Friday, June 01, 2007

If you're reading this....

I shudder to think how many families have read letters that begin that way. "If you're reading this" is always, ALWAYS followed by some version of "I broke my promise- I won't be coming home to you, and I'm sorry." How hard it must be to write that letter; how hard it must be to read that letter.

But the thing is... how hard would it be to *NOT* have letters like that. If there were no "good bye" letters, there wouldn't be anyone in our country willing to defend us. There wouldn't be any hero's. There wouldn't be a United States. As hard as it must be to read that last letter, I just can't imagine what our country would be like without the men and women who wrote those letters.

Sometimes we get the chance to learn about them in unexpected ways.

Several years ago I contacted an old friend out of the blue. I don't even know why I emailed her, but I felt compelled to on that cold January morning. My casual "HEY! How ya doin?" was replied with "Actually, I'm not doing very well. Remember Alice? Well... her son was killed in Iraq yesterday."


Yes. I remember Alice. I used to work with her. She was going through a nasty divorce and was determined to get custody of her boys. She was awarded custody, and began raising them as a single parent. I remember the complaining- oh, Lordy.. that woman could COMPLAIN. EVERYTHING was a struggle. She was ALWAYS sick.

Then, suddenly, she really was sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was no longer able to care for herself, she moved in with my friend and handed over custody of her sons to their father. She died in 1999, never seeing her treasured children graduate from high school, grow up or join the military.
She never knew the pride and fear associated with sending a son to war.
She never knew what it's like to have the CNO knock on your door.
I never knew Jim had joined the Army... until he died, guarding a polling station in Ramadi in 2005.

And I'm ashamed to say that I forgot.

My friend Melissa and I went to a fundraiser for the Matt Maupin Scholarship Fund on April 9, the 3rd anniversary of Matt's disappearance. 40 local families were there, honoring the memory of their deceased soldiers. Their faces and names were shown on giant screens. It was then that I remembered Jim had died, when his strong, proud face popped up on the screen.

I remembered. I had forgotten. And I cried.

I won't forget again.


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