Thank you, unnamed soldier.
Thank you for your service to this nation.
I did not know you, but you were my husband’s brother-in-arms.
You also would have been my husband’s first Casualty Assistance case.
I do not know any details of what happened to you, only that you were dying in hospice, surrounded by loved ones, and that my husband was “on-call” to help your family should you have passed yesterday.
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday.
Yesterday I watched my husband prep his dress blues and shave his beret and get a hair cut and prepare to look his absolute best to help your family during their absolute worst, all on a day we should have been celebrating the birth of the man we call husband and father.
It tore me into pieces to think about it, and yet, it was all I could do.
I hadn’t cried so much on my husband’s birthday since the birthday we spent apart while he was deployed in Iraq. It pales in comparison to how much I’m sure your family is crying for you today. I feel their grief and cry with them. Your loss is palpable.
I pray your family is finding solace today, in what little I’m sure they could find.
I want you to know that I appreciate your not making your last day on earth on the day of my husband’s entrance into this life. Despite my husband being ready to do what was necessary yesterday, I know he was already nervous about being adequate enough, about being everything he could be for your family during this time, let alone what the day signified personally. He would have represented you and the Army well, being their liaison, hand-holding them through endless amounts of paperwork and Army death benefits and business needing to be handled. You wouldn’t have been assigned a kinder, more gentler man. I was saddened but proud, imagining my loving, caring husband being there for another family during this time.
But I was unsure how my husband would be able to cope with your loss, coping with how to best help your family, how to handle being present at your funeral and seeing his date of birth as the date of your end to life. I was also worried for what this experience might’ve done to him. This is a situation every soldier dreads, and every family fears. I did not know how my husband would come away from this, how it might affect him in the aftermath of seeing what it can do to a family, leaving them like this.
We were given advice that he had been (almost) assigned the “easier” of the two jobs, emotion-wise (being the assistance officer doing paperwork as opposed to the notifying officer who notifies the family of the tragic news), but I don’t consider any of this death business easy. Death is never, ever easy, least of all in the military. Being involved in some family’s worst events of their life is never easy, and your death is no different, soldier.
I can’t imagine the emotion running through your family when they see the sedan pull up with the two smartly dressed soldiers approaching your house to deliver the horrible news and help them through this time. And while I am grateful that, this time, it is not my husband, not on his birthday, not so soon after the birth of his last child, I am not grateful that the news of your loss had to be delivered at all. But I am, however, grateful that there are kind soldiers like my husband and his fellow CAO’s that do this sort-of thing, who are there to help guide struggling families through this.
As much as I have dreaded and continue to dread the knock at the door myself, I couldn’t imagine what it must be like from their standpoint, having to dress up and walk up to a strange family and deliver the blow that their loved one has passed, tragically or not. I couldn’t imagine that scenario, that is, until now, now that my husband is one of those folks that might have to do this some day.
I will continue to dread that knock at the door for the rest of my life, but now I will be forever grateful for who is behind that door, ready to help, even if it can’t be who put a ring on my finger if that time ever comes. I’m sure your family must feel the same.
I truly hope you are looking down at them today, knowing they are loved and surrounded by many folks who wish to help them through this time, and are worrying a little less.
Thank you, unnamed soldier, for touching my life, even if I never knew you.
Please know this mom and dad to seven beautiful children are saluting you today, and hold your family wherever they are in our continued thoughts and prayers.