Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Monday, December 6, 2010

Because "Happy One Month of Being Dead" Just Doesn't Sound Proper

It's snowing, and everything always seems so much bleaker when there are white flecks of frozen ice streaming across a window pane.  

Shane died one month ago today. And life is still happening all around me. I had it in my head that today wouldn't effect me. It's just a date on a calendar, after all. 

I should be studying. I have finals. I'm in law school. I need to finish law school. I need to keep living. I need to be pretending to be happy until I actually start being happy. I keep telling myself that. I know Shane wouldn't want me to just give up after I've worked so hard over the past 2 and a half years of my life. Submission is easy. It doesn't take much to just give up. People give up all the time. Because other people tell them they can't do something. Because life gets in the way. Because actually following through with a plan is easier said than done. 

Shane would always tell me that unless you were shot directly in the heart, you died because you gave up wanting to live. That you didn't want to fight anymore and let death take you. He was so adamant about this. And I think about that all the time. And it makes me furious at my dead brother. Because he wasn't shot directly in the heart. 

According to his logic, he should be alive right now. He should have had some serious internal bleeding and should have been flown to Germany for medical care and then Walter Reed and he should have been in a hospital bed for a while and we should have visited him while he was in that hospital bed and yelled at him for giving us such a scare but really have just been grateful that he was in a hospital bed and not a box in the ground and he should have had some sarcastic retort and given the halfway smile that we both use all the time and he should have started to heal and then he should have gone back to Fort Campbell, where he would be right now, doing some POG work that he would hate, biding his time before he got to go back and fight some more. That's what should have happened. But that's not what actually happened. He shouldn't be in a box in the ground, rotting, or maybe frozen, but he is.

Sometimes I yell at him for having given up. I yell at him for not paying more attention and for not being more aware of his surroundings. For not wanting to live enough to keep fighting against death. For letting death win. For not choosing life. I get mad at my dead brother. And then I get mad at myself. It's a disgusting thing to admit, that I get mad at a dead person. It's selfish. It's gross. But it's honest. It's what I feel. It's not what anyone is telling me to feel. 

Shane, I get so mad at you for not living. For leaving me. For leaving mom and dad. For leaving your brothers. For leaving all of us. For being the first one to die. I know you would have wanted it that way. I can picture it in my head -- 

God or whomever is allegedly in charge of things up there getting off of his fat ass and coming down here to lowly Earth, and walking up to you saying, "Well Shane, I know that this might not be the best time. I know you're here because some assholes have declared jihad in my name against America and then some American bureaucrat who doesn't know anything about anything made a decision to put you in a shit hole for 12 months. And I know you've had a rough go of things while you've been here. But someone has to go today." 

You would have become solemn and purse your lips and look down at the ground, maybe kick some rocks with your boot. You'd look God in the eyes, even though most people probably wouldn't be able to do that. God would say, "I already know what you're going to choose, because I am God, after all, and even though I let you think you have free will, I'm still omniscient and all powerful. But I need to ask you anyways, Shane. Someone has to go today. Who is it going to be? Is it going to be one of them?," as God would wave his arm, pointing toward other soldiers, "Is it going to be one of your brothers, Shane? Or is it going to be you?" 

And Shane would have taken a deep breath and replied, "It's gonna be me." 

And that would've been the end of it. God would have given him a somewhat quick death for making such a selfless decision, allowing a stray bullet to hit Shane when he was least expecting it, and then allowing Death to slip in to take Shane's soul to where ever souls go and then the rest of the story would unfold. Not that Shane was some sort of constantly self-sacrificing lamb. But I know in my heart that he would have given his life for his brothers. Because that's really what infantrymen fight for -- one another. Not America. Not the Constitution. Not the president. Not the government. But for their brothers. Yes, they sign paperwork and recite oaths to protect America and the Constitution and the president and the government. But, from everything Shane ever told me about war, those things become intangibles. Concepts. Far away thoughts. President Obama isn't going to swoop in and kill all of the bad guys when they have their sights on you. The Constitution isn't going to give you water when you've consumed all of your own and there isn't more coming for 48 hours. The government won't tell you a joke to make you crack a smile when you need it the most, when you're at your lowest because you've been out in the field for over a week without a shower or a change of clothes or a reminder of home or a moment without having to be alert to the fact that someone is attempting to kill you. But your brothers will do all of those things for you and more. Because they know what it's like. Because they're the only people in the world who really have any idea of what you're going through. And Shane knew all of those things, which is why I have a 5% understanding of those things and why I know that I shouldn't be mad at him for being dead. I should be happy that he lived. That he loved. That he was doing what he wanted to do with his life.

But knowing all of this leaves me with no catharsis. It leaves me staring out a window, watching white flecks of frozen ice blur together.


  1. OK, let me just say something. I go to law school with you and have been around you enough to have a pretty good sense of the kind of person you are.

    First, I will say that I DO feel bad for you because of what happened to your brother. But then I look at blog entries like this and your facebook status updates and part of me doesn't want to care anymore.

    You claim that you are upset because people are telling you how to feel and the like. Yeah, I'm sure it does get old hearing the same things over and over again. But you should be thankful and appreciative of all the support you've gotten over the last month. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you're the kind of person that, if it were the other way around and everyone was giving you space and not "giving you attention" you would be so pissed it would be unbelievable.

    And finally, as honorable as your brother's service to our country was, and as sad and horrible as his way-too-early death was, the fact remains that he chose this to be his life's work. No one forced him to join the military. This isn't a draft situation. So to say that some bureaucrat put your brother in some "shit hole" is misguided at best, and ignorant at worst.

    Again, I reiterate that I do feel bad for you and your family. But maybe you should begin to be thankful for those around you who have given you the much needed support you've gotten.

  2. How brave of you to post that anonymously.
    Kurt Reifert

  3. Anonymous, You infuriate me.


  4. Wow, that anonymous poster has a lot of balls to post something so rude and heartless and then not even give their name. How dare you be so inconsiderate to a family that is grieving a loss.

    Elizabeth, DO NOT feel guilty for any emotions you are feeling right now. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You are allowed to be sad, happy, numb, or even angry with Shane. You have every right to sit and do nothing, or go out and actually have fun with friends. Death is not fair. And you do not have to accept it and go on like everything is okay a month after your brother has passed.

    I have never met you, but I hope to one day. (My husband is friends with your father.) But just from your postings on this blog, I can tell that you are a very strong and brave woman.
    Your postings have such courage, compassion, love, and raw emotion. Thank you for sharing with all of us that follow your blog. And thank you for letting us all get to know more about Shane.

    Continued prayers go out to you and your family.
    Cheryl ALbaceli

  5. To the ass who posted as Anonymous. REALLY? Are you serious with that post! You are a coward, a tiny person who has never experienced such a loss to know that Beth is experiencing the most raw, unhinged emotions one could possibly endure. Yes, Shane did choose his military path and accepted his job at hand but to say Beth and her family need to just accept and move on after the tragedy that occured is obsurd. They didn't choose this outcome for Shane so please keep your awful opinions to yourself and let this wonderful family grieve in any way they seem fit. And who said they were not thankful for the support! Ass!

  6. Well, Clearly "Anonymous" has no idea what she is saying.

    Beth, I think it is very brave for you to share with the world how you are grieving. I check this blog at least once a day. Your entries make me face how ignorant I have been about the men that serve this country. These brave young men are there everyday for us and we need to be there for them too. Every time I read your blog I am reminded about what they go through and it has personally encouraged me to send more care packages, donate to more causes and do what little I can do from here for them.

    Thank you for sharing your grieving process with us. Don't let people like "Anonymous" discourage you.

    And "Anonymous" get a life. If you don't like what someone is writing, don't read it. You clearly don't have a compassionate bone in your body. And you are right, it was a choice for Shane to join he military. And lucky for us there are young men brave enough to defend and fight for us and our rights (even the right to be ignorant) knowing the risks that will face.

  7. Like why even post this ? It makes no sense, Why? What could you possibly be bitter about in posting this? No one needs to justify to you why this this blog is being written. It is not your business and If you don't like it simply don't read it. Grow up pal. Glad they are letting mature people into law school and hopefully you are the exception. Have some common courtesy to refrain from making public comments like this for no reason. *Badly.

  8. Anonymous has never grieved. All those who knew Shane or have lost a loved one in such a brutal way understand how you feel, Elizabeth. Please continue to post your feelings and thoughts. You are helping all of us grieve.

  9. Beth,

    ANGER is also a stage of grief. It's also allowed. Feel however you want to.

    Bureaucrats do sit very far removed from the war situations and (usually) have no understanding of how awful it really is, but will be the first to justify it over their expensive dinners, made by their trophy wives.

    To Anonymous, being around someone at school doesn't mean you "know" them. Someone is grieving the loss of their loved one, and has every right to feel the array of emotions that flow from that. Beth can write a blog, or post on facebook to help her make sense of these feelings. Anonymous, you DON'T have to read the blogs or posts. You went out of your way to do so.

    Also, you fucking coward, try sharing your strong opinions with the courage to admit you have them.

    Andrea Miller
    Someone who actually knows Beth at school and is her friend.

  10. Dear Anonymous,
    Oh, so you are the authority on how to grieve? To tell a grieving sister that she has some "much needed support" to shut up and be thankful for, is sickening. You should be ashamed of yourself. You obviously need to get a smack off of that high horse you're riding around on and SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH. Your "advice" on "How" Beth should be handling something so horrible is not necessary. So shut your ignorant face. And I really hope you don't make it through law school, people like you have no business representing anyone else.

  11. I totally agree. Anonymous has never suffered loss as great as yours. Knowing the grief as you do, I read and watch as you begin the "stages". While we all go through it differently, there are common threads. It's sorrowful and comforting at the same time. Anonymous, you may be brilliant enough to attend law school, but be smart enough to know you have no idea what you're talking about here.

  12. Dear Anonymous,
    It takes someone of much courage to join our military knowing that there is a war going on. They don't sign up asking to die. They sign up to protect our country and everyone in it. They sign up so that people like you can make rude comments on blog pages such as these. So, as a matter of fact, you should be saying "Thank You" to Elizabeth and her family and above everyone else, to the all the fallen soldiers and the ones still fighting. You're very welcome for your freedom to write.
    Sister to fallen soldier - SGT Paul E Dumont JR.
    All give some, some GAVE all.

  13. I just re-read this entire post and now I'm pissed. You cock sucking, arrogant, ignorant, little piece of shit. You must have been bred and raised by some real ignorant, neanderthal, brain-dead morons.
    You are too big a coward to identify yourself, but if I'm wrong, please look me up. I would love to look you in the eye and take your full measure.

    Kurt Reifert

  14. I just need to write this to clear something up, even though at this late date it may not be read by many. We now know that the bullet that took Shane's life passed through both of his lungs and his thoracic aorta, leaving a 1 1/2 hole.
    That's about as close as it gets to being shot directly in the heart and the results are the same.
    Shane didn't give up, and neither did the medic and other soldiers that tried in vain to save him.
    No amount of will could overcome that wound.

    Kurt Reifert