Stayin Alive on the 4th of July

I wrote the following post back in 2011 when my son, Rob, was deployed to Afghanistan.

Today, I am privileged to be working with Soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan. Their stories are chilling, young men who know the horrors of war and are trying to make sense of it all.

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, I hope that all of us remember our service members & their families.

The ones who are still deployed, still in danger, the ones who are struggling, and the many who are wounded warriors.

Think for a moment about the ones who did not return.  Think about their families and take a moment for gratitude.

Send those families some love.

July 4, 2011

I wonder what Rob & the other Marines will be doing on this day when we celebrate our nation’s independence and freedom. How many patrols will he be out on today? Will he be in a humvee or on foot?

Just exactly how hot will it be?  I think about these things as we go to the 100 degree mark here & my house is 87 degrees inside tonight even with A/C , I’m hot. I imagine he would smile if he heard me complain, especially since I don’t have to strap on 80 pounds of gear to begin the day and think of air conditioning as some distant luxury.

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The Women Behind the Scenes

                   What it Really Means to Wear the Uniform

I am the mother of 2 active duty Marines.  Each of my sons have strong, patient women waiting for them.  These women & I wait for them to return from war, from deployments, from dangerous and faraway places.  We have been waiting 7 months.  We have been waiting 3 weeks.

We are waiting women.  We wear the uniform, too.

I remember back in 2007, when General Peter Pace was serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, he said, “Thank you for your service.  You are serving in the military even though you don’t wear a uniform.”  He was speaking to a rather large audience of family members on an Army base in Hawaii.  All of them had a loved one deployed, mostly to Iraq.

At the time, I didn’t get what General Pace meant but I thought, hey, that’s a nice thing to say to the families.  My sons were new Marines and so we had not experienced a deployment.

Today I get it.  TOTALLY.   When I saw my daughter-in-law bravely send her husband off to war, just 6 months after getting married, I knew she would be wearing the unseen uniform.   That was their first goodbye.  My son has just returned from his second deployment in less than 2 years.  Since they have been married, they have spent more time apart than together with his 2 deployments to Afghanistan.

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Thoughts from a Warrior Mom

The phone rings. It’s 3:30am and as I pick up the receiver, I’m already thinking bad things. What goes on in a person’s mind when they think they’re going to hear really horrible news in the middle of the night?

“I cannot do this,” I thought. “It can’t be, no, wait, I’m not ready.”

And then I hear a recording, not a human voice: “Your credit card has been frozen, Press 1 if you want to unlock it.” I slam down the phone and feel relief mixed with confusion and then anger. The pulse in my ears is loud. I’m shocked to feel how fast my heart is beating.

My son is in a war zone.

He is a Marine. Marines go to dangerous places. They say that the worst time is just before they leave on deployment. The waiting and the anticipation is dreadful. You say goodbye and wonder. You try not to cry but you do.

Afghanistan:  Not for sissies or sissy families.

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I Felt the Earth Move

wedding kimono Surviving an Earthquake

Here is my story of life in Japan surrounding the time of the earthquake. I share this to give you an idea of what things were like. I am grateful to so many people in my life who care about me and have sent messages of concern and prayers and good thoughts. Thank you. My apologies for not responding to each one personally, but it has taken me all this time to gather my wits and make sense of my experiences. So here goes….

On March 9, I was lamenting not being able to celebrate my birthday the way I wanted …my job was intense that day. I was finishing up my rotation with the military in Japan with no hint that two days later I would experience one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.

As I huddled inside the door frame that Friday afternoon, March 11, I tried not to panic. Stationed just outside of Tokyo, I had just walked up the outside steps to the 2nd floor of a building on base. Immediately I was met by four women who were startled and shivering. “It’s an earthquake!” they shouted. I responded to myself with, “It’s OK, Jo, everything will be all right.” But I was trembling with fear.

It took a second and then I felt the scary, unnatural sensation of the building rocking and shaking. I HATE EARTHQUAKES. They frighten me. I always think the worst is going to happen.

I tried comforting myself by recalling that the building was reinforced, that Japan has strong earthquakes all the time, that this one couldn’t be that bad. As the building shook more violently, I thought, Oh no, I don’t like this, I want to get out of here, I don’t want this to happen. I fought the strong impulse to run outside. But where? I could see tall trees and buildings, light poles, telephone poles but no open spaces.

I felt confused and terrified and I didn’t exactly feel like waiting for the building to collapse down around me.

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