The Great and Heavy Weight of the Poppy


This morning as I walked into my local Walmart a woman handed me a tiny red poppy on a little metal stem.

I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……

  I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.

But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.

 The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson,  Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.

The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.

It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.

It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.

It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.

 It stands for  a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.

 It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.

 It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.

 It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.

 It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife  who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.

 It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.

 It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.

  The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.

  It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.

 The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.

 The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.

 The poppy stands for those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.

It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.

  Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.

 And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.

 It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.

 The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.

 The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……

 The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.

 This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.

  So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.

 There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.

The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.

I am so very honored to wear it.

 If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.

On War

  I am not fully qualified to speak to the topic of war. I have never been to war, never held another persons life in my hands, never labored over a mortally wounded friend, never taken the life of my enemy, so I can understand how most folks might question my credentials on this subject and others might say "you know nothing at all of war". I would not argue with either.

 I speak tonight of my experiences and my experiences alone. In my opinion that should be sufficient to scare most folks, and if others who have been closer to the subject, or paid a higher price than I were to speak it should bring tears to any normal person's eyes.

 We hear the term "the cost of war" tossed around often. Most people when they use this term are referring to one of two things. They refer either to the cost in monetary terms, or the cost in human lives, and sometimes both. But there is a deeper cost to war, one which I hope to at least make you familiar with and perhaps cause you to pause and consider.

 Across the years it has been my honor to support many of the troops fighting in this war, and to become friends through social media with a plethora of different folks, all tied to the wars and to our troops. I count amongst those friends, to name a few types, Gold Star mothers and fathers, those who have lost a child in war, Gold Star wives, Gold Star children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. I count amongst them also mothers who have a child incarcerated in prison, and wives whose husbands are incarcerated. Standing along side those are the Wounded, and their families, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And last but by no means least are those who lost a loved one to tragedy, be it suicide, drug overdoes, and or alcohol related deaths, among that circle I also know, wives, and mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. All of these people are part of the cost of war.

 Along side the fallen, the wounded, the lost ones are several more persons. The ruined marriages, relationships that just could not stand the test of multiple deployments. There are the hurt and shattered lives that are a result of these ruined marriages. Also there are the many children trying to do well in school while a parent stands in harms way, and beside them, the single parent, trying to hold it all together while their mate is deployed and at war.

 And there are the regular people, those waiting on someone they love, those trying to live a normal life and take care of normal business all the while worrying and praying for a loved one in harms way. In light of previous examples this seems rather easy, but even this takes a toil.

 All these things are part of the cost of war. The price we have paid, the price we are paying, and the price we will pay.

 I can speak personally regarding the toil taken upon a person when a child is deployed in harms way. I sent a son to war twice. Neither time was easy. While the child is deployed you become attached to your phone, it never leaves your side, you obsess over charging it and always ensuring it is ready, should you receive a call. You answer it no matter where you are, or what you are doing. You grab it and say HELLO in the middle of a church service, while headed for the door, you leave the shower covered in soap and shampoo in order to grab the ringing phone. You take it to the toilet with you. You run out of important meetings at work, meetings that you are order to answer that phone.

 You breathe a little when it's your kid on the other side, hearing his voice brings such relief. You want to cry, you want to grill him over things, to know if he is really okay, but you swallow all that, and try and stay calm and you just listen and support him. Your heart breaks into pieces when he informs you that he lost a brother, or that someone was wounded, but you stay strong for him, because you do not want to make this any harder for him. You want to keep him on that phone forever...but time is short and he is always so very tired.

 If you are like me, you stay as informed as you can on how things are going over there. On the days when you see that someone died the night before, there was a bombing, or there was a firefight that made the news, its in the area where he is...your heart stops, you fight against the fear, the fear that wants to paralyze you. You pray, sometimes on your face on the floor....but how does one pray in such a time? You pray Lord please keep him safe! Knowing that even as you say those words...someone is not safe...someone is dead. Is it your son or anothers?

 A day or so later the name is released, you breathe a sigh of relief, your heart rejoices, no one knocked on your door, no one called you, he is okay! And then the shattering takes place as you realize that somewhere, someplace, there is someone just like you, someone who prayed, someone who was so afraid........and someone knocked on her door.

 The entire deployment goes round and round, you replay these scenes over and over again. One day you receive a call.......he has been is like a punch in the stomach, your legs shake and will not support your weight, the time between that first sentence and the next which describes his forever. For me, I was one of the lucky ones, the wounds were a concussion and a jacked up back and hip, nothing major and my son was back in action within a week or so of the call.....but a lot of folks do not get a call like that....they get the call of lost limbs, of a loved one hanging to life by a thread. Oh Lord I know not how they endured these things for I never want to get any closer to that than I did.

 I have followed the accounts of friends who rushed to their son's sides. Who gave up everything to sit by their bed, to wrestle with Doctors and Nurses and to fight for them while they were unable to. I have followed their sons  as they climb from the very edge of death to recovery, and followed others who climbed and then died for no good reason. Followed others who fought with every bit of their will only to succumb to their wounds.

 I have followed parents, shared prayers with them, prayed for their sons, and those sons fell. I have followed these parents as they walk this life without their child.

 I know mothers who found their children dead, dead by their own hand, haunted by the demons of PTSD. Can you imagine anything more horrible? I have known about PTSD for some time and have always supported those who battle it, but in truth, in retrospect, I find that all that I thought that I knew about it was really only the tip of the iceberg.

 Our family has moved on from war, and from the military, we now join the ranks of the veterans and the veteran families. We battle the VA now, we battle PTSD and TBI and do our best to rescue our loved ones from the darkness that ever threatens to consume them. I thought I had seen the worst of things, experienced the worst of things, I thought there was nothing worse than sitting here, protected, surrounded by all the luxuries this American life has to offer, while my beloved child fought in a far away I am not so sure.

 Now that I have come face to face with PTSD and all it's demons, I realize that I am in the battle of my life right now, a battle that I have personally seen good people, people who loved with all their hearts and souls, people who prayed, people who did all that they could humanly do.....lose. They buried their loved one. It is a frightening truth that I struggle with each and every day.

 I will end this short introduction into the cost of war with good news. The fight is winnable. Never give up on them, keep pushing forward, keep loving them, keep praying for them, keep doing all that you can to get them into the various programs out there that can assist them in the fight. We can win this fight. And should, God forbid, we be one of those who fail, let it be said that we gave it everything we had, that we put every ounce of our being into the fight.

 To all of you who have paid your part of the cost of war, be you the warrior who went, the loved one who waited, be you one who lost someone special, or walked with them through the Wounded Warrior journey, be you one who suffers from PTSD or TBI, or someone fighting along side...whatever part of the price you have paid, we thank you, and we pray for you each and every day. You are a special bunch of people, more resilient than most will ever know, and you, more than anyone else, make me proud. May God ever bless and keep you.

 To all of you who have not had to pay, I ask you to think upon the things I have written and to do all that you can to assist this wonderful group of people who have paid their share and yours also. Stand along side of them. Try to understand them. We need you in this fight, we need you to care, we need you to help. We have a generation who has fought for over ten years, and all those connected to them, they all bear scars, they all have wounds. Stand with us, and may God ever keep you from the sorrows felt in paying the cost of war.

 Last but not least, I pray, with all my heart and soul, that our nation will learn, and understand the true price being paid for the wars we are fighting. I pray that our elected officials and our citizens will consider the cost carefully before sending our sons and daughters to war. There are things worth fighting for, there are things worth dieing for, there are situations where the cost, in lives, in wounds, in shattered hearts and souls is worth paying. Should our nation be in danger, should there be risk of our citizens here being harmed or killed, or our freedoms be at risk, then fight we must, but I hope and I pray we will always weigh the choice carefully. The cost is so very much higher than most people ever know.




Heartbreaking Suicide Note From 30-Year-Old Iraq Veteran to His Family: ‘I Am Free’

I am glad to see that The Blaze has picked this story up....hopefully other news networks will follow. Daniel took his life on June 10th, the same day that my niece's husband Allen took his. This is happening far too often. Our active duty troops and our veterans are not getting the help they need, the help they earned, the help they deserve, but are instead being discarded, and most Americans do not even know that we have a near epidemic of military suicides going on.
Daniel Somers served his time in hell, right here on earth, he did so on our behalf, and since his family has saw fit to release his last is good and right that everyone take a moment and read them. A man's last words ought to be heard. It is too late for Daniel, it is too late for Allen, it is too late for Trevor and for the countless others who take their own lives...but if we listen, if we pay attention, perhaps we it will not be too late for someone.

These are his words:

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried

I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Daniel Somers

Rest in peace Daniel in peace Allen Young.....

Daniel Somers

Charles Allen Young

The Roller Coaster "Deployment" FOLLOW ME!

More Musings from the Demented Mind of an Infantry Mother

Definition of Demented: Driven to behave irrationally due to anger, distress, or excitement.


 Our roller coaster ride leaves the platform this week. For months we have had this in the back of our minds, and for weeks now the fear has built up, the roller coaster we will be riding is enormous, with many loops, hair pin turns and it seems in our eyes to be higher than any roller coaster ever built.  The workman building this enormous ride of fear seem hell-bent to make it bigger, and faster, as each passing week when we gaze upon it, it reaches a little higher into the sky, and the drops are more severe than they appeared last week. It is certainly higher, faster and more frightening than the last one we experienced. Will our family survive this beast intact? Do they really expect us to ride this thing for nine months!

  I would like to refuse to get on it, to run away from it, please surely there is a smaller one we can take? Perhaps one with only one loop, perhaps one that does not jerk you around so much? But no, this one is ours, we are committed, and we simply have to get on board and strap in.

 The roller coaster I refer to is deployment. The time has come; our first-born son is leaving for combat operations in the country of Afghanistan. We know a little bit about what to expect. We anticipate the sleepless nights, the ball of fear that always rests in the pits of our stomach. The fear of strange cars parked on our street. The crazy obsession with keeping everything up on our phones at all times, Facebook, Skype, Messenger, Email and of course the phone itself. The sheer panic when you look down and realize your battery is almost dead and you left your charger at home! The crazy shopping trips where our cart is filled with baby wipes, deodorant, beef jerky, cans of chewing tobacco and a multitude of snacks.

 And of course those truly horrible feelings, when you hear news that someone was injured, someone has fallen. Is it he? Oh Dear God may it not be him? And then the names are released, or you hear from your soldier, and you rejoice, praise be to God he is okay…and then you think of the family of the one who did fall, the one who was injured…and your heart breaks into pieces…how can I rejoice…how could I have felt such joy knowing that someone like me, a family much like us, now has to endure the thing we all fear most, the death or injury of our soldier.

 What we do not know is how recent events that have unfolded in Afghanistan will affect our son and the men standing with him. It seems certain that these events will not make their job easier, and that it will place them in greater danger. And it is for sure certain that recent events have caused our fears to rise to an almost unmanageable level. We do not know how to deal with news that our soldier has been injured, and we do not know how to endure hearing the news that our soldier has fallen. We pray like all families of the deployed, that we will never have to learn what this is like.

 We are very afraid, our younger son is very afraid, we wish with all our hearts that this cup would pass from us, but even amidst the fear ,we embrace this deployment. This is what our first-born son does, he is a good soldier, and he loves his work, as he loves the men who serve with him. He extended his contract to accept this deployment, and we his family are very proud of the man that he has become. So we will stand with him these next nine months. We will help carry his burdens and the burdens of his brothers. We will lift them up in prayer throughout each day. We will arise when we are awakened in the middle of the night, and we will pray. We will remind our coworkers, our fellow church members, our neighbors and our friends of the reality of the war, and encourage them to support those serving in it. We like our son will hold the motto “Follow Me” close to our hearts and encourage everyone to follow us, follow us and know these brave men and woman who serve in our nations armed forces, know these brave men who serve as our combat troops, send them packages, pray for them always, and we will never allow the people around us to forget for we are Infantry family and we are strong and faithful.

 I am the Infantry family

I am my soldier’s strength in war,

His home in peace.

I am the heart of my soldier

wherever, whenever.

I carry his burdens in faith and honor

 And hold him up to God.

I am a Prayer Warrior.

I am what my soldier expects me to be,

A source of strength for him

in his race for victory.

I have strong faith in my soldier

I am determined to always be his rock.

I am courageous; never will he see my fear

Never will I fail my soldier’s trust.

Always will I labor on

Through the fear, to the objective, to bring him safely home.

I yield not to weakness, to fear, to anxiety, to fatigue,

For I am mentally tough, spiritually strong, and morally straight.

I forsake not my soldier, his mission, his comrades, his sacred duty.

I am relentless

I am always there for him and his brothers

now and forever

I am the Infantry family

Follow me!

 Let the ride commence! We are ready! We will endure!

 God bless our troops, God bless our Infantry, God bless our military families. God bless and keep all those who are currently on the ride, praise God for all those who have returned from the ride, and strength and courage to all those preparing to strap in.

The Lord be with you my son, go forth, knowing that there will not be one day, not one waking moment, that you are not being brought before the throne of God. We love you son....Godspeed!


 Update: November 2, 2013

 Our beloved son came home. He was wounded in an IED blast while serving this tour, he received a concussion, was in the hospital only a matter of days and was back out on patrol.
 He lost friends, and friends lost limbs. It was a hard deployment. He came home and we are so very grateful for that. He was diagnosed with severe PTSD and mild TBI just shortly after his return. He is now out of the Army and trying to put his life back together. We are proud of him, more than he will ever know.

In Sweeps the Darkness and Fear (More musings from an Infantry Mom)

 Another deployment is looming over our heads, I have been pushing it to the back of my thoughts for months now, and yet I simply cannot ignore it anymore. What was once a shadow of things to come has become large and black and terrifying and simply cannot be ignored, it will no longer fit into the bag I carry, where I stuff the things that bring me fear.... so I must confront it.

  I thought I was ready for this one, after all, we have done this before, and it should get easier each time right? I was wrong; I am far less ready than I was for the first one. I have a very bad feeling about this one. Is that a premonition or is it simply my fears playing games with me? I truly do not know.

  I pray and pray, and yet cannot find peace with this feeling. Over and over in my mind plays a phrase right out of the King James Bible...."gird up your loins"... What does this mean? God, are You trying to tell me something? Trying to prepare me for something? I do not want to listen if You are; I want to shut out that voice. Why is that phrase in my head? Is it something stuck there from some old sermon I listened to? I continue to ponder. .

  If the voice is You Lord, should I not feel some peace? Or is my lack of peace my failure to listen an acknowledge Your warning?  Is it even possible to have peace with such a thing bouncing around in your head? If it is You, are you telling me to prepare for something bad, or just to be ready for the deployment?

 I am not a weak woman, not prone to tears. All my life I have pushed forward, through the good and the bad, but this I believe thus far is the most difficult time of my life. I am helpless, unable to stop the events of the world as they play out, unable to go in place of my son, unable to protect him, I am truly at my most helpless, for I must rely upon my God, my faith in Him, and upon the training my son has received, and upon his brothers who walk with him. Perhaps that is my problem, I have always faced my fears by action, sure I pray for guidance, for peace, for intervention...but I go and act.... and there is no action for this one other than to fall to my knees and pray.

  I dread this deployment; dread it to the very depths of my soul. Dread the waiting, dread that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know that one has fallen, is it mine? Oh God let it not be mine, Oh God let him be okay, and then you hear the news, you see the name, it is not yours.... oh such relief, such joy...but only for a moment. Then comes guilt and sorrow, how can I rejoice for the life of mine, when somewhere a woman, just like me, falls to the floor in agony and grief. Oh God I hate that feeling.

 All these emotions take place inside, in private, I have not found many who understand who have not walked it, it is pointless to speak of it, pointless to try and describe it, it truly seems that unless you have been there, people, no matter how close they are to you simply cannot understand.

 Everyone that knows anything at all about the military, knows that our Infantry troops have a difficult job, they patrol paths laden with bombs, they fight it out with our enemies, they kick in doors, they live and work in tough conditions, blazing hot temperatures, laden with clothing and equipment, or freezing cold temperatures, where they are damp and cold. They sleep in holes. They eat a lot of MRE's. Miles and miles of running and fighting, laden with gear, running through fields where any step might be your last. They are tough, and we are very proud of them, their strength, their courage, their dedication to each other and to their mission, their tenacity, their will.....and yet consider for a moment the role of the Infantry wife, the Infantry mother, the Infantry child..we must go about our daily business, keep the faith, go to work, to school, to church and do all this knowing that our sons, our husbands, our fathers are right now at the moment we are working, or learning, or that harm's way, perhaps walking through a field laden with IED's, perhaps under fire from the Taliban.

 One thing is certain, as we draw closer to the dreaded day, one thing is clear, one thing is unshaken, one thing I can draw upon for strength...God is in control...He reigns...He loves this child of mine far more than I...He holds all things in the palm of His hand...He lives...and because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, I can face this deployment, with grace, with strength, with hope and with peace.

 When my son leaves, he will once again wear about his neck a silver necklace, it shows the footprints of the Lord in the sand, and about it's edges it says "Lord be with me in my time of need" upon the back is engraved:

 Psalm 144:1,

Godspeed son

All our love and prayers

Mom and Dad


Psalm 144



 1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock,

   who trains my hands for war,

   and my fingers for battle;

2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,

   my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge,

   who subdues peoples  under me.


 3 O LORD, what is man that you regard him,

   or the son of man that you think of him?

4 Man is like a breath;

   his days are like a passing shadow.


 5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!

   Touch the mountains so that they smoke!

6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;

   send out your arrows and rout them!

7 Stretch out your hand from on high;

   rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,

   from the hand of foreigners,

8 whose mouths speak lies

   and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.


 9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;

   upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

10 who gives victory to kings,

   who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.

11 Rescue me and deliver me

   from the hand of foreigners,

whose mouths speak lies

   and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.


 12 May our sons in their youth

   be like plants full grown,

our daughters like corner pillars

   cut for the structure of a palace;

13 may our granaries be full,

   providing all kinds of produce;

may our sheep bring forth thousands

   and ten thousands in our fields;

14 may our cattle be heavy with young,

   suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;

may there be no cry of distress in our streets!

15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!

   Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!



Godspeed my son and Godspeed to all those who stand with you. God bless our Infantry, both Army and Marines, God keep them, God grant them all strength and courage. God bring them home safe.


God bless all our troops.

 Update: 2013 It was indeed a rough deployment. Lives were lost, limbs were lost, innocence and peace of mind were lost. Our son was wounded, and we received a phone call that dropped me to my knees. The silver necklace described in the above post now rests about the neck of our deceased daughter in law, who took her own life in March of 2013. I see her as a victim of these wars, the horrors of deployment took a heavy toil upon her. My son suffers from severe PTSD, and almost a year after this deployment ended he has still not returned all the way home.

My Guys (The Musings of an Army Infantry Mom)

A conversation with my Army son last night brought forth so many memories. I remember the little boy who was obsessed with all things military from the time he was about 5 years old.

 He and I were leaving a grocery store one day, and he noticed a martial arts school had opened in that plaza, and began to beg me to go over and “sign him up”, laughing I asked did he want to be like the Power Rangers….and he looked at me, disappointed…and said “no mom, when I grow up I am going to be a soldier, and I will need to know how to defend myself”….needless to say we signed him up and he spent most of his young years enrolled in some martial arts program or another.

At nine, he found out from the neighbor kid about a Naval program for kids, and asked me to look and see if there was anything like that for the Marines or the Army…..and we ended up in the Young Marines.

 Halloween was easy for us, for every year he was some sort of military persona, a Marine, a Soldier, a SEAL. I was looking through photos and could only find one, in all his childhood where he was something other than military…….a SWAT team member…

Back to the conversation last night, and the memory it invoked in me.

You see, while growing up his most favorite toys and prized possessions were "his guys" a large collection of GI Joes, he knew each one by name; he carefully protected them, maintained their weapons and vehicles and played with them almost always over all other toys.

I recall many occasions where he would frantically enlist the assistance of his father or myself in a frantic search for a lost guy. He knew exactly which one was missing, and could describe him in detail, and would not rest until the missing guy was back with all the others.

 We bought him other toys, power rangers, spider man, ninja turtles, but all would be left in various places about the house, in disarray, or at the very least used as a special "enemy" for his guys to take out.

 Hours spent putting together various Lego sets only to enter the room to find he had disassembled it, and reassembled it as some sort of bunker or fortification, for his guys.

 Last night in conversation with him, now 23 years old and a man, I asked him why? Why another round with the Army, why this need and desire to go back again into harm's way....why can you not just stay home now, you have done your part? Why son?...........and he guys mom.....I cannot let them go without me.......I cannot stay while they go fight.....I cannot get out of the guys mom......and the memories came flooding in.

 Years ago his most precious possession was his guys, made of plastic, so many battles were fought with them, each one who fell to hard use, or a dog's teeth, were wept over.... and yet today he has something so much more precious to him, his brothers, flesh and blood, each one known by name and personality, some closer than a brother, some not gotten along with as well as the others, some irritating,but all loved,  all precious.... all brothers...his guys.

  So soon, I will watch him leave again, into harm's way. My mother's heart once again afraid for him, my days spent in prayer for him....and for all his precious guys.

 Funny how such things turn out……


Update: He brought his guys home...some have wounds..but they all come home.

The Last Six Seconds (April 22, 2008)

On Nov 13, 2010, Lt General John Kelly, USMC, gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis , MO. This was four days after his son, Lt Robert Kelly, USMC, was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour. During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of our young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us. During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed the speech with the moving account of the last six seconds in the lives of two young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother Marines. "I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are, about the quality of the steel in their backs, about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans.

  Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 "The Walking Dead," and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.

  Yale was  from Virginia, Haerter was from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America 's exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman. The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like, "Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?" I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like, "Yes Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding ‘sweetheart’, we know what we're doing." They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.

  A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way - perhaps 60-70 yards in length, and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck's engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn't have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

  When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event - just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I'd have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

  I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, "We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing." The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, "They'd run like any normal man would to save his life." "What he didn't know until then," he said, "And what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal." Choking past the emotion he said, "Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did." "No sane man." "They saved us all."

  What we didn't know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated. You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before, "Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass." The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were - some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live. For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines' weapons firing non-stop, the truck's windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the ( I deleted) who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers - American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.

  If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live. The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight - for you.

  We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth - freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious - our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines - to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America , this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

 God Bless America , and SEMPER FIDELIS !" IT WOULD BE NICE (GREAT!) TO SEE the message spread if more would pass it on. Semper Fi, God Bless America and God Bless the United States Marine Corps. ... Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever.

 The above was taken from the wall of Marines of Helmand and Al anbar, and is a from a speech given by Lt General John Kelly. I removed a couple of phrases regarding the race and status of the young men, as family members had objected to these comments on another wall. The purpose of this note is to honor these two young men, the best of us all.


 Jordan's website :

Jonathan's memorial group:



Sgt William Vile, Specialist Ryan King, and Sgt James Pirtle (Fallen Heroes who gave their all May 1st, 2009)

Today we remember three of our fallen, all of which laid down their lives in service to the United States Soldiers Creed, despite receiving no support from the Afghan troops also charged with the duty of defending Bari Alai Outpost.


I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.


  In the early hours of May 1st, 2009, at a small remote base in Afghanistan called Observation Post Bari Alai, three American soldiers laid down their lives in a fierce firefight, the details of which are not all clear, as they were the only Americans stationed at this outpost, they served along side Afghan troops.

 It is suspected, by American troops serving elsewhere in that area, that the Afghan troops may have assisted the Taliban by laying down their weapons and might even have actively assisted the enemy in their plans to overrun the outpost.

 On that day, three men Sgt William Vile, Specialist Ryan King, and Sgt James Pirtle fought to the last breath, as more than 100 Taliban fighters launched an all out coordinated uphill attack on Bari Alai.

 While Taliban forces pinned down coalition troops with machine gun fire, their comrades scaled the mountain and advanced on the post. Coalition troops killed 19 Taliban fighters.

 United States Army Sgt William D. Vile, who was 27 years old, was wounded; he continued to return fire, calling in for reinforcements and artillery support. He at last succumbed to an explosion and died. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.

 The blast from the explosion that took the life of Sgt William Vile breached the perimeter of the post, and the Taliban poured inside. Sgt James D Pirtle, 21 and Specialist Ryan C. King were killed defending the base. They were both awarded the Bronze Star for their actions that day.

 After overrunning the base, and killing its three American defenders the Taliban “captured” 11 Afghan soldiers and 1 Afghan interpreter.

 These  “prisoners” were released just hours after the United States embarked on a mission to recover them. They were released in good condition, “too good actually” according to Marine Lt Col Ted Adams.

 The 12 Afghans were questioned for six days before being returned to duty. US officials have declined to comment on their conduct.

 Read more about these brave men who gave their all, who fought to the very last breath on this day, May 1st, 2009:

 The news report regarding the attack:

 Army Staff Sergeant William D. Vile :

 “Then during his first tour in Afghanistan, he was watching as a helicopter landed with troops. As soon as it landed, the surrounding hills “lit up with enemy fire,” he told her.

He ran to get his flak vest out of his tent and took a bullet in the arm. He pretty much fought off the medics trying to attend to him.

“I need something to stop the bleeding,” he told them. “I have work to do here.””

 Army Specialist Ryan C/ King:

 “At a memorial, Spc. Gregory Landgraf read stories of King publishing a newspaper lampooning the soldiers in his unit and a time when King tied his arm behind his back and took on a sergeant during a combative match.”

 Army Sergeant James D. Pirtle:

 ““He just wanted to be part of something bigger than himself,” said Andrew Thurn, one of his best friends. “He was OK dying if he was serving his country".