SHAKEN AWAKE


This morning as day six unfolded of hearing nothing from my son, I had a moment.  A few moments actually, that didn’t serve me.  Bad news coming across the newswires actually prompted me to look out of the window of my 3rd story walk up to see if there was a government car waiting outside.  Projecting myself into that scenario didn’t serve me.  What happened next was a phone call from my girlfriend, a mindfulness guru and then an e-mail, lovingly shared with me by another girlfriend to shake me awake and into the present moment.  The present moment, this is where I have the ability to regain some sense of control over my circumstances as a military mom.

She has given me permission to share this e-mail that her sweet, sweet mother sends each year to her children and grandchildren.

Sixty seven years ago today your dad/grandpa was the ripe old age of 19.  He was on a minelayer, destroyer at Iwo Jima in the south Pacific, with a crew of 300 men.  U.S.S. Lindsey. They were hit by 3 Kamikaze planes. They had been threatened by them many times but either shot them down or they missed.  Just as simple as that.  I remember him telling that one of the pilots survived and a young young Japanese man just like Len and scared to death.  They held him prisoner on the ship and not sure what ever happened.

 Len  was very lucky to be a survivor as one/third of the crew was lost or badly injured, and half the ship was destroyed. A son of one of the men who died that day keeps in touch with me.  From Abilene, KS. 

I know I have told this story before over and over, but just can’t help but think about it each year.

 Len would fly the flag at half mast for his shipmates and always stood at the bottom of the flag pole and looked up for a while. He was always sad that day.  At that tender age of 19, it was something he could not imagine. He had been in the navy two years by then.  At 17 he ran away from home and would not come back until his mother signed the papers for him to join the Navy.  She finally did and he left school to go.

WWII was a very patriotic war. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, had been attack by the Japanese.  The young men and women wanted to serve their country in any way they could and many lost their lives because of it.

 He came home, finished his senior year in high school, and went to Morningside College in Sioux City, Ia. and graduated in three years with majors in Business and Religion.  It cost him $3.27 as he went under the G.I. Bill.  The government treated the soldiers of that era very well. All his close buddies from Sioux City got their degrees also and continued to be very close. One of them, it is his wife’s recipe for “Iowa Taverns”. So there.  🙂 

 O.K.  Enough sentimentalizing.  I love you all, just as he loved you all.  So so much.

 Mom/Grama

Shaken back into the present moment by an e-mail that reminded me that I’m not alone in my journey, even though it feels that way some times.  My mother’s brothers all served their country during wartime.    And they lied about their age in order to do it. Jack, Carl, and Kenny Fletcher served proudly in Korea and Vietnam.  They sent their paychecks home so that my mother could be a cheerleader and have pretty dresses for dances.  Families were different then.  Children as young as 17 years old were enlisting in order to help support their parents during a rough economy.   My uncle Jack was a POW.  He was our family’s John Wayne. He owned a ranch in Cheyenne Wyoming.  He died at age 50 from chemical exposure during Vietnam that damaged his heart and lungs.  My grandmother cried like a baby at his funeral.  She was 80.

Somebody else’s children are deploying over and over and over again.  Somebody else was visited by a government vehicle today.  May they find peace in knowing that most Americans appreciate their sacrifice.  Thank you for your service Len Corkhill.  May you rest in peace. You raised a really great kid.

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4 Pairs of socks


My son and I have a special language we share around the issue of deployment.

It involves his sock drawer.

When I know we are getting close to the time, I ask him, “how many pairs of clean socks do you have today?”

I knew we were getting close before I even asked the question this day.

“Around 4 pairs mom”.  I know that I’m not allowed an accurate count, but it gives me a “range”.

He’s barely been back in the states and already he is returning to a place that doesn’t want him there.

Since he returned, there have been unspeakable losses on both “sides”.

Barely home 12 hours, he learned of the tragic loss of a friend and several other peers.  An “accident”.

The news had little to report regarding the deaths of other mother’s children that day.

Because I understand the importance of his military family, and honor my place as 2nd to that family, I felt that he was sucker punched twice that evening.  The first time for the loss itself, the 2nd punch because he was here visiting me as an obligation prior to returning.  Here to comfort “me”, take care of  my needs, rather than being near friends who could properly  share his grief.

We drank a lot of coffee the morning after.  We communicated the loss and the grief in our silence with each other.

I asked him “will this make a difference when you are looking to re-enlist next year?”

He replied that it would, but stated it could go “either way”.

Barely one week later and back in the arms of his military family he got the news that a mentor of his had been killed.  Taken from his mother, his wife and his children and taken from two communities who loved and respected him.

Each week I read the names of the dead.  I read where they were from, and take a moment to just “sit” with the loss of someone else’s child, and then I release it with a special prayer for her/his mother and father.

Until now most military mental health research has focused on the effects of deployment on the soldier. Finally attention is being given to the deleterious effects of deployment on those left behind, spouses and children.  Progress.

But there are mothers, fathers, grandparents, adult sisters and brothers aren’t included in the research.  Where is our support going to come from?

By the time that I post this entry, we’ll be down to fewer or no socks.  The cycle will begin again.

Trader Joes for tuna curry, bed bath and beyond for his favorite coffee pods, a note of encouragement that makes me sound so much stronger than I am.  Ending with standing in line at the post office where I will hand the package over to the person across the counter and state:  “I am the proud mother of a member of the United States military, please handle this with care”.

Healing prayers this week for the family of  the fallen.