Archive for November, 2010

Just in Case…..

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Editorial Comments

 

This was written in 2007, when I really wanted to write something else, and John Young encouraged me to write about this experience.  I have never regretted putting this to paper.

 

Mary Duty, guest column: Just in case it’s goodbye

Friday, September 14, 2007

I tell people that having a child deploy to a war zone is like childbirth.

The first time you read all of the books and talk to people who have been there. The second time, knowing exactly what is coming, you find yourself fighting fear, anxiety and pure dread.

Our son Caleb is a Marine and about to redeploy to Iraq.

During Caleb’s first tour, he was involved in community policing and relationship- building in a small town in the al-Anbar province. It was rough going at first. His batallion lost 15 fine young men to IEDs, suicide bombers and snipers.  However, Caleb met many wonderful, hardworking Iraqis who were anxious to get their lives back together, and their kids back in school. His unit was good at its job. After several months there, when the bad guys planted IEDs in the road that they used to drive into town, the locals turned the bad guys in and made them dig up the explosives. 

His stateside time is almost over, with a last weekend with family that was an extraordinary experience. Caleb told us all goodbye. We got a chance to tell him goodbye, too.  He gave us no choice but to embrace the moment that could be our last together. Just in case.

The night was dark. The bonfire was roaring. The music was playing loud from one of the pickup trucks parked on the edge of the clearing. Friends mingled.  Some have been buddies since kindergarten.  Boy Scout friends were there.  Some were fellow Marines. Even Patches, Caleb’s dog, made it.

As the time came for Caleb to leave, he went to his truck and punched in a song.

The soft, sweet melody of a fiddle filled the night air. Then the country rhythms of Tracy Lawrence’s “If I Don’t Make it Back” hit us all like a runaway freight train.

As we started listening, one sister begged him to change the song.  But Caleb wanted us to hear it.  He went around the party, shaking hands and hugging. We were all trapped in this experience hearing words we did not want to hear, saying things that we did not want to say. But we had to, just in case.

At one point, we all gathered in a circle. Shoulder to shoulder, like in a football huddle, Caleb, his brothers and sisters and I gathered.  Silently we stood, drinking in the moment. Each prayed for Caleb in his or her own way.  I know that I asked for angels to watch over him and his comrades. And I prayed for God’s peace for Caleb and his brothers and sisters. Just in case. 

When our hearts were full, Caleb put his hand in the huddle, and one by one we laid our hands over and under his. Trapped in our embrace, he led us in shouting, “1-2-3 Duty!”

We broke the huddle, wiped our tears and finished saying our goodbyes.

At the tender age of 20, Caleb taught us all a lesson many never learn. The first time you go to war it is done with flags and banners and blind optimism. The second time you know that there is a chance that you might not be coming back. You live each day like you mean it.

Thank you, Son, for helping us say goodbye like we mean it.  Just in case. 

May God keep you until we see each other again.

Mary Duty is a Waco school teacher and co-owner of Poppa Rollos Pizza.

Wounded Warrior Blood Drives

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Editorial Comments
This piece was written about a year and a half ago.  We had had a real problem with scheduling a Wounded Warrior Blood Drive, and our congressman, Chet Edwards helped us get things rolling with the VA hospital in Waco.  The photo below is a drive held at the National Guard Armory.

Organizers of the Wounded Warrior BLood Drive 2010

Dear Editors:

The average deployment of a United States Marine is 7 months.  The gestation period for a human baby is 9 months.  We found that It sometimes takes 8 or more months to plan a Wounded Warrior Blood Drive. 

The Wounded Warrior Blood Program helps provide blood for our troops because a lot of troops can’t donate because of going overseas.  We call on civilians, families, and others want to help by rolling up their sleeves.  We only do it once or twice a year because we recognize the vital nature of blood donation and know that our own communities need constant blood supplies for accident victims, surgeries, etc.

It’s been said of the War on Teror that the military went to war and the country went to the mall.  The Wounded Warrior Blood Drive is one way to really show support and to help connect the public to the efforts of our young men and women.

Our blood drive that was 8 months in the making was cancelled last Friday by the Robertson Blood Center officials at Ft. Hood.   The site visit that normally happens early in the date approval process was not done until 8 days before the event.  Posters had been generated and sent out, radio interviews had been done.  When we got the word last Friday, we had no choice but to get the word out that we would not be having the Wounded Warrior Blood Drive after all.   Our journey started over 7 months ago.  We originally had our first blood drive for the troops at the Texas National Guard building.  Because the hall that we used was not climate controlled, it was suggested that we go to another climate controlled facility.   We were told that the blood drive had to be in a military or federal property.  A couple of years ago, we could have used our VFW and American Legion Halls, but current policy does not allow use those places.  We asked our local military reserve units and the VA Regional Offices but they had very little space, and post 911 security concerns made them unable to help us.   In mid December we started working with Baylor University as a possible site for a blood drive.  Any school that has an JROTC program can be a potential site for a blood drive.  That process took us to the events of last Friday.

We are working with the officials at the Robertson Blood Center to find out what went wrong so that this sort of thing does not happen again.  Getting much needed blood to our troops is too important to have rules and procedures get in the way of the Blue Star Mothers mission of organizing a community wide Wounded Warrior Blood Drive.

A Wounded Warrior Blood Drive is a very special event.  Groups like the Blue Star Mothers and other sponsors from our community hold these drives once or twice a year to collect blood to be used by our wounded troops that are recuperating here at home, and sent to our field hospitals in the war zone.  These blood drives serve two purposes.  One is to collect life saving blood that helps our precious wounded troops.  The other purpose is to provide an opportunity for all of our citizens to give.  There is no more selfless a gift than the gift of life that blood brings to a wounded soldier.  It gives our organization a chance to remind folks that we are at war and that there is something we can all do to connect with our servicemen and women.

We are a persistent bunch.  Mothers of men and women in the military tend to be.  We may look harmless, but we raised a Marine….an Airman….a soldier…..a Sailor.  Our commitment to them is timeless. 

We have an appointment March 5 to visit with the acting Adminstrator at the VA Regional Hospital.  We have high hopes that this meeting will provide a location so that we can do what we set out to do so many months ago.

Mother’s Day Editorial

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Editorial Comments

On Mothers Day last year, I was making hot dogs and filling popcorn bags 13oo miles away from home. I was given the greatest gift any Mother could get on that special day. Our son, Caleb, was returning from Iraq that day.

It was raining that morning. New Moms would call my cell phone and ask franticly…”Will they land? Will they be delayed?” I assured them with the quiet voice that comes from a second deployment Mom that they would land. Those boys had been in a plane for over 24 hours, had dreamed of their return and planned it down to their first meal back on American soil. A little tropical storm was not going to stop them from coming home!

I hated being away from the four other beautiful children that we have, but I was blessed with the privilege of being the first to embrace him as he returned from his service. God is good.

This Mothers Day over 250 mothers across America will not have their children to celebrate. They are now Gold Star Mothers. Our prayers should be with them on this day. Their family paid the ultimate price for the privilege of living in this land of the free.

Recently a group of Mothers (and Dads) joined together in the central Texas area and formed a chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America. Blue Star Mothers have a child in the military service. Mothers whose children die in service to country become Gold Star Mothers

We are a small, but dedicated, group. We had a very successful blood drive in Waco and sent over 24 units of life saving blood to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. We are packing care packages at our next meeting in May. These care packages will be sent to all branches of the service all over the world. That is what we do.

On this Mothers Day, take a moment to pray for the safety of our troops-here and overseas. They have chosen a life of service to us. Their families are serving right along side them, bearing the burden of separation.