Monday, 30 May 2011

Memorial Day

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Joseph Stalin

On this memorial day, it doesn't really feel appropriate for me to say much of anything at all - this day is about remembering the men and women who have been sent into battle in our name. Thousands of US soldiers have died overseas in the past, terrible decade. With the numbers so large, it would be easy for these men and women to be just nameless statistics. I think the very least that we can do for them is to learn some of their names and listen to some of their stories. 

So here are a few first person accounts from the widows of the fallen.
My daughter never met her father, Spc. Hoby F. Bradfield Jr. I was seven months pregnant when he was killed on July 9th 2005. I have never lied to my daughter. When she asked where he was for the first time I told her that he died and that he was in Heaven. Later when she asked what Heaven was I told her it was a place in the sky where the angels are. To this she looked up and goes I don’t see him. When I finally convinced her that she couldn’t see angels she asked where she could go to see her daddy. He is buried in Arlington and she is terrified to go there because everytime we do she hears ‘boom sounds’. So instead we look at pictures of her ‘Daddy’s stone’. The other day we were driving in the car with my niece. I overhear them talking about daddy’s (This is normally a weekly conversation). Emma looks at Kloe and says, “No Kloe, your daddy is just in Heaven with my doggie”. Kloe turns and looks at her, a light-bulb goes off and she goes “OH I KNOW, we can just go to my daddy’s stone, dig him up really really fast, I’m a good digger, and pump him back up with air. That could work!”. It was at that moment that I had to stifle a laugh and explain to her why that could not happen. Of course she doesn’t believe me, so today we will be thankful for ‘boom sounds’ so I don’t have to worry about any after school digging projects. Only from the mind of a four year old! 
Let's take a moment to remember Spc Hoby Bradfield, Junior
My husband, Tim, shot himself on July 26th, 2008.  We knew each other since high school; we were married for 11 months and 1 day on the day he died. He was my whole world. He is a Veteran of the Iraq War.  He was a 1/5 Marine.  He was very active in the Veteran Community in town. I miss him tremendously and I struggle every day.  
The death certificate says he suffered from clinical depression, and that he died from an apparent suicide, gunshot wound to the head.  His Vet Center therapists have told me that they didn’t see any red flag signs that he was suicidal, I didn’t either.  I was with him when he died. We were having a normal afternoon on the day that he died.  On July 26th we went to a wedding reception up the street from our townhouse and left early, around 9:30 PM he took a generic Ambien, which I didn’t know about until we were walking the dog and he started to stagger.  Instead of going to sleep he insisted upon walking the dog again and walking to the store to buy cigarettes, we argued about this.  He started acting unlike himself; his eyes were “funny”.  His therapists say he was probably sleep walking and sleep talking.  We think Tim was sleep walking, dreaming, not in his right mind b/c of the medication when the gun went off around 11:00 PM, he didn’t know what he was doing, or thought it wasn’t real.  Suicide or accidental self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound to the head doesn’t make me feel any more or less better about Tim being gone from my life, his family’s life his friends’ lives.
We didn't do right by you, Cpl Timothy R Nelson, USMC. I'm so sorry. 
My husband, Daniel James Johnson, was 23 years old when he was killed when an IED detonated in his vicinity. He was and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician for the United States Air Force.
I am not sure that I will ever be the same person I was before Dan’s death. I am not sure that I will love again with all of my heart, or that I can begin to think of a future without him in it. But I do know that I have to try. Dan would be so upset with me if he knew that I was letting this beat me. I have to survive, for him. I have to move on, for him. So I will continue on this rollercoaster ride that is my new life. I will return to work in a few short weeks and I will attempt to get my life back. Key word: attempt. 
Thank you for your service, SrA Daniel James Johnson.
I was married at 19 and widowed at age 20….not even old enough to go to the bar to get a drink. Life has been so incredibly difficult yet also rewarding, learning about my grief and cherishing the time I had with Ricky. Almost three years later I’m just now feeling like my head is above water and I can breath a little deeper.
A widow by 20. Just too much, too young. Anyway, you are not forgotten, CPL Richard Nelson.

You can read more stories from the widows of fallen soldiers here:

And here, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden talk about Joining Forces, a new program that they have just launched to call upon people to give service members and their families support within their communities.