It's been a bad day for me today. Yesterday in Iraq, 3 members of 1st Armored Division were killed in Ramadi. (1st Armored Division was Ken's division). You should not be surprised to know that many Gold Star families still feel an affinity to our loved one's units. When Ken's unit was deployed back to Iraq in January 06, I felt that same familiar sick, stressed and worried feeling in my stomach that I had for the 384 days that Ken was there. Until now, there had been one casualty from 2/37, a 19 year young soldier from Florida, Pvt Jody Missildine, who was killed in April.
While Ken was in Iraq, when I turned on my computer first thing in the morning, I would check the Department of Defense website to read of the latest casualties. Some people thought that macabre, but I didn't. I knew that if something happened to Ken, that I would find out via a personal notification, so that is not the information I was looking for. I was looking to see if there were any casualties from the general area or specifically from Ken's unit. Then I would know why he was not in communication with me.
In the case of a casualty, communications are shut down so that the family is notified via official means and not from a fellow soldier or any other method. That means that no soldier can contact their family to tell them they are okay or to discuss any details or to find some emotional support. There were a few communications blackouts when Ken was deployed; the worst and longest was a period of 5 days when 2/37 lost our first soldier, Sgt Mike Mitchell from Atascadero, CA on 4.4.04. I don't know how long the blackout was when Ken and Pfc Nick Zimmer were killed on 5.30.04; I was in the middle of that maelstrom.
Today, we are in the waiting period for the families to be notified and the official notification to be released by the Department of Defense. They don't typically release any information until 24 hours after the family is notified. In some cases, the families notify the local media sooner, which is why you may hear something before it becomes official.
I recently had a conversation with someone from Ken's unit. I told the soldier I thought about the guys every day. He was surprised. I really wanted to tell him that I worry about them every day while I'm thinking of them. Each one of these soldiers is my son or daughter; they are America's sons and daughters. Isn't it time to bring them home now?
My heart breaks with every single casualty, but most of all, I cannot bear the thought of attending another military funeral for someone I know.