Veteran's Day Tribute

I've always been patriotic; I guess it really started around 1990 when the first Gulf War started. I remember being 13, sitting in front of the TV with my family the night Baghdad was bombed and being scared to death. I had never lived through a war at the time; like many my age at the time, we were sure they were going to attack us right back.

Over time, I discovered a love for the American Soldier; a respect for what they were doing to protect our country, our freedoms, our way of life. Even today, I'm still amazed at the fact there are men and women who are willing to face death, risk losing limbs, becoming disfigured, in an unknown country. I can honestly say, I don't have the guts to do that; but, I am so honored to know people who do.

I'm fortunate to have met many veterans during my life; from WW2 to the present day wars. I get so emotional when I hear all the heroic tales, funny stories, and the many not so funny stories they wish they could forget.

 I have posted pictures of a very special veteran who has held my heart for 17 years. My husband enlisted in the United States Army two months after 9/11; he wanted to help his country and avenge the deaths of those 3000 people we watched needlessly perish that day 10 years ago. I can tell you, his decision shocked me; we were a young married couple with a 2 year old daughter and Shawn wasn't exactly the best worker (he would tell you the same thing now).  I know he wouldn't mind me telling you this, but, he was quite lazy and immature; he couldn't hold a job for anything. When he enlisted though, he changed; he worked his butt off to get in shape, he ran miles during basic training in pain and dry heaving, but never gave up.

I was not the most optimistic wife, I'm ashamed to say; I really didn't think he had it in him to last 4 months of basic. The first two pictures below, are of Shawn the day he graduated; he proved me wrong, and I'm so glad he did.

When we saw him for the first time after four months, he amazed me; so mature and polished, and the uniform was, shall I say, a nice little added touch for me :)  He was a real man and was so very proud of him. 

We were stationed at Ft.Lewis in Washington State with the 1/5 Infantry Division C Co.

Living in a small city of soldiers, I saw the brightest and the best and Shawn never disappointed me. He continued working hard, receiving several medals for his service, and working up in rank.

In 2004, he was deployed to Iraq for a year long tour; I was 4 months pregnant with our twin daughters. Deployments are hard on our soldiers, and I don't say that lightly. He worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day; he wrote or called when he could. Letters were filled with loneliness and calls were filled with exhaustion; everyday for him was filled with the fact that it could be his last. He knew that while we were eating Thanksgiving dinner, opening Christmas presents, and celebrating the birth of our daughters; he was sitting in a guard shack with one other soldier keeping the enemy from the base. This base in Mosul was attacked daily by mortars; could you imagine going to bed every night for a year to bombs going off all around you-It's loud and it shakes everything hard within miles of it. One day, 10 minutes after he left the mess hall, right before Christmas, an Iraqi suicide bomber dressed in US BDU's, blew himself up inside this mess hall, killing 24 other soldiers. Shawn had to help place those killed in the blast into body bags; one of which was a close friend. Everything about this deployment took its toll on him, physically and mentally; I'm not going to tell you he didn't complain, because he did-ALOT! I don't blame him though; there is nothing fun or easy about what he did or any other soldier has ever done. Its grueling work, whether its wartime or in more peaceful times. Shawn mentioned going to bed every night wondering if our 5 year old would remember him when he came home, whether I got used to him being gone or tired of living this kind of life, whether anyone really cared what he was doing there; those thoughts would eat him up and are sad for me to even think of.

 This job not only affects the soldier, but their families; there is a lot of time spent apart, a lot of time listening and attempting to comfort each other, a lot of worrying and struggles. Truthfully, after being a mother, the hardest job I've ever had was when I was a military wife; I'm trying to remain humble here, but it definitely takes a special person to be the spouse of a soldier. I never felt special, just honored; it didn't bother me that he wasn't home for our anniversary 3 years in a row, or my birthday; I sort of felt like this was my little way of serving this country.  I watched many wives that just couldn't handle it and headed back to their hometowns or found someone new; however, on the other hand, many wives and husbands stood strong and were their spouses biggest supporters.

My husband was honorably discharged a few years ago; and he has taken the work ethics he learned in the military and carried them over into civilian life. He is a hard worker, a great father, and an even better husband and friend. It was difficult when he returned back home, I would imagine for all veterans its hard to fall back into the fray and just become forgotten.

I honor my husband, and I honor all veterans past and present who have bravely fought for this country. The pay is horrible, the hours are long, and the job is dangerous; but you've faced it courageously and with dignity. To those who lost their lives, may you forever rest in peace and never ever be forgotten!
God Bless each one of you and God Bless America.

(this is our daughter Sarah and the twins are in the strollers below at the Welcome Home Ceremony 2005)

Veteran Ceremony at our children's school (2010), Shawn's the big guy in the middle row


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