Category - Patriotism

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A Day to Remember
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Veteran’s Day
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Still Appropriate Today
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We Remember…
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Anticipation
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Soldiering On
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Ow
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The Final Hours
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Reinventing Ourselves
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Veteran’s Day

A Day to Remember

Labor Day weekend 2001 was a beautiful, late summer day.  For Washington, DC it was especially nice because it was not too hot or humid.  Our little military community had a neighborhood block party.  It was bring your own meat and a dish to share.  Boo was almost 3 years old and Pumpkin Girl was 8 months old.  It was a good day.

I would later remember it as the last normal weekend.

We actually didn’t live on a base, but in a residential gated community that had been leased by the Navy and Air Force.  We weren’t far from Andrews Air Force base and most of our neighbors were stationed at Bethesda Naval hospital or at the Pentagon.

Phil was stationed at the Pentagon, too.  His office was in the section being renovated that was behind schedule.  When he started his job there a month earlier they were supposed to move in to their new offices in September.  For the time being, they were in a building not far from the Pentagon.  He grumbled good-naturedly about construction delays.

I remember watching a Jackson and Perkins show on QVC that morning, shopping for fall bulbs for our yard.  While transitioning from one product to another, the host said that they just wanted to acknowledge the events going on in New York and that their thoughts and prayers went out to those who’d been hurt.  I hadn’t heard anything yet so I clicked over to the Today Show.

As I watched I don’t think the enormity of it all really sunk it.  It was sort of surreal.  As they switched over to the White House being evacuated, the phone rang.  It was Philip calling to tell me that he was ok.

“Of course you are!  You’re not in New York, ” I said.

“Yeah, but the Pentagon just got hit,” he informed me.

“What? They’re not saying anything about that on the news.  They’re evacuating the White House, though.”

“No, a co-worker saw a plane crash into the Pentagon.”

And that’s when it was picked up by the news.

I remember that it had been a really beautiful day then, too.  The neighborhood was quiet, even as the children returned home early from school.  I kept the news on and went about with my day with my children as usual.  We had lunch, I put them down for their naps.  As I was coming back down the stairs, Philip entered the door.  He had walked from his office, down the empty highway, past the burning Pentagon to the nearest still-open Metro.

We spent the rest of the day watching the news.

Late that afternoon I took a discreet walk around the neighborhood.  We all assigned parking spaces, numbered with our address and I wanted to see who was home and who was not.  By late afternoon, everyone’s car was accounted for.  It looked like everyone on our block was ok.

By the time it got dark they were predicting 800 dead at the Pentagon.  In the end though, that number was much smaller because the plane hit the empty offices that were still being renovated.

Philip’s office.

I remember that the next night a manila envelope was passed around the neighborhood.  One husband and father was unaccounted for in the block behind ours.  Joe Pycior, homeschooling dad, Cub Scout leader, Legos enthusiast never came home.  He was one of the victims.

I remember the days that followed.  The silence as commercial flights remained grounded.  The sound of the fighter planes which circled Fed-Ex Field as the NFL season finally got started.  The candle-light vigil we held for the Pycior family.

I remember going to Threatcon Delta, as we called it back then. We thought Threatcon Charlie was a big deal during the Persian Gulf War.  Back then we thought we’d never go to Delta.  Delta means we have been attacked.  No, we’d never go to Delta.  We were at Delta.

I remember thinking that we’d never be the same.

Veteran’s Day

Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains that victory.
– George S. Patton

Have you hugged a veteran today?

Still Appropriate Today

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
-Thomas Paine

We Remember…

On this Memorial Day, I am re-posting this piece I wrote about Colonel Brian Allgood, who was killed in Iraq. It was originally posted January 25, 2007.

riderless-horse.jpgWe have been blessedly untouched by the fatalities from the war in Iraq. Yesterday, we found out that someone we knew had been killed in the Blackhawk crash on January 20th. He wasn’t really a friend, not even an acquaintance. Not a co-worker or a neighbor. He was the commander of the hospital in Yongsan, South Korea when our Rebecca died.

While the rest of the hospital gave us the run around, passed the buck and otherwise treated us quite poorly, COL Brian Allgood did the opposite. He invited us to sit down and talk with him personally about all that had happened. He made sure we were kept informed throughout the investigation. He told us to call him if we needed anything. In many ways, he was just doing his job, but in those darkest weeks of our lives, he showed us a compassion that was lacking in the lower levels of the hospital administration. A few months later, when a good friend’s daughter needed emergency surgery and blood transfusions to save her life, COL Allgood was again the voice of calm and comfort. He went out of his way to make sure that things were handled correctly.

Our remaining time in Korea without Becca was a series of struggles with the hospital. We did have to call COL Allgood for help and he immediately fixed the situation. I cannot begin to tell you what that meant to us.  This is not the time to drag up painful memories of broken system.  It is a time to remember the good that one man did and to honor his memory.  Sadly, I don’t know much about him, other that he leaves a wife and a young son. If we had ever seen him again, I knew I wanted to thank him for all that he had done for us in Korea.  I’m sorry I will never have that chance.

Anticipation

Originally written on March 1, 2008

Philip is on his way home, or at least I think so. Last I heard, he was going to board a C-17 in the wee hours of March 1 and then a commercial airline for the rest of the trip home. He’s been calling almost every day, so I assume that since I have not heard from him, that he’s en route. I guess I’ll know when he either calls from the airport or shows up at our front door.

I’m trying not to think about it.

I’m tired of driving. I hate driving. With a passion. Yes, “hate” is a strong word and if I could use a stronger one I would. “Despise” might do the trick. Yes, I despise driving. I’m tired of dragging everyone to folklorico class, 30 minutes each way, every Saturday. A few Hail Marys each time I start the car, the GPS and snacks for the kids to keep them quiet got me to and from my destination safely. On our way home today, as we took the exit that would bring us back to the safety of our base, I was filled with relief. This will be the last time I have to drive to folklorico class. Next week I can stay home and let Bip nap and have quiet house to myself. I almost cried with relief as the MP inspected my ID and waved me in. This was the Last Thing I Had to Cope With. Phil will be home tomorrow.

I hope. Maybe he was delayed along the way and he won’t make it until Monday.

But I’ll try not to think about it. Sunday or Monday, it won’t make that big of a difference. Which ever day he shows up, all the weight of sustaining our family alone will be off of my shoulders. I know I was lucky in that this could have been a year or longer deployment. But I also know my own limits and I have to say that if this had been a longer deployment, many of our outside activities would have been dropped. And I would have found a nice babysitter who was available late afternoons to come by so I could run to the commissary or PX while Bip napped.

So in 24 -26 hours, this will all be over. Maybe. It’s the not knowing for sure that’s doing me in.

Soldiering On

A soldier’s absence always seems to trigger all sorts of minor disasters. While Philip was gone:

An old friend (both in terms of age and years we’ve known him) died.
One former next door neighbor was in a horrible car accident in Israel and was not expected to live. (She is still alive, thank God!)
Another former next door neighbor’s house was damaged in a tornado. They lost all their outdoor toys, both cars and their sofas. Everyone survived.
(ok, so those three things were major disasters)

The toilet plugged up and the plunger broke.
The humidifier broke.
The master bathroom lost it’s electricity.

I got the flu.
I discovered that one of Bip’s repaired teeth had fallen apart.

As I type this on February 21, we still have over a week left on our own. I’m hoping we’ll make it. No, I know we will. We will keep the home fires burning.  We will soldier on because it is what we must do. We try not to complain.

We’re not always successful.

Ow

Originally written on February 9, 2008

Every muscle in my body aches, especially the toddler lifting ones. In general, I make Bip move around life by his own power. He’s just too darn heavy to be lifting and carrying all over the place. Plus, that’s what dad is for. But being on single parent duty has shifted all the Bip carrying responsibilities to my shoulders. Literally.

Not to mention that today I had to do one of my least favorite, most hated activites: driving. Not just driving, but driving on the freeway. In Washington, DC. I had to take Boo and Pumpkin Girl to their Mexican folkdance class w-a-y over in Virginia. (Yeah, so it was only in Arlington, but I’m complaining mode, so work with me here.) Of course, this dance class is at the exact same time that Bip has his nap. And with no one else to do the driving or the staying home, he got to skip his nap and join us.
So there I am, driving along, probably all tensed up around the shoulders, trying to listen to the nice lady in my GPS tell me where to turn, hauling the hefty toddler in and out of the car, sitting on the cold hard floor for an hour and driving back. The long way, over the Wilson Bridge, because I’m too chicken to try to go back the way we came.

And we went to church tonight, where Bip fell asleep in my arms. At the time it seemed like a good idea for him to sleep because he was acting all silly, which I know is very distracting for the entire congregation sitting behind us. Which is everyone, because my children make me sit in the front row. So he fell asleep in my arms, and I held him standing up, and I held him half kneeling, until I got brave enough to lay him down in the pew. He slept through the whole thing.  Me, I can hardly move my arms.

At dinner time, I can barely hold myself upright. Pumpkin Girl asks if this is week 2 of daddy being gone. “No honey”, I tell her. “It’s day 4. ”

Ow.

The Final Hours

yellowribbon.jpgThe final hours before a deployment or an extended TDY are the worst. The pit that’s been growing in your stomach slowly rises and lodges itself in your throat. Each passing minute brings another last moment. This is the last time he’ll tuck them in for a long time. This is the last story he’ll read, the last prayer, the last hug, the last kiss.

A million tasks, both big and small, steal the time. The to-do list grows longer, then shorter until there is nothing left. Brave smiles betray the emotions that are brewing.

Finally it’s time. There’s not much more that can be said and nothing more that can be done. It’s time to say goodbye.

And just like that…he’s gone.

note: On Tuesday, February 5th, Philip left for what turned into a 4 week temporary duty assignment (TDY) in Afghanistan. In the interest of security – both mine and his- I chose not to mention it until he safely returned. However, I did continue to blog during this time and over the next several days I’ll share those posts with you in the order they were written. Philip will have some guest posts, too, as I share some of the emails he sent.

Reinventing Ourselves

In less than two years, my husband will probably retire from the Army. He’s not actually retirement age, the way that civilians count it. But he entered the active duty Army almost 20 years ago, right out of college, which means that he will soon be eligible for all the retirement benefits.

He didn’t mean for this Army thing to be a career. He had to pay off his ROTC “debt” with 2 years of service, then he was going to get out and go to law school, become a high powered attorney and make lots of money to set me up in a lifestyle to which I could easily become accustomed. But he kept attending exciting Army courses like Airborne School and Combined Armed Services Staff School, and in return for all those fun and games, he owed the Army more time in service. The next thing we knew, he’d been in for about 6 years and they were offering him a company command. Then 6 years turned in to 10 and if you stay in for 10, you might as well do 10 more and get those retirement benefits.

So here we are.

He could stay in past 20 of course, but we both feel like the Lord is leading us down a different path.

It’s hard to think about, living life as a civilian. I hear that y’all don’t have “To the Colors” and the National Anthem play at 5 o’clock all across your city. Children at play don’t know to stop what they’re doing, face the music and put their hand over their hearts.  And they tell me that your stores don’t have parking spaces marked “General” and “Colonel”, nor do military personnel in uniform have priority at the grocery store during duty hours.

Hmm.  And what exactly do you call where you live, if it’s not a housing area?  And how do you remember which identical house is yours if your husband’s name and rank isn’t tacked near the front door?

And when you go to the movies, nobody stands when the National Anthem is played right before the movie…because they don’t play the National Anthem!

Philistines!

I’m not sure how we’re going to adjust to life in the civilian arena.   I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

Veteran’s Day

In honor of Veteran’s Day, here is a picture of Boo and Pumpkin Girl in our backyard. The National Anthem is playing and Pumpkin Girl has her hand over her heart. Boo, like any good Jedi Knight, is saluting with his light saber, just like his daddy taught him.

To all of our Veterans…we salute you.

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