Soldier on…

i couldn’t sleep…on a night when i really needed to be sleeping. Thinking about a woman named Doris. A woman i’d never met. Somewhere out there, she was also not sleeping when she should be sleeping.

Making plans for a trip that she didn’t want to take. A trip to a hospital in California… to see her brain-dead son before the machines keeping his body alive were disconnected, one by one…

When The Boy joined the Army, i also joined an ancient club – Mothers of Soldiers*. Since humans organized to fight, we’ve shared that feeling of pride and terror in our militarized progeny. Proud that they are willing to fight and die, at the behest of chieftains who don’t know their name… for causes that they may not believe in… But simultaneously terrified at the thought of outliving a child… Staring directly at The Very Real Risk of Horrible, Painful, Bloody Death.

They train as they fight. Not quite as dangerous as Real War, but… shit happens. When he shipped out to field training earlier this year, i knew he’d be off-grid for about a month. i also know enough about his line of work that my blood pressure jumped a few points thinking about possibilities.

A few weeks after they were packed up, i was working a volunteer gig at a local festival. i got a call from an unrecognized number. Excusing myself from my booth-mate, i took the call…

Caller: Hi, this is Ashley, from mumble, mumble, grrrble, ramblefloxen…. Are you The Boy Fae’s next of kin?

daisyfae [wide the fuck awake]: Yes! What? What happened?!?!

Ashley: He’s fine! Oh, god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you…

daisyfae [not. fucking. breathing.]: Holy shit, child… Give me a second…

Ashley: I’m SO sorry! I’m with the family support network, and now that your soldier is without his phone, we are supposed to call everyone to check in. I guess I should have started with that…

daisyfae [air returning to lungs]: Yeah… So, i’m your first call? OK… what’s up?

It was just a courtesy call to give us a point of contact for non-emergency communications. The family support network has to train as well. Turns out, Ashley is a good friend of The Boy – married to one of his platoon-mates, and is a lovely young woman. Before hanging up, i schooled her with a suggestion on how to handle such calls more effectively…

daisyfae: Next call? How about you start with “I’m Ashley with the family support network at Ft. Courage, and your soldier is FINE!” Let that sink in for a few seconds before saying another word…

My heart rate and blood pressure eventually returned to something approximating normal, but as long as The Boy was training, i was edgy. Two weeks later, around the time they were to be packing up and heading back to Ft. Courage, i had a voicemail after returning from a bike ride.

VM: This is Faith, part of the family support network at Ft. Courage. Your soldier was not involved, but there was a serious incident in his platoon during training. If you’d like more information, call me back at…

Immediately returning the call, Faith read a prepared statement from the commanding officer. There had been a vehicle accident, and a platoon sergeant was critically wounded – he would not survive. We were asked to “Please keep his mother, Doris, and his children, in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time…”

No shit.

i still can’t get Doris and those kids out of my thoughts…

CPL Fae

The Boy will pin on his first Non-Commissioned Officer stripes soon. Corporal Fae. The bottom rung NCO, but i’m still incredibly proud… and still incredibly terrified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It could be “Parents of Soldiers”… not really any difference in the way a mother or a father feels about this…

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22 thoughts on “Soldier on…

  1. My oldest had been contemplating going into the military for several years, and although he hasn’t yet, I know it’s still an option he considers.
    I keep soon-to-be Corporal Fae in my thoughts daily for his continued safety and thank him immensely for his service.
    I can’t even fathom how you deal with it.

    Will put Doris and her family in my thoughts as well ….
    Sending much peace, love and light to all ❤

    • The Boy waited until he was 24 before enlisting… He was old enough to have given it a lot of thought, and was not confused about what the commitment meant. At 18, I’m not sure he’d have done quite so well with it. The military has grown up a lot of boys. It’s also killed a bunch. All I can suggest is steering him toward Navy, Air Force… or even Coast Guard… Still dangerous, but less likely to get up in the shit…

      Appreciate the love and light… i’ll keep tracking the family of the young man who died. Wondering if they need anything. The Boy will be home for Christmas. And then who knows where…

    • I think about my life – and how I fought for my independence from my parents at 18, and never really went back other than to visit. I try to keep that in mind when I get anxious about how far my baby birds have flown from the nest. THEIR lives are THEIRS, and I’m thrilled that I’m still part of it… but I miss them. No way around that…

      Never mind the fact that they both chose to push boundaries and live aggressively, which may increase risk. People ask me if I worry about my daughter being in Turkey. I simply say “she’s more likely to get shot in a movie theatre in the US than to come to harm in Turkey”… usually shuts them up…

  2. The call that no one ever wants to receive.
    I cannot conceive of any way that thoughts and prayers can make this dreadful time any less harrowing.
    My heart goes out (in a uselss but nonetheless caring way) to Doris and her family. And her boy’s family.
    And to yours.

    • I don’t think it’s useless… at least I hope it isn’t useless to keep those who are broken and grieving in our thoughts. I am always reminded that no matter how rough things may seem for me, that I’m pretty spoiled in the grand scheme of things…

      When The Boy deploys – god knows where he’ll go – i’ll likely be in a continual state of “Hot messiness”. As have wives, children, husbands, and parents have been through the ages… I don’t know why, but I find a molecule of comfort knowing that so many before me have known this angst… going back centuries….

  3. Having been brought up with a Dad in the Navy, I know the fear of wondering if or when they were coming home. Back in the day we weren’t told much at all, no support systems and Dad would be gone for months at a time, longest deployment was 13 months, hell of an eternity for a child. I now as an adult, work with war and peace Veteran’s families, walking them through the process of funerals and paperwork and in that way honouring my Dad, my hero, by giving back in this small way. I’ll be glad to retire in a few yrs, though. I’ve worked many jobs mostly admin type stuff and the public, but death every day for the past 18 yrs has taken its toll. When I’m done I’ll go knowing I made a difference to people at the very worst time of their lives and hoping someone steps up behind me to take it on. I don’t think I’d have the compassion and understanding without my childhood of wonder when Dad was coming back, or if.

    • You’ve turned a potential demon into an angel. It’s not often that someone can pull that off…One good day of what you do? More positive impact that I could possibly delivery in 10 years… It was hard enough working through processes for the funerals of my parents, and they lived into their 80’s. Burying the young? Cannot even get my head around it… Thank you, and those who work in your field, for making a huge difference… you have earned retirement, sister!

      • you have an impact right here, your stories encourage me to say stuff out loud to people who need to hear me. never sell yourself short on the imprint you leave on people of what you may think is minor thing =). your telling of your mum’s death helped me with mine, she died round the same time. so, thank you

        • This is so very sweet… i have a lot more i want need to write. Many things changing and evolving and morphing. The arc of the relationship with my extended family? i could NEVER have predicted how this would roll out… transitions everywhere… but i am absolutely slammed at work and my volunteer gigs are gaining traction, so i don’t want to let go. i keep thinking i should just close up this shop… You are very kind, and it means a lot to me that you’ve been reading for so long, and you keep coming back! ❤

  4. That third paragraph should be etched in marble and mounted in Arlington National Cemetery.

    All good wishes for a healthy and happy holiday to you, your sprog and the good sir Tell him I said hello from my kitchen in New Jersey. Another year, is it? And another. And another.

    • Same as it ever was… I remember an episode of M*A*S*H. Hawkeye on a rant about the rules of war. “Rule number 1 – young men die. Rule number 2 – doctors can’t change rule number 1”. It’s dumb, really, this business of war… but it crosses cultures, millennia… we keep doing it because of resources and religion, mostly. Fuck. I’m part of the machine… and that weighs on me every.fucking.day.

      Will pass along the wishes… from your kitchen to ours… the years keep scootering by… until they don’t.

      god. I’m just a fucking ray of sunshine today, eh?

  5. Why do young people still want to do this as a “career”? Its just futile, generation after generation being brought off with good salaries to fight pointless wars which never end.

    And if you ever dream about someone called Cliff — keep it to yourself will you 🙂

    • The Boy has noted some differences among his fellow enlistees… Those who are trying to get by? They choose supply, cooking, maintenance career fields. Those who chose infantry? Some ‘trust fund’ kids, thinking they will find glory and honor. Some? Guns-n-ammo types who just want to blow shit up. A few like him – older, have lived on their own a bit…

      Before enlisting, The Boy was reading a lot. I think it was Hemingway that triggered something… I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like “a man will always regret never having served his country” or some such thing. He just wanted to know… pretty sure it won’t be a career for him.

      By the way, I’ve tried several times to comment on your recent posts, but can’t seem to get past the filters! Will keep trying…

  6. A friend in England does a lot of work with one of the Forces Assistance agencies. And it looks as if her only child will be deployed to Afghanistan again, because a politician wants more boots on the ground.
    Every soldier has a mother…

    • i have pushed back from the phrase “boots on the ground”… tossed around by politicians without much thought. there are human beings in those boots. and human beings on the other side of all those bullets and bombs that come with the humans in the boots.

      Every soldier has a mother indeed… no matter which side of a war they happen to be fighting…

  7. My dad enlisted in the Coast Guard in WWII even though he was married and my older brother was on the way. He could have worked in a defense plant and sat out the war safely but he felt he had to do his part, so I understand where your son is coming from. My son-in-law is a police officer and there is always that fear in the back of my mind that I try to tamp down. I have to tell myself that he is a capable professional and well-trained, but still… What a great photo of your son. You are justifiably proud of him.

    • It’s gotten pretty gnarly in these parts to be a police officer. i can understand the terror that comes with that. Fear and pride… and ultimately the knowledge that we can do nothing to help them when they find themselves in danger. That helplessness…

      Talked with mine on the phone tonight. Another bit of fun… minor injury on a recreational ruck march led to a serious infection that nearly had him hospitalized. It was strep, not MRSA. We never get to stop worrying, do we?

      Your dad was a good man. That generation set the bar pretty damn high.

  8. I’m dropping my Sandy personage, because what I have to say is very personal to me. Thank God for The Boy and Mothers of The Boy. They do tasks that will make them old men as young boys. The mothers task is as hard or harder. They, the boys, are part of you – a part that is most loved. I can’t imagine the pain their loss inflicts on these brave women.

    What I can tell you is the what I’ve seen first hand. An open trench with hundreds of skulls in it. The chance uncovering of a mass grave … victims of WWII … a village destroyed as retaliation to a partisan raid. The Boy protects all of us from such a fate. Though many scoff at the current threat, one only has to remember that Hitler made made the same threats, which were disbelieved by most …. and 60 million people died.

    When I see a veteran, thank him and shake his hand if I can. He has seen Hell so we didn’t have to.

    PS Merry Christmas, DF — visit http://www.dlhavlin.wordpress.com for my Christmas Card for my Blogger friends.

    • i have lived and worked in a related environment for most of my life. The nature of my profession has given me insights i sometimes wish i did not have. The fear of the unknown can sometimes be worse, but when you know…. KNOW…. how these things play out. When you see the damage… to those who come back wounded, and the families of those who never return. Blissful ignorance might be easier… but i doubt it in this case.

      I truly appreciate a visit from the Geezer. Thank you. over the long weekend I should have some down time to get caught up on my blog reading and I will certainly stop by to catch up with you and your adorable pup! Merry Christmas, good sir! ❤

  9. I give the boy credit for doing what he’s doing but damn lady i wish he would’ve went to culinary school or something, the Masters of War will always be hungry for more conflict and cannon fodder, Bill Hicks once said that if we took all the military budgets around the world and put them to use feeding, clothing, educating, and housing every man, woman, and child on the planet there would be no war, i’d like to think Bill was right but i know that people will always find something to fight about, Orwell’s principle of “all animals are equal some are just more equal than others”, when i think of all the lives lost and the potential therein it saddens me… Celine, Hemingway, Vonnegut, all could have been cannon fodder, just imagine what the world could have and has lost, alright off my soap box, tell that boy to be careful and keep his shit wired tight cuz who knows what greatness awaits him…

    • He’s home for the week. I’m gonna make him read this… It would be nice if we could somehow re-wire the human body to cut that shit out, but we can’t. Territory. Resources. FUCKING RELIGION. There will always be things to fight about.

      As I drove him to the emergency room to get a few stitches in a cut on his arm – sliced himself while opening the box to assemble my Christmas present – I was reminded of how many times I’ve been in emergency rooms with this one. He’s always been a good kid, but living life aggressively will put some hurt on the body. If it isn’t the Army trying to kill him? It’ll be the world.

      Parental nightmares any way you go…

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