son as all military people who are killed in foreign countries was flown out of Iraq, into Germany and then to Dover AFB for final prepping and identifications and all the rest of the jobs that they have been doing since the Vietnam war. We were told when he arrived there and our casualty officer informed us that when they were releasing him, that he would call us with an ETA. They at this point did not know where they would fly him into. We may have had to drive to Dallas TX (a hundred miles away) and then return. But the casualty officer worked hard to get my son flown directly into the Ardmore Airpark. We got the notification that my son was coming home a day or so later. The plans were made and the time set. We had met with the Patriot Guard a couple of days earlier and they were on board to escort us to the Airpark and then to the funeral home.  There had already been call from the kooks from Wichita inquiring about my son’s arrival.

The day started like most for me in those days, with very little sleep and a lot of wandering around the dark house and yards just trying to make some sense of the changes in our lives in the past week. The morning was cool, overcast and raining off and on certainly my mood fit the weather. The night before had been huge thunderstorms and tornado’s dancing around the state. I heard the arrival of the lead element for the trip out to the airport. The Ardmore police motorcycle officers had arrived along with a Sheriff. The young deputy was ex-military and ex-101st Airborne, he wore his air assault wings on his Sheriff Uniform and had them also displayed on the rear window of his cruiser. The patriot guard was right behind them and I greeted then and thanked them for being there for us on this less than beautiful day. We gathered around talked and nervously shuffled around and readied ourselves for the trip ahead. My Son was coming home to us today.

The limo for us had arrived, and the driver who was also an Iraq veteran greeted us and was on the phone with the funeral director who was on the phone with the military folks and the Air Park to tell us when we should start that way. The call came in and we got into the limo and did our best to not talk too much or look each other in the eyes. Well, maybe that was just me? I wanted to be anywhere but there at the time. We made the trip out to the Airpark and I had to catch a breath when we got onto the Airpark to see the hundreds of motorcycles and the people who had gathered to be there when my son came home. They were respectful as a group of hundreds could be and stayed back away from the hanger where the plane would park to unload their precious cargo. A few media types from an local unnamed station almost had to be physically removed from the hanger itself by different security.  They were not welcomed there no matter how much they insisted that they were.

The limo came to a stop and the driver got out and talked to some of the people there. Because of the weather mainly we were asked if we wanted to stay in the limo for a while. I was getting way too claustrophobic and antsy to sit inside anywhere and had to get out and get into the weather. I walked over to the line of cars near the hangar and talked with my Dad and a few of the relatives and close friends who had assembled near the hanger for a while. We got the alert that the plane was almost there and that the pilot had really put the spurs to it to get there when they were supposed to. The gray sky was making it a bit difficult to see but I heard the sound of the plane and soon it came into the pattern and landed. A larger private jet was contracted by the military. The white plane loudly taxied on it’s own up to the hanger and was shut down. The silence at that point was almost nerve wracking. They hooked a tow motor up to the plane and slowly dragged it all the way up into the hangar to the waiting honor guard. They were a squared away group and I never got even a whiff of any of them not being serious and on task the entire time they stood with us through this. The plane was chocked and as they were locking down,  the hearse which I don’t even remember noticing was put into position right outside the hangar.  They opened the aircraft up and placed some rolling accordion support thing out to the door which seemed more of a trouble than it was worth.

I had been holding on to Angie for this whole time and felt my family’s presence as we stood huddled together inside the hangar.. The second that the edge of the  flag draped casket came into view from the inside of the plane. For a brief moment in time I was standing there completely alone it was just he and I alone in the world. There was only one other time that I felt like this, and that was the first few moments after he was born and they handed him to me. I guess this is the point in time where I made contact with him on that same emotional level. That moment was quickly over and the honor guard marched over to receive my son from the plane. They very orderly and purposefully took the coffin and placed in into the waiting hearse while all of the military and the air crew salutedor covered their hearts. We made our way back to the limo and climbed inside. The precession started to form right there. The line started to grow, the hearse made it’s way out onto the main road leading out to the two lane highway and the patriot guard led us out of the Airpark, there were hundreds of bikes leading the way out, we passed through the Airpark and right by the Dollar General DC where I worked for a few years, they had all but shut down the whole DC and all of the employees were out on the grass showing their respect. The slow ride back to town was full of glimpses of the caring people of the area. There was one that really stood out in my mind.. as we made our way through the farmlands that surround the Airpark. I spotted a lone figure of a farmer surrounded by a low gray mist way off in his field with his hand over his heart solemnly watching the long line of vehicles. I have no idea who he was, but that incident really made me feel that this wasn’t all just something we were dealing with alone as just one single family.

The huge precession rolled down the two-lane highway and got to Hwy 77 and made the turn south towards town. There were people stopping and getting out of the cars, some knew what was going on and a few others just looked completely confused. As we got closer to town the local police had blocked the cross traffic. I was saddened a bit that some of the city policemen just slouched around, some wore their hats and others did not and looked completely bothered by the whole thing.

We entered town at the north and rumbled all the way through the cemetery at the south end. There were literally hundreds of people who gathered at the road side and stopped what they were doing to show support for us and the young man who went off to a hostile foreign land and died representing them all trying to do the right thing. There were a few familiar faces in the crowds, but it was hard to really concentrate on much as we neared the final turn into the cemetery. The weather had cleared enough by this point that the temperatures were high enough to preclude the wearing of coats and wet weather gear.

The hearse came to a stop at the door of the funeral home, the honor guard assembled and dutifully removed the flag draped coffin and smartly moved it into one of the large rooms in the building. They placed in on the parapet and smartly moved away under a low toned cadence. The funeral director spoke with us and told us to take as much time as we liked in the room alone as a family. All I could do was to silently try mentally connect to my son, as I rested my hand on the top of the coffin. I can only hope that he heard me and knows all that I said. It was good at least to have him home.

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The information age sometimes sucks!!!

Posted by fozzynok on 08/09/2009

I hear all the time about how the people deserve to know this or that and they (the powers that be) have gotten this information thing down to an almost scientific procedure of overkill and a glut of information. In wars of the past and especially the foreign variety, there was a comfort zone that the times, communications and transportation built in. There are people who think that the advances in all of these areas has made life easier to keep in touch at to get information about all sorts of things. These things may be good or they may be bad, it might be your business and it might be none of your business.  You used to get a telegram and that was that, “We regret to inform you” was all it said. Your loved one was not coming home.. that was pretty much it.

The freedom of information act was in my opinion overkill and today, I became somewhat of a victim of it. The freedom of information act has allowed freind and foe to get information about things that frankly should not be out there. The past years of what some people insist are government secrets and or just the government doing their jobs and too busy to insure that everyone and their uncle knows what they happen to be doing with this or that.. this is especially true in the realm of the military. I am no big fan of the freedom of the press as it relates to military issues and or security issues. Does this make me a sheep? or does this demand for information put us ultimately into the crosshairs of some current and future enemy attacks?

Through the “request for information act” we received  the report named ” ARTICLE 15-6 INVESTIGATION OF EFP ATTACK RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF SPECIALIST MICHEAL EUGENE PHILLIPS 24 FEB 2008 101ST ABN MND – B. This report is done for all casualties these days. I read it and wondered who else would WANT to know these things. The fact is that through the men my son served with and other combat veterans, all of the pieces were already laid in place and there really were no big mysteries to be found reading this report. The report came in and I felt the need to read it. I read the statements that were there from the people on ground there that day.  The pain that the report brought me was something that I was ready for but still causes a lot of grasping in thin air for comfort or just peace. The time line is there, the report from those involved was there. They reported seeing children playing on a soccer field, the lead vehicle slowed because they thought they had identified an IED ahead. They stopped to check things out and the EFP behind them hit my son’s vehicle.  They started taking sniper fire right after the blast, The attack too place at 10:10, my son lost his fight at 11:31.  That’s all anyone needs to know.. there is more there, but its no one’s business.

Since these wars have started in Afghanistan and in Iraq the media in its various forms have outdone themselves in reporting the goings on of the military and the special intelligence wings of the governments who are fighting the Islamic terror forces. They pretend that this is about “news” when anyone with half a brain knows that this is dangerous for everyone involved. There have been so many leaks from those in government to the press that they might as well broadcast the news directly in the open from inside the various briefings that these elected officials get. Why not? Within hours of some intel meeting, there is a late breaking news story about some “secret plan” to do this or that to our enemies and those who would love to kill us.  Through the freedom of information act, people have posted on the internet, various things that have gotten our guys injured and killed. I have seen posts that tell in great detail how the “warlock” systems work and how to defeat them. The warlock basically blocks cell phone signals that trigger IED’s. Can someone tell me why someone would want that information out there? Is this freedom or is this useful idiot behavior? We live in an information age.. and it will be our undoing.

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