Gold Star Dad

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

“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…

2 Responses to ““Wow! Is that your Son?””

  1. There is no question that you shouldn’t take Micheal’s picture away. The fact that you understand the awkwardness is enough. People want to compliment you and say, wow, what a great picture; wow, your son’s a soldier, serving his country…and then you have to tell them what happened and they don’t know what to say. What can they say? Anything that they manage to think of would sound…inadequate. Really, how can, “I’m so sorry” help you or convey their sorrow. They can’t offer something terrible in their life that would come close to comparing with what you live with…but the picture is important. Not just because you need him there for yourself, but also because he serves as a reminder.

    It’s too easy in America, I think, to forget about the war – way over there. I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up in New Jersey – I had NO contact with the military until late in high school, one girl decided to enlist. That was it. We saw the Memorial Day parade walk right past our front yard; some years, we went out and watched…other years we didn’t. Sometimes, I remember thinking it was “fun” and others, I thought it was a big bother to block traffic and we couldn’t get out of our street unless we moved the cars early enough.

    Now I look back and am ashamed. On the other hand, this was the mistake America made, allowing Memorial Day to be turned into a sales day, a day to barbecue. It is so different here in Israel when it comes to Memorial Day.

    As for a picture of a lost son…I haven’t got a clue how that would be handled here; I think the parent would do as you do. Explain what happened and then I’d just say that I was so sorry. But what you and Angelia do in your blogs, her work, your having the photo out there – all keep Micheal in the here and now; you share him with us and even though that has to be so incredibly hard, it’s a wonderful thing to do.

    If you can, tell me how people should react to seeing Micheal’s picture and then hearing he was killed in action. Is there a response that would help? Are there words we could say to show our sorrow or offer comfort?

    A few months ago, when I had to make a condolence call to a family that had just lost their son, Angelia wrote something to me and it helped. I went there and listened to the family talk of Noam; of the good things he did, the kind of person he was. What other things can we do to help?

    Please don’t feel you have to answer, if you don’t want to…

    • fozzynok said

      I’m not really sure how to answer that one. I think the problem is that it is hard for me to deal with other people’s embarrassment of asking about him and finding out that he was killed. Like I said in the blog, these pictures show a young man in his prime and at the moment the photo was taken. more “alive” than 99% of the people on the planet. When they ask and find out, I wish they would not get that look on their faces as if they want to run away and hide!

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