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, every.single.one.of.them 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:
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.
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.
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.