Saturday, December 22, 2007

The past few days...


CPL Joshua Blaney returned home today in a flag draped coffin. Tomorrow, Fed Ex will deliver 5 Gold Star Service Banners to my office to be presented to CPL Blaney’s family at his funeral on Friday. I was not able to be at the airport when this hero returned home but tomorrow night I will be at a funeral home paying respects to a family whom I’ve never met. It seems no matter what we do, it simply will not be enough as this family is dealing with most ultimate sacrifice of freedom. I’m the only spouse in BSM-NC and while I don’t know the heartache of sending a child to war, only my husband and best friend, my heart aches no less for their loss. I’ve found that the ties that bind us to our military families are just as strong as those that bind us to our immediate families, sometimes stronger, and our job as family is to stand tall for those who stand for us and even taller for those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

In the coming weeks, I will also be working with another BSM to put together a condolence/memory book for this hero’s family. There are no politics to be discussed, no opposition to express…simply remembering a Soldier who died for what he believed in.

SSG Michael Gabel was with CPL Blaney when their vehicle was blown up by an IED. SSG Gabel gave the eulogy for his best friend at a memorial service that honored three men who lost their lives in October.

”I will not be bitter,” Gabel said. “I will not shed any tears of sorrow. I’m proud to have known such a good man and a warrior to the bitter end. Until we see each other again, sky soldiers!”

There will be similar words spoken for both these heroes in the coming days.

I lift these families, immediate and extended, in prayer.

About Thursday night:

Last night I visited the funeral home for Cpl. Blaney. It just so happened that P and I got there at the same time and after shaking hands with some of the PGR, we made our way into the funeral home.

Meeting his mother was heart wrenching for me; hugging her and seeing the sadness behind her eyes. We hugged and shook hands with the family and, despite their grief, thanked BSMs for the support. They took the extra time to tell us how much they appreciate everything that has been done and the thoughts and prayers. Some had never heard of BSMs and P shared with them the history. We met P., the BSM from CA and her daughter, A., who is also in the Army. It was nice talking with her and she, too, expressed sincere gratitude.

There were quite a few people there, most Josh's age, and, as I walked around, I was listening to them share stories and memories of Josh. There were many tears shed for this Soldier but there was also laughter.

I've never seen a flag draped coffin in person nor have I seen the Battle Cross in person. My heart literally dropped to the pit of my stomach as we rounded into the next room and I saw it. Very moving and very surreal.

I sent an email to the Mayor of Matthews this week asking if he would kindly send a condolence for the book we will be assembling; he chose to send a letter directly to the family but he sent my information to a community newspaper. They had recently done an article on the BSMs and she will be forwarding it to me and when I receive it, I'll share with you all. She, too, thanked us for the things we do.

Here is the email she sent to me and my reply to her:

Mrs. L.,

Your work on behalf of the Blue Star mothers is a wonderful thing. My
husband and I own the community newspaper and we're
putting a story in this week's edition on Josh. Mayor M has directed
the town to fly their flags at half-mast. He forwarded this note to me.
Is there anything we can do to help out the Blue Star mothers?

Let us know -

ps We did a story on the history of the Blue Stars a few weeks ago and
would be happy to send you a copy. Thanks again for what you do.



While your words are kind, it is the absolute least we can do to support our heroes and honor one of our fallen heroes. It seems no matter what we do, it simply will not be enough as this family is dealing with most ultimate sacrifice of freedom. I'm the only spouse in BSM-NC and, while I don't know the heartache of sending a child to war, only my husband and best friend, my heart aches no less for their loss. I've found that the ties that bind us to our military families are just as strong as those that bind us to our immediate families, sometimes stronger, and our job as family is to stand tall for those who stand for us and even taller for those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

I know no truer words to speak than those above.

You moms (and the dads) are amazing and the love you hold for your children is the most intense love I've ever witnessed and I see where your strength and endurance comes from. My mother told me while we were waiting for BG's referral, "You will never know true love until you have a child." She was one million percent right. Even though BG is only 3 and her accomplishments are limited to potty training, colors, shapes, alphabet, etc. I'm proud of her. Each time we hit a new milestone in our lives, it supersedes the one before it. I know the pride I have for Sgt. as my spouse and how my heart swells (and skips two beats :) ) when I see him in his uniform so I can only imagine what you all feel for your children.

As I remember this family in prayer, I also pray that none of you have to experience this.

About Friday:

When I was growing up, my grandmother always said that if it was raining on the day of a funeral it was God’s blessing. However, she also said if it was sunny on the day of a funeral it was God’s blessing. Yesterday morning it rained. When I walked out my front door and felt the first drops on me, I smiled; God was going to bless us today.

As I pulled into the church parking lot, I smiled again; the Patriot Guard Riders were standing in the cold, windy mist with their flags. Some had hats and gloves others held cups of coffee to keep their hands warm. I hugged some, shook some hands and thanked them. They thanked me. There was absolutely no reason to thank me and Biker B. said there was, “For all you do,” with You being BSM collectively. It was the same reason I thanked them.

There were two friends who spoke; one from his childhood and the other from his service. Both told stories that made everyone give a chuckle and as we watched the backs of the heads of those in front of us nodding, we knew they were all remembering the good times. We always hear the stories about bonds of brotherhood, but it’s typically in general conversation. Yesterday that bond was so evident. The point at which it sank in for me was when his best friend, who also serves in the Army, said it through tears; he called him a brother and said he loved him. The words of his other friend that stood out to me were when he said the mission was successful. He described a mission being successful when you leave on a mission you, you want to make sure your men return; Josh’s men returned. He also described the mission as being successful when you return; Josh returned home.

At the cemetery it was quiet except for the sounds of muffled sobs as the pastor read his words. It was cold and windy at times. Although I knew it was coming, the 21 gun salute caused me to jump with each round. There was an Army officer to my left, about 1-1/2 steps behind me, standing at attention and as that first round was fired, a tear rolled down his cheek. They also flew a helicopter over. Watching as the flag was folded and presented to his parents, we knew the end of the service was drawing near. The pastor quoted Joseph Campbell in his message at the church , “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” I always remember a quote by Karl von Clausewitz, “Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.” This young man held so many titles: son, brother, friend, Soldier, warrior, Hero. He was courageous in his service and duty and is a true Hero who was loved by so many and remembered by so many more. He now lays to rest at the foot of his grandmother’s grave.

Very humbling.


Last night over dinner, I needed Sgt. to talk to me. I needed him to tell me things that he normally wouldn’t talk about with me, mainly the pretty much unspoken bond he shares with his soldiers. He isn’t one who discusses his feelings openly and sometimes not even when I ask. As I told him about the remarks from the funeral, I asked was it “true.” We hear about that bond but is it something that is really felt deep within. While it sounds like an odd question, I needed to hear his answer. The times I see With his Soldiers/friends are social situations with laughing, cutting up and annoying boy habits. And his answer was simple, “Yes. Those you train with, work with and fight with are your brothers. When you leave on a mission your goal is to bring them home. His friend was right, their mission was successful; everyone came home.” My Soldier’s voice was hushed as he spoke those words, whether he intended it to be or not. I told him that even though they are human, we have this image of Soldiers (Marines, Airmen, etc., too) being so strong and unwavering and it was hard watching these Soldiers shed tears. We all shed them.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I am the only spouse in my state's Blue Star Mothers group. When I joined a year ago, there were approximately 10 members. We are now 80+ with three chartered chapters and two on the way. Not bad for a year's time. As an associate member, I can't hold office or anything like that but I can support. I rallied for a chapter closer to my house because I, and others, were driving 3 hours for a meeting. I found a mom who's pretty close to me and we made it happen. Our first meeting had the 5 we needed to have a chapter and since then we've grown another 10.

Today I was sent an email about a fallen hero from my area; his home of record is near me and his parents are not too far, just across the state line. This hero was in her son's unit until about 6 weeks ago when he and some others were transferred to another unit. He was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. The mom who contacted me has been friends with the hero's mom for the three years since their sons became part of the same unit and have provided support for each other numerous times.

I was contacted to ask did I receive any kind of notification of his death and did I know any arrangements. No, I didn't. I did get the DOD notification and there was a small blurb in the paper where his parents live. I started working on it, though. Actually, a member from another chapter in my state sent me contact names for the PGR who may know something but we're waiting to see where the hero will come home to. He was my neighbor by locale and family by military. I never knew this hero and I don't know his family. I feel helpless. The other mom is flying in from California and is hoping to meet this young CPL when he returns home. I offered to help her find a hotel room, give recommendations or whatever I can. I didn't know what else to say. I told her to pass along my phone number, etc. to anyone who may have a need for it. I didn't know what else to say. This mom got choked up on the phone because her dear friend is grieving terribly. She didn't have the words to finish. I simply told her it was okay. I understood. But, to be honest, I don't. I'm a spouse. I'm not a mom.

My BSM group will be doing the condolence book for this fallen hero. I presented one back in the spring but I've never worked making one. I have begun gathering the materials and the other mom in my group is putting the word out requesting condolences. As a BSM, I've done the cheery: care packages, letters, passing out cards, etc. This is totally new territory for me. I will give my best. I will do my best. My commitment to our brothers and sisters, as well as their families, is unwavering support and to do my best. I hope as I step up to this new layer of duty for a fallen hero I won't fail.

Please keep the family of CPL Joshua Blaney in your thoughts and prayers. By family I mean immediate as well as his brothers and sisters in arms. We pray God will bless them and keep them in his care.

Good night.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Anniversaries and Events that Change our Lives

Earlier this week I was listening to a radio show and each member of the show had to list five things that changed their lives, good or bad. Weddings and births of children didn't count. I've been running this through my mind since then thinking what would be the five I chose. Some of theirs went back to early childhood with parents divorcing, etc. but I'm lucky, I guess, I have nothing I can remember as life altering from that early on. Sometimes I think it's odd the things we remember as an anniversary. There are those that give us a feeling of warmth and then there are those that bring sadness.

I don't remember the date of my first "real date" but I know the date my first "real boyfriend" and I broke up. September 14, 1989. I actually wrote a cheesy high school girl poem entitled "July to September...the months are remembered." You gasp at a three month relationship? Umm, yes. I had his class ring and everything. He was the first boy who tried to feel me up and I didn't like it. I don't consider it an anniversary but I couldn't help but post about it when the date popped back into my head. Made me grin, too.

Sometimes I find it funny that I don't know the date Sgt. and I met. I have absolutely no idea. I know it was sometime in July 1996 and it was after my birthday and it was probably a Wednesday night as that was the night my girlfriends and I went out but I don't know when we actually met. Oh, well. He's snoring away right beside me and that's what matters. Oh, and I can't ask him because he can't tell you either.

June 13, 2003 my mom called and told me my dad had been diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancers. I dropped to the floor and cried. I've always been a "daddy's girl" and I knew my world was about to change. By the grace of God he is cancer free for four years now.

I remember my 30th birthday like it was yesterday. My phone rang at 7:20 a.m. that July morning in 2003 and it was my aunt. She called to tell me my grandmother had died and she wasn't sure she could break the news to my mom, would I please tell her. I did. I was so numb from the news that it was a pretty bland phone call. Mom said, "really? Okay. Let me go tell dad." She hung up with me and cried with him. I cried by myself as Sgt. had already left for work. My driver's license is a reminder of that day; I have hives in my driver's license picture. Big red splotches all over my neck. They're on my face too but those can't be seen because of my make up.

We spent much of the next year trying to have a family and it was in September 2004 we decided to begin the adoption process. After much research, praying and soul searching, we chose to adopt from China. I never felt led or called to adopt from China and there were no signs that lit the path but we chose China and I promise you BG is the absolute best blessing God has ever bestowed upon us. If I'm never given another blessing, I can honestly say it's okay because she truly is my world. On October 12 we met with our agency and began our paperwork. We paid the extra money for an expedited homestudy (three weeks vs. three months) because Sgt. had been put on alert and we wanted to make sure all our paperwork was done in the event he was deployed.

Lo and behold, on December 16, 2004 my life changed as I never knew it would. We had been out to dinner with some friends of ours and came home to a message on the answering machine that he was being called to active duty to serve in Iraq. My heart sank. But, we sat down, looked each other square in the eyes and talked about it. At first we thought it was a voluntary recall, not mandatory. In Sgt's heart he knew this was something he needed to do. As his wife, I supported him and never would I stand in the way. I vowed to support him all the way. I stood steadfast as he returned the call where he found out it wasn't voluntary, but mandatory. At least I knew his heart and mind were in the right place. It made it a lot easier for both of us.

February 13, 2005 I stood with tears streaming down my face as my husband went from weekend warrior to active duty. I cried every mile of the way home. He would be stateside for another month before they left. I didn't want to go home to an empty house. I began blogging and over the course of his deployment, I met some of the most wonderful people I now consider to be some of my best friends ever. They not only helped me through the wait of BG's adoption but they also supported me with Sgt. being deployed. I had never met 99% of these people but they sent emails of encouragement and they were simply my friend.

October 8, 2005 I stood arm in arm with other wives in Tropical Storm Tammy waiting for our beloveds to descend from the clouds.

December 8, 2005 I saw the first picture of BG and I feel in love almost instantaneously. After 14 months (plus several years) I was going to a mom to the most beautiful little girl in the world.

February 15, 2006 one year and two days after my husband boarded a plane for active duty, we boarded a plane for China. Five days later BG was placed in our arms and it was official: we were promoted from a couple to a family. She didn't like us but we sure loved her.

2006 and 2007 have gone by like a shot. I sometimes think the things I once viewed as life changing are not so much anymore. And I know it doesn't make them insignificant. Maybe it's my mind's way of telling me to enjoy the blessings I've had bestowed upon me and take them in for all they're worth. There will be more to come; I'm sure of it. There are "bad" things that happened all along the way but we are fortunate enough to not have had anything super terrible happen that I consider it an anniversary or super life changing. Every day changes our lives in one way or another based on the choices we make. I looked back over my list and with the good stuff, we always say "This is the best day of my life" but everytime we say that, the new event is better than the one before it. I love it. There are some things I would probably do differently but very few things I would change.

At the end of the day, I'm thankful my house is what it is. It's not big by any means but I have one. My daughter, the daughter I've dreamed of my entire life, is sleeping in the clothes she wore today because it was too much of a battle to get her out of them into her jammies. But she's here, in our house, sacked out until she realizes I'm not there. Then I'll slink back across the hall and sleep in her bed until Sgt. gets up at 4:30. I'll groan at him as we pass in the hallway because I'm not one who likes to be awaken before she's ready. He'll pat me on the back and go on about his day. I'll get back in bed for another hour and a half. But he's here safe and sound. Tomorrow I'll get up and begin the mundane work week just like I do every Monday but I have a job to go to.

While these things aren't life changing, they certainly are a significant part of my life and I'm glad I took the time to look back over them.

I wish you all a fantastic week ahead.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Alive and scrambling

I would say kicking but that would require at least one foot on solid ground for balance and it ain't happening.

We have rented a storage facility to put all the school letters in and the few boxes of goods I had received prior went to make 41 care packages for deployed soldiers! I have been invited to speak at a couple of schools about my project but with Thanksgiving and Christmas, I just am not going to be able to do it. I received 4 boxes of goods from a school in SC last week to put in care packages and one of them is packed to the brim with beef jerky and Slim Jims. Yummy... These 8th graders went above and beyond and I do hope to make it to their school one day to say Thank You in person.

Sgt's unit had their annual Christmas luncheon yesterday and 1SG was talking about family support when the words rang out like a shot, "Family support is important now but when we deploy it will be more important. The National Guard has soldiers to take care of soldiers. Families need to take care of families." They did massive blood draws on Saturday. I know when SGT was in the Navy reserves and active duty Marines they did blood draws during his "birth month physical," which is in June. So, some of them who have been around a while said it's the way the NG works before a deployment. We know orders are coming and even though I'm mentally trying to turn back the calendar, I know it's getting closer. I've got my dollar on sometime in January.

BG is still the queen of runny noses and I've heard, "wipe my nose" so much I swear the next time I do it will make my ears bleed. There has to be a magical breaking point of when noses stop running. I knew I spoke too soon when I thought the two's had passed by too quickly without any major issues. They were a piece of cake; it's the three's that are going to kick our tushies. Yesterday in church she announced very loudly, "I no like preacher. Me go home NOW." Stickers, crayons, hymnals, bribes, begs, mommy's expensive watch - nothing satisfied her. So, we packed up the ladybug back pack and left the service. What else is there to do? We have never put her in nursery for a couple of different reasons. 1. When we adopted her she was 13 months old and it was paramount for us to maintain as much one-on-one with her during our bonding time. 2. She wouldn't go with anyone else...even now it's hard to leave her with someone without her melting down. Our church is small and she would be the only one in there and if I had to be back there where I couldn't hear, no point in even going. So, she's always been in the service with us, which is fine with us. Besides, she's old enough to start behaving when she is supposed to. So, as we embark upon her 3d birthday, it's being met with such resistance. She spent so much time crying and screaming this weekend in time out, her voice is nearly nonexistent. It's so pitchy I know she could summon up some whales from the great wide ocean. She pitched a tremendous fit in every store we went to on Saturday and the millisecond after stepping out the door she dried up and said, "wipe my nose." *sigh*

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.