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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shane's Last Christmas Present to Beth

The following was written by my mom, Kitty: 

Shane’s Last Christmas Present to Beth

I have started and stopped this write so many times, but I am compelled to write about last Christmas. It was just a year ago that Shane and I went shopping for his Christmas present to Beth.  Never in a million years would I ever allow myself to imagine that would be the last Christmas present he would ever purchase.  As a mother, I built this protective wall for my children that I felt would never be shattered.

I knew that this was a special moment because Shane asked me to go shopping with him for the perfect gift for Beth.  It had been quite awhile since Shane had asked me to go shopping with him because he preferred shopping with his sister.  

Shane wanted to purchase a gift that would not wear out or be out of fashion, but something that Beth would always have to remind her of how much love they shared.

So off we went – headed out to the mall.  While driving to the mall we talked about life and music.  We talked about his new life at Fort Campbell and what it would be like to be part of the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division.  We talked about The Black Keys, Eminem, and Beck.

By the time we had arrived at the mall, Shane had decided he was going to purchase a necklace or ring for Beth.  I never realized how many independent jewelry stores were in the mall, let alone the jewelry departments in the anchor stores.  Yet, we managed to go to every store that carried fine jewelry – just to end up back at the first store and the very first showcase that Shane peered into. 

I remember perusing the showcases with Shane – a time or two pointing out a piece of jewelry, just to have him shake his head no.  Most of the time, I would pretend to look into the showcases, but all the while keeping my eyes on Shane. I would embrace the intensity of his search, his search for the perfect gift.

We stopped and had lunch before he made his final decision.  Again, talking about music and family and his passionate commitment to being Soldier.

Finally, we returned to that very first showcase.  I remember Shane examining the ring he selected, holding it up to look at it from all angles.  It is a ring that screamed – buy me, I am the perfect gift for Beth.  It is a citrine ring with black and white enamel.  It is not modern or antique, but it has “Beth” written all over it.

But it is more than just a ring; it is the last Christmas present that Shane ever purchased.  It is one of the endearing reminders of Shane.  It is a gift from the heart, a gift between a brother and sister. A gift of love that will help us over the sad and painful days.

My husband and I have been truly blest to be able to say that Elizabeth is our daughter and that Shane is/was our son.  As parents, are always grateful for the love of each of our children.

Beth’s momma and Shane’s mammy

Alternate Ways to Donate

My family and I truly appreciate the donations that we have received and the men who benefit from those donations are even more grateful. 

If you are interested in a more personal way to donate that would involve contact with an actual soldier, please consider adopting a soldier from Adopt a US Soldier. From their website: 

Thousands of miles away from home, many in combat zones, our soldiers need our support. You have no idea how treasured a single letter is! Adopt A US Soldier is dedicated to connecting supporters of our troops, just like you, with deployed soldiers the world over.
Staffed fully by volunteers, AAUSS has helped thousands of soldiers find friendship, support, and a much loved and much needed touch of home.
Adopt A US Soldier is active in over 100 Countries and has thousands of active volunteers supporting our troops by adopting one soldier, two soldiers, or even an entire platoon. Feel free to look around and see how you can get involved and easily adopt your own soldier. There are many other ways to get involved as well.

If you are considering adopting a soldier, know that:

Adopting a soldier is easy to do, won't take up much of your time, and there is not much financial obligation beyond the price of some stamps. You don't need to feel obligated to send gifts or packages, although they would be greatly appreciated by your soldier, A simple letter, even just once each week, means the entire world to our troops. 

If you have further questions, read here.

6 Men out of the 101st Killed by Suicide Bomber

Please keep the families and friends of the following brave men in your thoughts:

Sgt. Willie A. McLawhorn, Jr.
Spc. Derek T. Simonetta
Cpl. Sean M. Collins
Spc. Kenneth E. Necochea, Jr.
Spc. Jorge E. Villacis
Spc. Patrick D. Deans 

These 6 men were killed in the Kahdahar Province, Afghanistan on December 12. They were all based out of Fort Campbell and out of the 101st Airborne, serving in the 2nd Batallion, 502nd Infantry Division. They leave behind fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, and children. They were killed by a suicide bomber while building a new base.

A Taliban suicide bomber killed six US soldiers and two Afghan troops in a suicide attack today that targeted a newly established outpost in a region of Kandahar known as the "heart of darkness." The Taliban claimed it carried out the attack.

The suicide bomber detonated a minibus packed with explosives at the gate of a small combat outpost manned by US and Afghan troops in the town of Sangsar in the district of Zhari in Kandahar province. The suicide bomber was able to get past Afghan soldiers who were manning the outer perimeter.

The blast leveled the wall of a mud-brick home where the US and Afghan troops were building a new base in the village, according to The New York Times. The building collapsed on the soldiers, killing them and wounding more than a dozen US and Afghan troops.

The Taliban claimed the attack on its website, Voice of Jihad. The Taliban said that the suicide bomber, who was identified as Ahmadullah, detonated more than two tons of explosives as the US and Afghan troops were fortifying their positions.

The attack was carried out by the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or Mullah Dadullah Front, a wing of the Taliban in the south that is closest to al Qaeda, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by none other than Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has since been promoted as the Taliban's top military commander. On Dec. 4, Coalition and Afghan special operations troops captured a senior Mullah Dadullah Front financier and weapons facilitator.

Today's suicide attack is the third such bombing in Kandahar in two days. Also today, a suicide bomber wounded eight Afghan troops after detonating his car bomb in Jalai. Yesterday, a suicide bomber wounded five policemen and a civilian in an attack in Kandahar city.

ISAF has launched major operations over the past several months in the Taliban stronghold districts of Arghandab, Panjwai, and Zhari. Prior to these operations, the Taliban had been in full control of these districts for the past several years.

ISAF believes that the operations, combined with its targeted campaign against mid- and top-level Taliban leaders, have put the Taliban in the south in disarray.

The Taliban have suffered heavy losses in a series of special operations nationwide. Over the past six months, more than 600 Taliban and allied terrorist groups' leaders have been killed or captured, 2,000 fighters have been killed, and another 4,100 have been captured [see LWJ report, Special operations forces deal blows to Taliban ranks].

Please visit this article on the New York Times to read more. 

Lux Aeterna

This is one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of music I think I've ever heard -- "Lux Aeterna" (Latin for "the eternal light") composed by Clint Mansell. It's from the film Requiem for a Dream, adapted from Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel by the same name. The book is difficult to read and the movie is difficult to watch. I went through a phase where I tried to watch the most disturbing movies I could find. At the time, I was having incredibly graphic nightmares, and while I now look back and realize that the films I watch probably just contributed to the images in my brain while I slept, I was trying to prove that other people had thought of terrible things, too, and the movies were evidence of this. 

Requiem for a Dream appears to be about drug addicts, but it's more about the human condition, how warped a conception of the American Dream can become, and how our desires for feeling, for a connection of any kind, often leave us completely and utterly alone.  The last scene of the film includes a very graphic sex scene, but is also one of the most beautiful pieces of film I've ever seen. The first time I watched it, I forgot to keep breathing because I was so captivated with what I was seeing, tears streaming down my face, my mouth partially agape as the film finally came to its end. It finds all four of the main characters alone, in the fetal position, having finally succumbed to their demons and delusions. 

When Shane and I were both living at home, I came home from school one day to find him in the TV room. 

"I watched this movie today," he said, holding up the case to Requiem for a Dream. 

"Oh yeah," I replied, "And what did you think?" 

"It was pretty fucking sick. But ... it was good." 

"You liked it?"

"I'm not gonna want to watch it every day, but yeah, I liked it." 

I don't know why particular vignettes stick out in my memory. Why I remember that particular 30 seconds of my life but forget others entirely. Maybe it's because Shane and I didn't always agree on what movie to watch or what was good or what was bad. 

Shortly after he was killed, I was going through his iTunes library on his home computer, and I found multiple versions of Clint Mansell's "Lux Aeterna." It was a connection that I had with Shane that I never knew about until after his death, the sort of thing that makes me both happy and sad all at the same time. 

I had a nightmare last night. It was the kind where I feel like I haven't been breathing the entire time I've been asleep, my whole body is frozen and I can only open my eyes before regaining control of my limbs, which are all on pins and needles. I sucked in a gasp of air and while I did so thought about Shane, telling myself to not be afraid of some images in my mind when I know the nightmares that he has and lives are much worse, somehow forgetting that he was dead. By the time I exhaled I had succeeded in reminding myself of the events of the past 45 days. Right now, I've come to hate the moments where I fool myself into thinking that Shane is still alive, but just deployed, and that he'll be home in about 4-5 months. During the few couple weeks of Shane's death, I loved these moments. They made the rest of the day a little bit more bearable, knowing that I would have a brother who is alive and well for a few seconds each morning. But now, they're cruel little jokes that my mind plays on me, a nightmare in and of themselves.