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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