I thought 5 years would be easier, but it's not. My friends marked 5 years without their son's, so I should have known, maybe I didn't really want to know. This hole in my heart will never heal; I know that for certain. I think of what I miss about Ken and what he missed and what we missed for his dying so soon and it all seems so hopeless on these milestone days.
These anniversary days are killers, and in 2009, I get 2 of them this week. Memorial Day is the day we found out that Ken was killed in Iraq, but the date he was killed was May 30 in 2004. When you get the knock on the door on Memorial Day, of all days, it's like a neon sign flashing, reminding people why we celebrate Memorial Day and what it is really about and I'm not talking a sale at the mall. When you get news like this on Memorial Day, there is nowhere to hide. Ken loved being a soldier, but for us to find out about his death on Memorial Day was a a bit of cruel irony.
I returned from DC this past Tuesday and barely hung on at work through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, telling myself I just have to get through Saturday, through May and then, I tell myself, June will be better. I am seriously lucky to have friends and family who care for me and about me and that they remember Ken on this day. I am grateful for their kind words and their support and flowers, hugs, cards, phone calls, Facebook comments and their company. Their presence is what gets me through the day without totally wallowing in a pity party. Sharing their thoughts and memories tell me that Ken will not be forgotten and that is the best I can ask for on a milestone day like today.
Ken was killed about 6 weeks after 1st Armored Division had been extended. They had already turned in their weapons, shipped their personal items and were ready to come home when the news of the extension was announced. While Ken was deployed to Iraq, we had a pretty good CARE package system going, and with the extension, we were ramping back up to send more packages. I had sent Ken 2 packages the week before he was killed. On the customs document, I had marked the boxes to be "Abandoned" in case they could not be delivered; that was always the hardest part about completing the shipping paperwork. I never imagined that checking that the box would be meaningful, but for these 2 packages, it was. Despite my request to the Lt Colonel's wife after Ken was killed, that any CARE packages sent to Ken be distributed to his guys, who were the intended recipients of some of the items anyway, almost 6 weeks to the day after Ken was killed many of us arrived home to see that the CARE packages that we so lovingly had mailed to Ken, were sitting on our front porches. RTS- RETURN TO SENDER.
I couldn't bear to open the packages that I had sent but were then back in my possession; I didn't remember what they contained and I didn't care; they sat on a shelf in my office until today. How poignant to remember what was important to him, what I thought would provide comfort and remind him of home 5 years ago.
Ken's unit had planned "beach party", I don't remember why, but I knew at the time. I had sent some inflatable beach balls, some balloons for a water balloon fight, some silly string and some frisbees. I also had sent a DVD, "Stripes", Ken's favorite movie thinking he might have some down time for distraction and a few laughs. I had also sent him a new Hawaiian shirt, a la Hawkeye Pearce from M*A*S*H. As I opened the boxes today, the food that I sent was nasty and out of date, and the 4 bottles of Mountain Dew made it safely to Iraq and back again (no ma'am, there are no liquids in these boxes I am sending to Iraq, I always swore at the Post Office when sending Ken's packages)
Ken and his guys would have appreciated the goodies and the love that accompanied them, but today, 5 years later, it was time to move on and get rid of that reminder of such a painful time. Life isn't getting better as some promised me. Life is getting different for the most part, but the heavy aching in my heart is definitely not showing any signs of going away. I wouldn't wish this life on anyone.
General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army said on Tuesday, his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East. 10 more years of combat, 10 more years of more flag covered caskets returning to their grieving families.
Back in October 2002, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama told a crowd That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Although we have been offered many reasons for invading Iraq, many of them proven to be lies; we have not yet been provided a reason that is acceptable to the American public. If this was a dumb war in 2002, I want to know what changed so much to make it a smart war and one that needs to continue for another 10 years?