Gold Star Dad

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

Red River 44

Posted by fozzynok on 09/14/2009

Sunday September 13, 2009 I had the honor of being at the funeral and the memorial dedication for the crew of “Red River 44”. This was a crew of a CH47 “Chinook” that was lost in 2008. I went for several reasons but the most urgent was to support the crew’s families and the unit as they were forced to said good bye to their loved ones one more time. While I think we all think about our lost loved ones, saying good bye is one of the tougher things. I wanted to make something right with my self and with one of the members of the crew. When Michael Thompson came home, I felt that I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I had failed this fine young man and he deserved to have each and every American close enough to be there. I couldn’t do it that day, I had planned to be there for him and his family and I just couldn’t muster the courage to be there and feel the things I felt when my son came home to the same Airpark. There were just to many similarities and too soon for me. I have felt bad about this for sometime. I am not very sure how I will handle things like this for the KIA’s from here on out, but they and their families deserve all the support from the few Americans who do actually care and understand about them and why they do what they do.

I had planned to ride the motorcycle down to this event but the weather had been totally against this idea from the previous days of torrential rain. I hoped that the weather would clear at least enough time to get down to Dallas for the event and I could wait it out for the rest of the day if I had to get back. I awoke at ten till four in the morning and it was stone quiet! I was ready to get the bike gear out and head down. Within seconds though, the rain started beating the top of the house.. It would be a car trip after all. The drive down to Grand Prairie was really bad and marginally unsafe in spots for a car, let alone a bike like mine with someone who really is a tad rusty with wet weather on two to begin with.

I got to the airfield just as the sun was getting up enough to see. The rain was still falling. I followed the group who was walking towards the hangar. I stood there and look around a bit and then noticed that there were actually quite a few motorcycles over near the maintenance shop. I slogged over to the shop and met with a couple of the Oklahoma Patriot Guard folks who I knew and then finally got to meet Mr. Kory Thompson. I was really looking forward to this for some time. It was so nice to meet and feel the genuine warmth and support another man who has been forced to feel so many horrible things of the same degree as I had. I feel the support from the other guys and appreciate it greatly. I hope none of them misunderstand this. I mean no disrespect to them at all. This is just different. Being a gold star parent is something that places you in both (depending on the moment) a glass box and a deserted island. I can be in a huge group of people and feel completely alone at times. For once in the last couple of years, I was with someone who made me feel less alone.

I got to meet Cpl Thompson’s squad leader and CO and we gathered for the Patriot Guard briefing and it was very emotional for all of them. They led the unit off to war, escorted the 7 fallen soldiers when they came home and they led the unit home when they returned home from Iraq. These folks really feel these losses personally. They are some of the few people who have not abandoned the fallen or the families of the fallen. They never fail to ask if we need something or to include us in whatever they happen to be doing. More than that, they show enough respect to ASK the families what they think, what they feel and general give a damn about what goes on in our lives.

Since a few of us were in cars, it made more sense to ride the busses that were provided to get from the base over to the Dallas National Cemetery, the roads were deeply flooded and the local law enforcement got the route changed a bit to keep the bikes safely out of most of the deep water.. not ALL however. It was still a feat of complete love of duty that got this escort mission pulled off successfully. We got to the cemetery and I joined the line with the rest of the PGR and stood in what amounts to a line of support behind the families. The rain continued to fall in waves, the cemetery had gotten tents up for the families and dignitaries and they got out of most of it. The cemetery crew really did a fine job this day. I got in place and as we waited for the ceremony to begin, I started noticing a few of the sights. This being a national cemetery there are a lot of headstones. We were in the military section of the cemetery and the rows and rows of granite markers really made this event more somber for me.

The event was a very proper and military affair with the ceremony the flag presentations, the 21-gun salute, Taps and the piper. I felt like this was the most important place for me to be at that time. This crew will forever be together in a common grave with their brothers, a single marker bearing their names. Seven men, who all paid the ultimate price together. They left their families, but they did not leave them alone, the one thing that I have learned is that even though I have lost my son, I have gained entry into a special family who will never fail me as I do everything in my power to never fail them again.

RIP Red River 44
CPT Robert Vallejo
CWO Brady J. Rudolf
CWO 2 Corry Edwards
Sgt Major Julio Ordonez
Staff Sgt Luke Mason
SGT Daniel Eshbaugh
CPL Michael E. Thompson

You will never be forgotten..

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3 Responses to “Red River 44”

  1. Just stopped by to say I was thinking about you and hope you are doing well. Your posts are important…when you have the time and the urge, I hope you’ll keep writing.

    Paula

  2. Hey Fozz, Believe it or not, I was just googling RR44 and this was one of the links that came up. I hadn’t seen this before, even after more than a year. Although you needn’t feel bad about not being able to make our Michaels Services, I know how you feel as I couldn’t do Dan’s or Brady’s and I have never forgiven myself for that either. Rest assured that I certainly understand and I appreciated you being there for this Service. You know if there is ever anything dawn or myself could do, just holler at us. I was proud to meet you also Fozz. Sincerely…Kory

    • fozzynok said

      I’m glad you found the blog.. thought you always knew about it. Hope you and yours and the world have a better new year than the last

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