I had a meeting scheduled to discuss financial issues at my job at 10:30. My co-worker had arrived at my office and we were just about to get started when my cell phone rang. Calls from Ken in Iraq always had caller ID, but it never came through the same path., so they were always my mystery caller. It was a pretty good chance that calls from Georgia or Chicago were from Ken. We laughed about it, but never figured it out.
I waved my co-worker off, signalling that it was a call from my son! I was always overjoyed to hear Ken's voice, especially that month. Ken always sounded tired and he had a scratchy voice from breathing all those sand particles. Since their unit had been extended back in early April, they had been in constant battles, and in May that was the case every single day.
We talked about alot of things, 37 minutes worth. Nothing special, expect that it was the last phone call and we didn't know it. We talked about his plans for his 30 day leave, the people who he would visit, the foods he had been craving and about the computer he wanted to buy. I asked him to buy me some prayer beads to give to my women friends who had been such a support to me while Ken was deployed. Ken said he would pick some up in Kuwait on his way back to Germany. Then he laughed and told me he thought he would pick up some burqas for us instead. He thought that was pretty funny.
One of the things Ken dreamed about was the BMW he was going to order for himself when he got back to Germany. In that last phone call, he told me it would be blue and he told me the model number. I think that was one of the things that removed his mind from his days and nights in Iraq.I had an radio interview early the next morning on our local ABC affiliate, who had taken to calling me the "Mom from Mountain View". The Bay area is not the military community as it had been previous to the 80's and the morning news team at KGO was interested in my viewpoint as the mother of a soldier who had been extended; we had first started talking early in April. Although I was very nervous in those early days, the host was extremely kind to me. I would sit and wait to go on the air taking deep cleansing breathes, thinking, "it's just my pal Ed and me- NOT 50,000 watts reaching who knew how many listeners?" The thing about those live interviews is, you never know what they are going to ask you.
The interview that Friday morning was not much different than the others, except that it was the Friday before that big holiday weekend, woo hoo, Memorial Day! A day off from work, BBQ, going to the beach!
Being raised in an Army family, Memorial Day was meaningful to me and I reminded the listeners that there were 135,000 soldiers serving in Iraq, who were far from their families and to please lift a cold one in their honor as they were lighting up their own barbeques and enjoying their day off. I also said that the day before had been a "bonus day" for me, I had received a letter AND a phone call from Ken.
I didn't know how many people were listening that morning, but I heard from so many people after Ken was killed who told me they heard my Memorial Day message and took note to remember the soldiers.
That we were notified that Ken was killed on Memorial Day is no coincidence. Forever, those who knew Ken or knew of him will always remember why we celebrate Memorial Day. I hope you will do the same.