"Quiet Clay"

Reid, over at A Storm in Afghanistan posted this article today from the September 26, 2006 edition of the European Stars and Stripes.

By Dr. (Col.) W. Thomas Frank
European edition, Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Editor’s Note: This column appeared Sept. 26 on the Opinion page in the Mideast, European and Pacific editions.

It’s Sunday in Afghanistan.

I was sitting — completing some clerical task or other — when the patient administration clerk stood at the door.

“Sir, mortuary affairs needs a doctor.”

“What?” I replied. “The last place they should need a doctor is mortuary affairs.”

“No, sir. They need a doctor to sign some death certificates.”

Usually on a Sunday, I can finish my work a little early and take some time off in my hooch — watch a movie, read or nap. I was eager to do so now.

I walked to the ER to see if the doc there was busy. If not, he could do this. This is a task that would usually fall upon the ER doc, but I suspected he was engaged. The telltale sound of a chopper outside suggested more business was at hand. The doc in the ER was working on a wounded American soldier.

“All right, I’ll go,” I muttered, an irritated edge in my voice.

The mortuary affairs sergeant picked me up in his white van — unmarked except for a white placard in the window that declared “Mortuary Affairs” for all to see. We drove up the ironically named “Disney Drive” — which is, in fact, named for a dead American soldier rather than for the fairy tale king — until we came to the little plywood hut that is mortuary affairs.

Outside were several stacks of oblong aluminum boxes labeled “head” on one end and “feet” on the other. Inside the building was cool and it had a tiled floor — a distinctly unusual feature for these field buildings. The tile here of course has a purpose. It can be easily washed, and there is a drain in the center.

In the middle of the room were three stretchers on stretcher stands. On each stretcher was a body bag.

“Here you go,” said a soldier who handed me a clipboard with a piece of paper on it. A death certificate.

He walked over to the first bag and, without flourish, unzipped it and pulled it open. Before me lay a young man perhaps 19 or 20. His eyes closed. His uniform in tatters. The flesh of his face and torso seared a brown color but not blackened.

Across his chest and flanks, large patches of flesh hung off in loose swatches. There was a large wound in his lower left leg.

I picked up the clipboard and stared blankly at the form.

“Cause of death.” What was it? That leg wound clearly wasn’t the cause.

I asked the soldier to lift the head of the corpse so I would know if there was any obvious brain injury. No. The head was intact. His mouth and nose were clearly burned, however. The last gulps of air he took into his lungs were on fire. He died of “burns.”

The next bag was unzipped. I stepped back. It was a woman. I hadn’t expected a woman.

Her arms were reaching up in front of her, her fingers having a grasping aspect — as if they were trying to steal back life from the lifeless air around her.

Where her head should have been, there was only a chin. Her uniform blouse was pulled up a bit revealing a regulation brown T-shirt tucked into her trousers.

Her belt, I noted, was exactly like mine. Store-bought, nonissue variety. It was pulled tight — just the way she had done it yesterday morning. Tomorrow someone else would loosen it.

I picked up the clipboard. “Cause of death.” I obviously couldn’t write “head blown off.” I thought for a minute. “Traumatic brain injury.” I first printed, then signed my name.

In the clerk’s office of this girl’s hometown, three pieces of paper would likely summarize her life — a birth certificate, a marriage certificate and a death certificate.

Now the third bag was opened. This soldier looked younger. His face was less altered by death. Aside from a few places where his skin was scorched, his face looked like that of one asleep.

Strange, I thought. He looks a little like me.

Below his neck his uniform was in disarray. His skin was burnt. There was a large defect in his groin where his thigh joined the hip, both legs nearly separated below the knees. “Cause of death — burns.”

I stood back. It was so quiet. A poet once referred to a corpse as “quiet clay.” How odd, I thought when I first read it. How true, I thought, as I looked upon these three dead American soldiers. They never expected to die. Given a choice they would not be dead now.

They, like me, had read each day the names and number of the day’s dead in our newspaper, Stars and Stripes. They, like me, never thought their names would one day appear. They were driving down the road. They never saw the blast. Their vehicle was engulfed in flames. One had died in the explosion — instantly. The other two could not get out before being consumed by the fire. So now there were three dead American soldiers.

They were dealt a bad hand. Today I considered something I had never before given much thought — the fact that I, too, am playing at the same table.

I have six more months of hands to play. Six more months of hands to be dealt. Like me, they too were married. They too expected to return to their lives again. When they pulled their belts tight … they expected to loosen them again. Now someone else will loosen them.

I felt some shame for the frustration that I had expressed before coming here.

The driver took me back to the hospital. The duty physician and a couple of other docs were still working on our fresh casualties in the ER.

I finished my work at my desk without much heart and was surprised when the loudspeaker system announced there would be a fallen comrade ceremony in one hour. The bodies would be flown out today. I hadn’t expected that.

At the appointed time, I joined the commander and the sergeant major and we drove out to the airfield where a C-17 was waiting with the ramp down. The senior officers of the installation stood on the tarmac nearest the airplane, as they always do for these occasions.

All along the road for a mile or so — from mortuary affairs to the airfield — soldiers lined up to pay their respects to the “quiet clay” as it proceeded to the airfield. For these few minutes most, I suspect, were aware that we are all playing at the same table — and every day each of us is dealt a new hand. Soon we were called to attention and then, to the strains of the dead march, the colors passed by and the aluminum boxes were carried past, now draped with flags.

I go to ceremonies like this at least once or twice a week. But today was different. I had seen these soldiers — I knew what was in those boxes.

Usually, once the coffins have been brought up the ramp, we stand at attention on the tarmac, while the generals and a few of those who served with the dead go up the ramp of the airplane and pay respects at the boxes themselves. Today we went into the airplane, too, because two of them were medics.

Each person in the plane walked past the coffins and knelt — most in prayer. I rested my hand on each box and said to myself, “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Tomorrow, when I cinch my belt, I will think of three dead American soldiers and I will think of my wife and my daughter and of home.


- hfs


Stupid shipping policies...

Can someone (preferably someone who works for Target) explain to me WHY I can order a coffee table to be delivered to my OCONUS address but I can't order 2 MATCHING end tables to be delivered to the same damn address?

The end tables are SMALLER and LIGHTER yet they are only delivered to the 48 mainland states. However, the coffee table that is BIGGER and HEAVIER is deliverable.





All of this would not be an issue if Target would just get their act together and BUILD ONE HERE!!! Sheesh.


- hfs



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I cannot say enough about this book. Actually, I was so moved that I can't say anything at all. Words fail me. This book is incredible and I would recommend it to everyone - military and civilian. It is honest, real, hard-hitting, touching, and powerful. It made me laugh, cry, and scream all within 1 chapter.

And now, it is being offered FREE to all enlisted soldiers.

From Simon & Schuster (via SpouseBUZZ):

We're giving away free eBooks of The Blog of War, by Matthew Currier Burden, to all enlisted military personnel. It's a front line look at life inside the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan by some of the best military bloggers in the field today. Read the powerful personal stories of soldiers in combat, med-evac units and hospitals, and spouses who must cope when a loved one has paid the ultimate price.

Just have your servicemember go to The Blog Of War e-book FREE for enlisted soldiers to download your copy today!

*** The password to unlock the download is BLOGWAR***

I am getting ready to order multiple copies to give as Christmas gifts. It was THAT good.


- hfs


Calling BS

Bill Clinton Defends bin Laden Handling

Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a "conservative hit job" and asked: "I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?' I want to know how many people you asked, 'Why did you fire Dick Clarke?'"


Clinton said he "worked hard" to try to kill bin Laden.

"We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since," he said.

He told Wallace, "And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could."


Um, I'm going to have to call bullshit. Clinton's presidency was a joke and a waste. A waste of opportunity on so MANY levels, not the least of which were Clinton's wasted opportunities to PREVENT 9/11, the Cole attack, and many other precursors to 9/11. He wasted the opportunity to accept bin Laden from the Sudanese who served him up to us on a SILVER PLATTER. But Slick Willie was too busy getting lovin' from the interns and lying to Congress to be effectual in any way, shape, or form.

His temper tantrum is pathetic, just like his presidency was. He realizes this now and is making a last-ditch effort to influence how history views his time in office. Unfortunately, it's a matter of too little, too late.

UPDATE: Jake Tapper sets the record straight when it comes to Bill Clinton's perspective on history.
(h/t Instapundit)


- hfs


So close and yet, so far...

The internet is a wonderful thing. Before I met MacGyver, I dated a guy whose brother was in the Navy. When Desert Storm hit, he shipped off and left behind a wife, a 4 year old son, and a newborn baby girl. There really wasn't internet access then. Because of what he did, letters were rare and phone calls a miracle. He was gone for 6 months I believe. And for his wife, I'm sure those 6 months were the longest 6 months of her life.

When my Grampa shipped off to the South Pacific during WWII, letters and telegrams were incredibly rare. I don't know how long my Grampa was gone for but I am sure it was a long time and probably the longest months or years of my Grama's life.

This deployment...this WAR...is different in terms of the family's deployment experience. We have e-mail. We have Instant Messenger. We have webcams. We have Video Teleconferences. What a blessing it is to speak with my husband on an almost daily basis?? My children can see him - actually SEE him - and talk to him on the computer. No standing in 3 hour-long lines to use the phone. No 20 cents a minute calling cards. MacGyver, being the techno-stud that he IS, is in charge of setting up internet access for the people in his unit so that they can access the internet in their housing units. So, not only can we see and talk to him, he can see and talk to us in the privacy of his own CHU (containerized housing unit).

And then there is the saying, "So close and yet, so far."

So true.

Sometimes I feel like there is a cruel joke being played out. He's <-----> that close to us. Yet he's thousands of miles away. I can see him. I can hear him. I can talk to him. All wonderful blessings and I am so incredibly greatful for all of them.


(there's always a "but", isn't there?) I can't hold him. I can't feel his arms around me. I can't smell him (given the 120*F heat, this might be a good thing). I can't bring him a beer at the end of a crappy day. I can't kiss him or touch him or watch him hold my children. I can't feel him in bed next to me when the panic attacks set in or a bad dream dares to set foot in my mind. I can't run to him when I have had a crappy day (see post below) and feel the comfort in his arms.

All the other times that he has left, there was an emptiness right below my sternum until he got back. Like a piece of me - an integral piece - was missing. That emptiness is still there but it is also accompanied by a weight that I cannot seem to shake. Even on my best days, it plagues me. Almost like there is a large rock sitting on my chest, trying to cave in that empty space that waits for him.

So I stay up late and wake up early in the hopes of catching him on line. The possibility of seeing his face and chit-chatting with him on-line is enough to see me through the bleary afternoons due to lack of sleep. I pack care packages and hope that he can feel our love for him over thousands and thousands of miles. I show my children the pictures I have of him on the computer and we talk about how far away Iraq is. We talk about why Daddy is there and when he will be home. We talk about all of the wonderful, mundane things we plan to do while he is "home on vacation" (R&R). We plan and plan and plan. Because it keeps us sane until he logs on again.

And then we go back to having him "so close and yet, so far" away.

***cross-posted at SpouseBUZZ


- hfs


My children have lost their brains


Princess Trouble received cash for her birthday (thank you to Grama L and Miss Katie!) so we trudged off to the toy store in search of toys. Because my children are neglected and don't have enough toys. So, after school today (they get out early on Wednesdays) we headed out. The time was about 1pm.

Anyway. I promised Little Man that he could get a toy as well. Being the boy, he settled quickly on a truck. Very decisive. No hesitation. He selected the Mack Truck playset from the movie "Cars". Thirty minutes later and under the threat of Mom picking the toy, Princess Trouble finally settled on her toy. Off we went to pay. The time was now 2pm.

Once the toys had been paid for, we headed home. The time when we arrived home was about 2:45pm. Once homework was completed, the toys were opened. The time was now 3:15pm.

Fast forward to 5pm. I hear the sound of plastic on concrete. The kids had been out back playing with the girls from next door so I didn't think much of it until I poked my head out to tell them that dinner was almost ready. I see one of the girls (the 7 year old) throw Little Man's NEW TRUCK - the one he had had for all of one hour and forty-five minutes - up against the concrete wall. THAT was the sound I had been hearing. I stood there, dumbfounded, for a moment and saw Little Man run and grab the truck, run back to the "launching point" and hurl the truck at the wall again.


I cleared my throat and asked them what on EARTH they thought they were doing. The 7 year old jumped and immediately looked guilty. Little Man did too. The 7 year old told me that "He wanted me to!" at which point I informed her that she is SEVEN YEARS OLD! And he is TWO. Needless to say the truck, which had been in Little Man's possession for all of one hour and forty-five minutes is now in the trash bin. There's $10 down the drain. Princess Trouble was also involved in the melee so her new toy is in timeout until tomorrow at the earliest but more likely she won't get it back until Saturday. She KNOWS better.

But wait! It gets BETTER! I sent them to go play in their room so I could calm down a bit. They decide that it would be a good idea to dump out all of their little toys from their bins on to the floor. The rule in our house is that you play with ONE toy at a time. Somehow they must have thought that the rules were suspended on the third Wednesday of the month! I must have missed that memo.

I marched in there with a big black trash bag and told them they had 5 mintues to clean the toys up or I would do it for them with the help of my trash bag. They didn't like that idea so they got moving and picked up their toys.

But WAIT! It gets BETTER! Once they had their room cleaned up, they moved on to the desk. This desk is becoming the bane of my existence. Obviously they have inherited my side of the family's genes that make us incapable of keeping our desks clean. Because they cannot. So, rather than clear off a space on which to draw, they decide that the microfiber lounge chair is a good place to color with markers. I had left the room for 2 minutes to use the bathroom and I come back to a son who is covered in marker and a chair that is as well.

Is it legal to put your children up on Freecycle? It's either that or I am shipping them off to their uncles! Grr. Hopefully the aliens will return my childrens' brains in the morning.

UPDATE:How DOES one get marker out of microfibre????? Crap.


- hfs


Marine Highlights of 2006 Tour

Marine Highlights of 2006 Tour

Rarely do I post things from Blackfive (he really doesn't need the traffic!) but this post was, by far, the best thing I've read in a long time. A very good friend of ours is on his way to where those Marines are and it's fascinating to read about all that goes on there.

Just a highlight to pique your interest:

Biggest Ass-Chewing - 10 July immediately following a visit by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zobai. The Deputy Prime Minister brought along an American security contractor (read mercenary), who told my Commanding General that he was there to act as a mediator between us and the Bad Guys. I immediately told him what I thought of him and his asinine ideas in terms that made clear my disgust and which, unfortunately, are unrepeatable here. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, the translator couldn’t figure out the best Arabic words to convey my meaning for the Deputy Prime Minister. Later, the boss had no difficulty in convening his meaning to me in English regarding my Irish temper, even though he agreed with me. At least the guy from the State Department thought it was hilarious. We never saw the mercenary again.



- hfs


Buzz buzz, buzz buzz ba-buzz buzz

Those of you who know who Laurie Berkner is will recognize the lyrics to her catchy kids' tune, Bumblebee, from her album "Buzz Buzz". She really is a lot more enjoyable to listen to than the Wiggles!

ANWYAY...the reason for my post is to tell you about a new blog - SpouseBuzz. It is a blog FOR military spouses BY military spouses. And, by "military spouse", I mean ALL of us. Every branch. Every aspect of military life - active duty, reserve, guard, retiree. You name it. Andi described it better than I could have:

SB is not a typical MilBlog. We have a narrow focus - life from the perspective of a milspouse. We don't dabble into politics or military strategy or current events, we exist to discuss topics which are unique to the large milspouse community.

The list of contributors is quite impressive and between us, we have over 106 YEARS of military spouse experience (good grief, do I feel OLD!). Some of our contributors include:

Air Force Wife
Most Certainly Not!
Sarah from trying to grok
LoveMyTanker from My Life as a Military Spouse
ArmyArtilleryWife from An Army Wife Life
Andi from Andi's World (and the SpouseBuzz creator!)

And, of course, me ;)

So head on over to SpouseBuzz and check it out!


- hfs

Hooker Sunset

There are very few things that I would consider to be beautiful in Iraq. MacGyver has sent me many photos and I have seen photos from many other people. Very few actually captured something beautiful. Now, I know my perspective on what constitutes beautiful is probably slightly warped but such is the life of a Hooker's wife ;) So here ya go!

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- hfs

p.s. both images are copyrighted by MacGyver (just so's you know)


Five Years Ago...

My baby girl was born. She came in to the world making a lot of noise and hasn't stopped since! Happy birthday Princess Trouble!!!!!

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You are a bright light in my life and I cannot imagine my life without you. I love you!


- hfs


Me: 1 Deployment Gremlins: 0

Take that you bastards! Score one for the good guys!

I've been having issues with my sink for a week or so. The disposal side would get clogged and I'd either have to plunge it or stick my hand down there and scoop some of the muck out. Those of you who have seen the "Final Destination" movies will know that this did not come easily to me. I had scenes of the disposal turning on all by itself and shredding my hand running through my mind at the time. Not to mention the muck itself was pretty gross.

But the damn thing always seemed to back up on me at night and usually the day before I had NO time to sit around and wait for my landlord to call a plumber.

So tonight I was cleaning up the dishes from dinner and clearing out some of the leftovers from the fridge and it backed up on me again. Great. Tuna casserole combined with broccoli salad makes for some really nasty MUCK. Yippee skippee. JUST what I wanted to be doing with my Thursday evening. Not.

No dice on the fishing around method. So I head out to grab the plunger. Can I tell you how much I HATE plungers? They are NASTY. Even brand new, they are NASTY. Now, I'm not a girly-girl. Those of you who know me personally know that I am not prissy in any way and very little phases me. THIS is one of the few things that phases me. But I'd rather face my fear of the plunger rather than waste my Friday waiting for the plumber (not up for butt crack on a Friday afternoon).

So I plunge. And I plunge. And I PLUNGE. Quite the upper body and ab workout, I might add. So why are the majority of plumbers fat??? I don't get that. Whatever. I plunge and plunge to no avail. That muck isn't going anywhere. I plunge the other side. No dice. I try the fill-both-sides-with-hot-water-while-they-are-plugged-up-with-stoppers
and-see-if-you-can-get-the-clog-to-cut-loose method. No dice.

So, I punt. I IM MacGyver and ask him if we have a snake. Not the scaly variety - those are illegal on this island. But the flexible metal variety that you can push down a pipe to clear a clog. Only I can't do that on a disposal. Dammit. But MacGyver tells me I can pop off the pipe that connects the disposal side of the sink to the non-disposal side and I should find the clog there. Being MacGyver, he HAS a pipe wrench and I actually know where it is! Yay me! So I run upstairs and grab it and come back downstairs, ready to attack the pipe that has thus far mocked me. I am in NO mood for mocking. I am running on 4 hours of sleep and I have a great BOOK waiting for me. I don't WANT to play Suzy Plumber. Grr. I make sure I have buckets and towels on hand (my mother did not raise a fool! Nor did my father.) and I start to loosen the fitting. I get one side loose and still nothing. So I go after the other side and BAM! (just like Emeril) the pipe comes off into the bucket and water begins to drain from the sink into the bucket as well. I pull the pipe out and - lo and behold - there is one HELL of a clog in the pipe. The pipe itself is probably about 10 inches long and the clog was a good 6-8 inches in length.

Problem SOLVED!!! And the first round of me versus the deployment gremlins goes to ME!!!!!

The pipe is now back on. The sink is scrubbed as is the surrounding countertop. The dishes are done, the floor is clean. And I am off to bed to READ.


- hfs

Mail time!

We just got a letter.
We just got a letter.
We just got a letter.
Wonder who it's from?

Those of you who watch Blue's Clues will get that ;)

Today was a good mail day. There are bad mail days where the mailbox is full of nothing but bills and junk mail. And then there are days like today!

My in-laws have a cabin in the mountains. They head up there as often as possible and I have asked on several occasions that my MIL put some pine needles in a baggie and send them on over. Well, she did. Just when I was beginning to miss the turning of the leaves and the changing of the season, I now have Pine Tree in a Bag. Woohoo!!! All I have to do is crank up the a/c and stick my face in that bag and smell the piney goodness!

I also got my copy of Matt's compilation, The Blog of War. I managed to catch Major E and his wife on CNN the other day and have literally been chomping at the bit to read this book. It is very near and dear to my heart. I'll post my thoughts on it once I get through it (which might very well be tonight if this insomnia keeps up!).

There were also some cards and gifts in there for Princess Trouble who is approaching the ripe old age of 5 here soon (only if I let her live that long...). All in all, a GREAT mail day!

Combine that with a lovely chat with MacGyver and life was pretty damn good today. I'll take it!


- hfs


2 Navy SEALs Honored in D.C.

2 Navy SEALs Honored

A Pearl Harbor-based Navy SEAL who was killed in a fierce firefight with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in June 2005 was honored yesterday with the nation's second highest military award for valor.

Many of my readers might remember the Navy SEALs that lost their lives, along with members of the Nightstalkers, and the memorial at Punchbowl that followed. It's about time these men recieved the recognition they were due. Godspeed gentlemen and thank you SO much for your service and sacrifice. My prayers are with your families.

Froggy and Matt over at Blackfive report that "The One" who survived is doing well and has returned to duty. I expected nothing less. What an honor to the memories of his fellow SEALs and Nightstalkers.


- hfs

Better than being on the Wheaties box!

Isle man now action hero in Army video game

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he led a U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group working with Afghanistan's anti-Taliban forces. On Dec. 5, 2001, a 2,000-pound bomb dropped by an American B-52 exploded about 100 yards away from Amerine and his men, killing three soldiers from the 2nd and 3rd Battalion of 5th Special Forces Group and injuring 20 others, include Amerine.

He suffered a ruptured eardrum and shrapnel wounds to his leg and became Hawai'i's first military casualty from the war, his father said.

Too cool! I bought one of the action figures last Christmas when they were on sale. Now I want to go get them game just to check it out!


- hfs


Father Mychal Judge - 00001

My life has two parts to it. The part up through September 10, 2001 and the part from September 11, 2001 to the present. A defining moment. My life as an Army wife also has two parts. The first part was where the biggest drawback or downside of military life was a hardship tour to Korea. The second part is life as I know it right now.

The morning of September 11, 2001 I was 10 months pregnant and 5 days from my due date. I had 4 days left to go as a teacher before going on maternity leave and was only working half days so I didn't need to be in until 11am that day. MacGyver had a 7am work call and was in the shower when my alarm went off. I remember smacking the snooze button on the radio and through the haze of sleep, I heard the DJ say "a plane has hit the Pentagon.".

I woke up. Quickly.

I turned the radio back on and sat bolt upright in bed as I listened. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around what I was hearing. In that time, MacGyver finished his shower and turned off the water. I got up and out of bed as fast as my pregnant belly would let me and knocked on the door. He answered and I told him he needed to go downstairs and turn on the TV.

How many people uttered those words that day?

Everyone I talk to, every story I hear involves those words. "You need to go and turn on the TV."

We went downstairs and stood, gaping, at the television. We couldn't even cry. We were too shocked. I think the first tower fell while we were watching and that must have sparked MacGvyer to move. He bolted upstairs, threw on his BDUs, grabbed his overnight bag and some food, kissed me goodbye, and left. Still, there were no tears. I didn't know if I would see him again. In my mind, he would deploy. I don't know where I thought he was going or what I expected him to be doing but I did not expect him to come home. Mentally I was trying to steel myself to have this baby alone. And I was ok with that. Hell, after thinking about what the people in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania were going through, having a baby on my own was nothing compared to that.

Still, there were no tears.

I went to school. It was chaos and sadness all at the same time. We didn't get anything done that day (or for a few days after). We all sat and watched TV. And talked. And worried. And prayed. Yes, we prayed in a public school. Seemed like the thing to do at the time.

But still, no tears.

And then I came home. And I sat down and watched TV. And I saw this...

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And, for some reason, that image stuck with me. Moreso than any other image I saw that day or any other day. I had read about Father Mychal Judge a while back. I knew who he was. I remember reading about how he tended to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 when it crashed off Long Island and thinking what an incredible man he was.

When I realized who it was that they were carrying out of the rubble, my heart broke. And I cried.


Father Mike was so many things to so many people. A Catholic priest. A recovering alcoholic. A gay man. A friend to the firefighting community and a pillar of the community. Larger than life.

His funeral was reported to have the makings of one hell of a good joke. A priest, a lawyer, and an Irishman walk into a bar . . . Who else could have brought together a room full of people from every spectrum of life?

But his LIFE was so much more than how he died. His work as a priest and as a friend touched thousands of lives. He firmly believed in the concept of Alcoholics Anonymous, calling it "America's greatest contribution to spirituality." The day he died marked his 23rd year of sobriety. He believed that the creators of AA did more for humanity than even Mother Teresa.

He ministered to AIDS patients back in the 80s when society was terrified of the disease and those afflicted. He treated AIDS patients with the dignity that each of us deserves from our fellow humans. He was a shining example to us in that.

He ministered to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 in 1996 when it exploded and crashed off the coast of Long Island.

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Father Mychal Judge would become a familiar presence among family members mourning lost passengers. He made the drive daily, for weeks, spending 12 hours a day consoling friends and families who had lost loved ones. He also celebrated Mass every other day, participated in counseling sessions for people of all denominations and organized ecumenical memorial prayer services for the victims' families and TWA personnel.

"When that call came through it was the Lord calling me somehow," he told a reporter during a visit to his third-floor room at the friary. "I went out there that night and I stayed there for all hours of the morning, talking to people from all over the country and all over the world."

Father Mychal helped to organize services on the beach for the Flight 800 families. A news photograph of him at one such service, wearing his brown robe and gazing out to sea, was distributed around the country.

"The water becomes sacred to them," he said of the families.

Those family members became part of his ever-expanding parish.

He remained involved in some of their lives until his death at the World Trade Center.

A Los Angeles Times reporter researching an article on support services for families of air crash victims interviewed Father Mychal in 2000, and he spoke of his efforts to be a healing presence for people whose lives had been torn apart.

"In seminary, you can get all the theology and Scripture in the world, and you land in your first parish, and you find out it's you-- the personality and the gifts that God gave you," said Mychal Judge.

"He was absolutely hands-on. Religion didn't make any difference for him-- he was the same toward everyone, regardless of their beliefs," said Hans Ephraimson-Abt, a New Jersey businessman and longtime advocate for families of air crash victims.

"The TWA families considered him a saint."

- from The Life of Father Mychal Judge

I sure would have loved to have had the privilege of meeting him in person. Guess I'm going to have to wait a bit.

At the memorial, McCourt told the mourners about his own fantasy. Judge, he says, dies and is momentarily disoriented, because after leading such a simple life, he suddenly finds himself in a place with large marble hallways. A figure approaches.

"Can I help you?"

"Well, I don't know where I am."

"What's your name?"

"Judge. First name Mychal."

"Really? Some people call me Judge, too."

"Oh? And what's your first name?"

"Almighty. What kind of work would you like here, Mychal?"

"I'd like to be someplace where there are fires."

"We don't have any fires here. The only one we know about is very far away, and that burns eternally, because all the firefighters are here, and we don't tell them about it, because otherwise they'd be down there fighting it."

"Well, could I go there and give some people a hand?"

"No, Mychal. Because if you go there, you have to be a sinner, you see? And you're a saint."

"Could I have a temporary pass to go there, then? Could I be an honorary sinner?"

"Yes. But please don't bring back any conservatives."

At that point, the crowd, already laughing, started to howl. McCourt paused to let everyone collect himself. "And away he goes," he finally said. "That's my fantasy about Mychal. He keeps working. He never stops. He's trying to get all of us out of hell."

- from The Fireman's Friar

Father Mychal Judge was so much more than the priest whose death certificate bears the number 00001 - the first official casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was a man - flawed yet repentant - who did his best to serve God and his fellow man.

Learning more about him in the days and weeks that followed September 11 gave me hope in a time where hope was hard to find. Those of us who had babies right around that time I am sure had doubts as to what kind of world we were bringing our babies into. But knowing that a man such as Father Mike sits up in Heaven reassures me that there is hope and that we will be ok.

I will NEVER FORGET Father Mike. Never.

For a list of participants in the 2,996 project and their honorees, GO HERE.

Read. Remember.


- hfs

The Fireman's Friar

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Father Mychal Judge.
May 11, 1933 - September 11, 2001.

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How will you remember?

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- hfs

PFC Shanks

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was
supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Jeremy R. Shank, 18, of Jackson, Mo., died on Sept. 6 in Balad, Iraq, of
injuries suffered in Hawijah, Iraq, when he encountered enemy forces using small
arms fire during a dismounted security patrol. Shank was assigned to the 2nd
Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division,
Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Godspeed, Private. My prayers are with you and your family.


- hfs


The Blog of War

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One of my parterns in crime, ArmyWifeToddlerMom has said it better than I could have. I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my copy. Damn slow boat to Hawaii.

When I first started blogging, I did so simply because I wanted an outlet for my experiences as a military wife. MacGyver had been in for 5 years at that point and we were facing another 6 at that point plus an imminent deployment. It was something to do. Little did I know that I would meet people - on line and eventually in person - that I would become invested in. Little did I know that I would become friends with people that I consider family (in their own, special way...kind of like that crazy cousin that no one speaks of...). Little did I know that I would be willing to fly 6,000 miles to meet people I had never before laid eyes upon (well, unless you count the occasional shot of John's midsection or Fuzzy's mane) and be welcomed with open arms (and beer).

Matt over at Blackfive is one of the people I truly look up to - in the blogosphere as well as in life (along with Greyhawk over at Mudville) and if the quality of this book is 1/2 of what he is capable of, it will be a damn good read. The list of contributors pretty much reads like a valedictorian list of the MilBlog blogroll.

So head on over to Amazon (just click on the image above) and pick up a copy!


- hfs


The silver lining

So everyone knows about the downsides to deployments. No need to rehash them. But there ARE a few upsides - I swear! I was thinking about this today as I sprawled out in the MIDDLE of the bed for a nap ;)

No more fighting for territory. No more fighting for coverage. I can lay diagonally across the bed and not be kicked, elbowed, or rolled over. I do not have to listen to anyone other than myself and the geckos. I can flop around like a fish out of water and not have to worry about smacking MacGyver upside the head. I've always been a good sleeper - even in the most stressful times in my life, I have always slept well. And this deployment has not affected that one bit. If anything, I sleep better. Maybe because I don't have to share my queen sized bed with my six foot tall husband. Maybe because I'm pooped by the time I hit the sack. Who knows? Who cares. It's all good.

It's clean. It STAYS clean. 'Nuff said.

See #2.

4. FOOD.
I have a wicked, WICKED sweet tooth. MacGyver does not. I cannot begin to tell you the guilt I feel when I embark on a serious junk food kick when he's home. Let's just say I have not felt a pang of guilt since he left! Well, maybe a little but not a lot. I have been working on eating plenty of fruits and veggies and whole grains and drinking lots of water. But I also have managed to avoid the majority of the guilt I usually feel when I sit down with my Pepperidge Farm cookies and a tall glass of milk at night!

MacGyver is six feet tall. I am NOT. Anytime he drives one of our cars, the seat gets pushed WAY back and the mirrors are all adjusted. When I get in, I have to readjust everything. Amazingly enough, for the past few weeks, I haven't had to do that! Novel concept.

I don't trip over them anymore. LOVE. IT. MacGyver's shoes and I have a hate/hate relationship. Especially his combat boots. I hate to trip over them (which is often) and they hate to see me walk upright. Haven't had that problem lately.

All in all, things are going well. I hosted this month's FRG potluck at the house and that went well. The spouses in our group are a good bunch of people. We are fortunate in that respect. We have 2 new babies in the unit already and 4 MORE on the way! Everyone seems to be getting into their groove and we have some good plans in the works for get-togethers and holidays. Hopefully the next 10-11 months will go by as quickly as the past few weeks have.


- hfs


I apologize

for being somewhat absent for the past few weeks. Life here is good though hectic. The kids are doing well and we are getting into our groove with this deployment. Took us a while but, being that this is our first deployment and our first long-term separation from MacGyver, it took us a few weeks to adjust and find our rhythm. But we're good now.

One of the interesting things about this deployment (I'm assuming it is the same for most deployments?) is that I have really had time to take a long, hard look at my priorities and who I surround myself with. And, in doing so, I came to the realization (with the help of a former friend) that not only were my priorities out of whack but I had also surrounded myself with people who did not create a healthy environment for me or my family. I have been working to effect a change in that area. May take a while but my family is my number one priority in life - anyone who knows me well knows this. I make no apologies for this. It IS who I am and it is who I always will be.

However, I do realize that there are areas of my life that I need to work on. And so I am. Life is about change and no one is perfect so you just keep working at it, right? That's the best that anyone can do and the most that anyone can ask of you.


- hfs

Friday's Feast - September 1, 2006

I love these things. I've been doing them for a while on a few of the spouse boards I am on and thought I'd add them into my blog. You can find the list each Friday at Friday's Feast blog.

What are some lyrics you have misheard (such as, instead of "Gettin' Jiggy With It" you heard "Kick a chicken with it")?

"London Bridges falling down" as opposed to "London Bridge IS falling down"

What is the worst movie you have ever seen?

Lately? Jarhead. Talk about "welcome to the suck"...

Using the letters from your favorite number, write a sentence. Example: Tomorrow has really easy experiences.

The weird elephant loved velvet eggs.

Main Course
What was the most interesting news story you have heard this week?

Didn't really pay much attention to the news this week.

Which word(s) would you choose to describe your wardrobe?

comfortable, boring


- hfs


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...