Monday, May 26, 2014

Will I Ever Be Happy on This Day Again?

Every year you hear someone say "Happy Memorial Day." And why shouldn't they? Every other national holiday we say Happy (fill in the blank).

People have every reason to be happy about Memorial Day. There are great sales, great BBQs, most of them have the day off from work, so why wouldn't they be happy about it?!

I remember being happy on Memorial Day. We all consider it the first day of summer, right?! I remember being on the lake with friends or at the pool or attending a BBQ. And I love to shop. I remember being very aware of the Memorial Day sales I could participate in around my area. But then came war and Memorial Day changed for me.

Death and I were old friends before war came into my life. He took several people from me in my teenage years. Dare I say it, death and I are on good terms. I understand he has a job to do and that he does not discriminate.

Losing someone is never easy, but attending services and memorials of those killed in action it's another level of pain that is so hard to describe. I always thought a 21 gun salute and TAPS was the hardest thing to get through, try a Roll Call at a memorial. There just are no words for the sucker punch to the gut that hits you when the service member you know does not answer that call. 

Then comes dealing with the cards death leaves you. We are now watching children grow up without parents and parents without their children. We are forever united over tragedy and we have had a small part in helping them heal. We are so happy to still a part of their lives, but cannot stand the fact that they have those Gold Star pins to wear.

Our society is so detached from war, most don't even know our service members are even still deployed, much less do they have someone to remember today. In every other war before, almost every household was affected directly by the war. Today you have to play six degrees of separation in some homes to find a service connection.

Maybe one day I will be truly happy again on Memorial Day, but currently the day itself carries a somber reminder that hurts my heart. Today this house will disconnect for a while to remember those who we lost in service. We ask that you do the same.

Here's a list of some of the service members we will be thinking of today. We welcome you to also remember their sacrifice and their families today as well as those who are not listed. 

Garrison Avery
David Babineau
Ethan Biggers
Benjamin Britt
Marlon Bustamante
Kenith Casica
Jason Fegler
Matthew Hunter
Brian Kubik
William Lopez-Feliciano
Tyler MacKenzie
Johnnie Mason
Kristian Menchaca
Joshua Munger
Travis Nelson
Anthony Owens
Blake Russell
Benjamin Smith
Thomas Tucker
Caesar Viglienzone
Andrew Waits
Clarence McSwain
John Trotter
Karl Campbell
Dave Weigle
Dave Stanley
Frank Walkup
Joe Granville
Erick J. Klusacek
Wesley Spraul
Derek McConnell

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Hornet's Nest

It is really hard for me to watch war movies. It always has been. I think that my family surviving a catastrophic injury from war has made my skin just a little thicker because it only took me two tries to finish The Hornet's Nest.

War movies are just a little bit too much reality for me. Yes, my husband was Infantry. Yes, I have watched his video of his injury multiple times. Yes, I have watched a lot of videos that his guys made on their deployments. However I still haven't seen The Hurt Locker, Lone Survivor and a list of others. Chaz understands and never nags me to watch a movie, unless it is really good.

We have been tracking The Hornet's Nest for a while now. It's a small Army world and when the 101st is involved we hear all about it. When I got the email asking if we would like to be advanced screeners I knew I better say yes. However like always with war movies I let Chaz go first. I'll be honest, I just didn't know if I could watch it. I tried to watch it with him, but that night I just couldn't. It was just too hard for me to watch it that night. So I waited and he nagged me telling me I would really like it. "It's hard to watch, but you'll get through it," he said. That summed it up nicely.

Last night I popped my popcorn and loaded up the movie and dug in.

Mike and Carlos Boettcher are a father-son team of journalists. They deployed with our service members in 2011 to tell their story, not just use up some film for cool shots. No, this pair gets in there and bonds with our heroes like family. You can tell with this pair this is not just a job to them. I felt that they really wanted to tell the story that every American needs to see. I feel they did a superb job.

For the majority of the film the reporters are with the 2/327th No Slack. Guess who deployed to Kosovo with No Slack, you guessed it....Chaz did. I guess that brought this film a little bit closer to home with our No Slack connection. Enter the 187th and 506th and I realized we knew at least one soldier in all of those groups somehow, then film then hit even closer to home.

You know what made it all even harder....we were at Walter Reed when this all this was going down. I remember hearing about the 101st having a "fun time" in Kunar while Chaz was an inpatient. Then they all started joining us on Ward 57. I remember at one point the 101st pretty much took over the Ward. There were so many of us and they just kept coming in.

Back to the movie.....It is hard to watch the bullets fly and bombs explode. Every time I immediately thought of one of the service members I have helped through my job at YRF or met since Chaz was injured. Then comes an IED detonation. I knew when it went off it was 40-50 lbs of explosives. Then EOD confirmed my gut. How did I know? It looked just like Chaz's IED detonation and I'll never forget that image. All I could think was thank The Lord EOD got it instead of one of our guys. And at this point I wanted to vomit, our service members are still there fighting. This is still going on was all I could think to myself.

Then the next thought that entered my head, America is only seeing 1 1/2 hours of this. Our service members see it for days, weeks and months. And they are still there. Then Mike nailed it on the head when he said our guys are not there to fight a war, they are there to protect each other.

One of my favorite parts of the film was seeing some of our leaders in human form. We have a tendency to not realize that they may be high ranking, but I can assure you they really still care a lot. These men have directly impacted our lives and I just loved that Americans can get a small glimpse into them. General Petraeus came to pin medals on and you can see that meant so much to him. He visited us and you can tell that he cares so much about our families.General Townsend, I have never met, but I remember the phone call I received about him. He really liked Chaz a lot and when he found out he was injured he rushed to his side and was the one who presented him his Purple Heart at Bagram. CSM Schroeder has crossed our paths a few times. Chaz served under him at the 502nd and then when he served as the Division CSM. We have a great story on the CSM and how he stood up for Chaz when many others wouldn't. He and his wife care a lot about our families. General Campbell, oh dear where do I start and how would I stop. He and his wife Ann keep tabs on our family to this day. To say they truly care about our families is an understatement.

Then there's Roll Call. I have attended a Roll Call. Many civilians cannot handle a 21 gun salute. Let me tell you, Roll Call will make you a blubbering fool. I knew it was coming and started crying. Once I saw the soldiers standing at attention with tears streaming down the floods gates opened in my eyes. But then one of their leaders, who just is amazingly stoic and reminded me of Chaz waits for everyone to pass through then he breaks down. My brain flashed to my own hubby's break down and I went into the ugly-ain't-got-enough-tissues-in-the-world-cry.

I don't want to give too much away because I promise you, you want to see this movie. If I can spend day in and out with these heroes before and after the deployments, bury more than I can count now, and take care of literally thousands of wounded, ill and injured families and get through this film then you have no excuse to not watch it. It is your duty to watch it. 

You need to see what our heroes go through while on deployment. And most importantly remember, you are only watching for just over 90 minutes, this is our service members' life for months and in too many cases years!

And guess what? I have free tickets to give away to my readers!!! Visit Team Allen or The Chase for Chaz and share my blog link with your Facebook friends. Winners will be chosen at Random. So please share my review because every American needs to see this film!!

***Sharing contest ends May 23 at 12pm CST. Winners will notified via Facebook message and will be posted on the blog posting.***


Erica Barber
Brandy Karpf