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 25, 2011

Black Olives

Well, this holiday season is tricky because last year I could convince myself that Shane would not have been home for the holidays. If Shane hadn’t been killed he would have still been in Afghanistan. It is a silly game the mind plays, but it was a game that helped me get through the holidays last year.

This year, I did not have that luxury of playing a game with my mind. Instead, I knew that Shane should be home – yes, home for the holidays because the tour was over. Yet, Shane was not home because the brutality of death truly wins. Shane will never ever be home again.

Instead, I (we) create a new existence without the physical presence of Shane. Those of us who knew and loved Shane have changed. The change is a necessity to process my life without my son, but every once in awhile something happens that tugs on the strings of the heart.

Traditionally, we spend Christmas Eve with Kurt’s side of the family and Christmas day with my side of the family. True to tradition, we continued with our holiday plans.

Yesterday, I received a telephone call for a simple request. “Will you bring a can of black olives on Christmas day? I forgot to grab a can at the store.” The request was from Shane’s godmother; Shane loved his Aunt Jane. Jane just happens to be married to my brother, John. Jane is more than my sister-in-law, she is my best friend.

You see, Shane really liked black olives. Beth and I like black olives, but Shane loved black olives. A year ago, I would have had at least six cans of black olives in the pantry. This year, not a single can in the house, not even in the back corner of the refrigerator. Kurt, being the brave one, ventured to the grocery store and purchased a couple of cans of black olives.

When we would have family over one can was never enough because when the kids were young, they would put black olives on their finger tips and laugh and laugh while they nibbled away on the olives. Never the green ones, only the black ones.

I know it is silly, but this simple request made me realize how many little things I have altered in my life. And then I wondered why I stopped purchasing black olives, but subconsciously I knew why.

Tonight, I put black olives on my plate. And with a smile on my face and a gaze up to the heavens, I thanked Shane for his love of black olives.

Oh, and that other can of black olives was placed in my refrigerator.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Monuments and Men

A couple of months ago, we traveled to Fort Campbell. It was a trip which I needed to make to help with my healing process. We drove through continuous rains as if the heavens were crying with me. My heart was so heavy, so wanting and waiting to feel whole again.

The drive to Kentucky was beautiful; the colors of fall still remained on the branches. Through the raindrops I wondered where all the other people were going on their travels. Were they going to work or a day of errands or on a trip of discovery?

We arrived at Fort Campbell in time for a ceremony for the Gold Star Families. This was not the reason for our trip, but we felt it was important to attend the ceremony. We were honored to be escorted by CPT Sean Hinrichs, who was Shane’s platoon leader. I am sure that Sean’s parents are as proud of their son as we are of Shane. And now I finally had the opportunity to meet the man who spent so many hours with my son.

The ceremony was very moving and, at the end, a family member placed a yellow rose inside the blue star. When I returned to my chair, I felt so small and was so glad to be able to hold Kurt’s hand. 

Sean then took us to the site of the monuments for the fallen Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 327th Infantry Regiment. This was my reason to venture to Fort Campbell; the trip gave me an opportunity to lay my hands on a monument. It is the monument that bares the names of the Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Operation OEF XI May 2010 – May 2011. The monument is inscribed on both sides with the men who gave their lives for honor and country.

It bares Shane’s name. And then a Merlin caught my eye – it flew low and settled in a pine tree. At that moment, I felt a wave of peace come over me. It is a fleeting thing, but I am so grateful for those precious moments of peace. I began to grasp that brotherhood of honor, duty, and commitment.

Later in our visit, we got to meet Shane’s brothers-in-arms and their families. We spent lunches and dinners in conversations wrapped in love and respect. We laughed and we cried. I was able to put faces and voices to the men; the men so important to Shane. We were invited over to Doc’s house; a house filled with love.

I was now able to fully realize that I will never truly understand this brotherhood, but that is okay because it is something only the men of the 101st Airborne Division, 1/327th, Bravo Company – those Bushmaster Brothers can understand.

Each of the men will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to witness the brotherhood.

As we drove home, the skies were no longer pouring rain; instead, the sun was poking through the clouds as my thoughts drifted in and out of peace.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wreaths Across America

On the second Saturday of December, coordinated wreath laying ceremonies occurred at Veteran cemeteries sponsored by Wreaths Across America. I did not attend the ceremony on Saturday; instead, I went to Great Lakes National Cemetery today. I did not attend the ceremony because my time at the cemetery is filled with quiet reflection.

I am thankful for this group and the many volunteers who gave up their precious time to attend the ceremony. Personally, I know kindhearted people who attended the ceremony, people who knew and loved Shane and everything he stood for. I know the young boys who placed the wreath on Shane’s tombstone.

It was a bitter cold morning, but the sun was shining, which has a tendency to make everything a little bit better. As I turned into the drive, the first things to catch my eye were the flags. Today, all the flags were raised and waving in the wind. It is a magnificent sight – the red, the white, and the blue. It is a brutal reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that Shane freely made to help keep us safe.

I pulled over and parked near Shane’s tombstone. I can sit in the Jeep and view Shane’s final resting spot. I have my little rituals for my visits to the cemetery. Today, we listened to the new cd by the Black Keys from start to finish (no skipping songs because that is one of Shane’s rules for listening to a new album).

I always read poetry when I visit Shane’s grave and today was no exception. On some visits I know which poems I will read, but today, I let the book decide for me. I opened the book and let the page come to me. I brought John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. When I opened my eyes and saw the title of the poem, I closed my eyes and said – no, this must be a mistake, but I did not change my draw. Instead, I read the following poem. And even though the tears did not stop flowing for the longest time, I knew in my heart, this was the poem for the day.

“For Grief”
~ John O’Donohue

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it know its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”
Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

Not just Veterans Day, but every day, take a moment to remember those who put their lives on the line each moment of the day. Honor those who bravely serve or have served to maintain the freedoms of this great nation.

Always and forever,
Shane's Mammy and Beth's Momma

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Father's Tribute to his Son

He loved his family
He was smart
He read books
He loved music
He was quick witted with a very dry sense of humor
... He was a very deep thinker
He understood history
He did not suffer fools
He was a champion of the underdog
He was loyal
He was talented
He was handsome
He would never back down
He took shit from no one
He tried to improve himself every day
He knew the meaning of duty and honor
He was proud to wear the CIB
He was proud to be a Screaming Eagle
He was more proud to be a Bushmaster
He loved the men he served with

He was my son and I miss him so......................

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How do you measure, measure a year?

Sunday, November 06, 2011, has finally arrived.

The morning began with a magnificent sunrise – the sky awash with pink and orange. There is frost on the ground with the mist slowly rising; just as I arise today to discover the beauty that surrounds me. I am so very, very fortunate to be surrounded by a truly loving family and a compassionate group of friends.

Am I sad today? Of course, but I will not let that sadness consume me. Actually, yesterday was the brutal day because in my world I measure in weeks. And yesterday was 52 weeks to the day that the fatal news was delivered. It was a day, which I already knew in my heart, that when I arrived home there would be Army personnel in my driveway. It was a day I sat frozen in my Jeep. It was a day in which I had to call Kurt to come home. It was a day in which I had to call Beth to come home. It was a day and night to be in shock and disbelief making all the calls to family and friends.

Today I will take my sadness and tuck it in a back pocket. Instead, I will try and find the beauty in this world. I will look for moments of quiet tenderness and smiles.

I will cherish the memories of Shane.

I will still believe that there is still more good in the world than bad.

I will still ask why, why was such a good soul taken so young? I don’t think I will ever find the answer to that question.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
~ “Seasons of Love’

I will measure this year in sadness and love

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today is Shane’s birthday, facebook told me so. Well, silly facebook, I already knew that. Shane was born on October 27, 1987, and I knew that my life was truly whole. Kurt, Beth, and I welcomed our addition to the family with so much love.

Shane was not home for his last two birthdays. Two years ago he was at Fort Benning for OSUT (one station unit training) and last year he was in the Pech Valley in Afghanistan. Sometimes, I wonder which birthday was the most enjoyable or which birthday sucked the least.

Shane how are you spending your birthday today? I hope birthdays are celebrated up in heaven. I wonder if there are balloons and cake and ice cream.

I do know this much – you touched so many lives, and we are all better human beings to have had you in our lives.

Happy Birthday to you, my son, my Shane Michael, my Moe!!!

I have kept my promise to you as I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever-
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Season of Fall

Fall has always been my favorite season. I truly appreciate the cooler temperatures and the vast array of colors. There is something so comforting about the change in the seasons.

Fall was Shane’s favorite season. Shane was born in October, and Halloween was his favorite holiday.

Shane is seven-years-old in the photo; the tree is as tall as ever, and it is still holding onto its green leaves.

This fall is difficult; it is trickier than I ever imagined

Maybe it is the memories, maybe it is the change, or maybe, it is this thing called life

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25, 2010

I am sitting here with a plastic bottle of Coke and a small bag of sourdough pretzels.

One year ago today, we took Shane to the airport to fly back to Afghanistan. I have previously posted about that drive to the airport. I have written about my special moment at the airport.

I do not have a photo from that day; instead, I have included a photo of my recent trip to the zoo. It is with pride and honor that I post this photo in Shane’s memory. Swan was Shane’s online gaming name. 

Maybe that is the reason this swan was so gracious to “perform” for me. I hope so.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Detroit Zoo

One year ago today, Shane and I went to the Detroit Zoo as part of our special day

I went to the Detroit Zoo this afternoon

I went by myself, but I was not alone

As always-
i carry your heart with me
i carry it in my heart
i am never without it
          ~e.e. cummings

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Last Sunday

This has been a taxing week on many levels, but the fact Shane was home just one year ago for his mid-deployment level weighs heaviest on my heart. And it is just not my heart; this weight is on each and everyone’s heart who knew and loved Shane.

This was Shane’s last Sunday at home before he returned to Afghanistan on Saturday, September 25, 2010. In my world, Sunday is still family day. It is a day to try and catch up from the demands and pressures of the world. It is a day where there still is a home cooked meal and conversation or maybe an outing.

Today is a day in which I could easily wallow in self pity or sadness or depression. I will not let the tears flow because I do not think I could contain them.

Instead, I will share happy memories of Shane. A Shane that the Army never got to have, a Shane that only very few of his brothers-in-arms knew about his passion for playing his guitars. Yes, his brothers knew about his knowledge and love of music, but not about the guitars. Shane decided once he joined the Army that the two worlds would not collide.

As I reach back in my memories, I grasp onto Shane’s senior year of high school. I have previously shared that I was blest to have had both Beth and Shane in the classroom. The one course that they each took as seniors was yearbook. And, you guessed it, I taught the course. A part of the responsibility of producing a successful yearbook is to generate revenue. Every year the yearbook staff and I would sponsor a Halloween costume contest. The students would pay a dollar to have the privilege of wearing a school appropriate costume. The yearbook staff would select the winner and he or she would receive a plastic pumpkin filled with goodies.

Shane and two of his good buddies, Tim Rosseel and Scott Shannon, decided to dress up as 80s rock stars. I don’t think anything more needs to be said – the photograph speaks volumes. I believe it was one of their best days at CMC. Tim and Scott have been humbled by their friendship with Shane. 

Tim, Shane, and Scott

Another senior moment for Shane was during the talent show. I know Shane was in his glory when the female student body kept yelling his name, “Shane, Shane, Shane – we love you, Shane.” I guess a guy and his guitar equal star treatment. I had a hard time focusing my camera between my giggles of this treatment for my son. This was near the end of the school year, and for some reason, Shane was able to stay under the radar with the length of his hair.

Lastly, this is one of my favorite photographs ever taken of Shane. Terry, the owner of St Clair Studio, took Shane’s senior portraits. I remember helping lug in the change of clothes, sports equipment, amps, and guitars for the photo shoot. Of all the photos taken that day, it is this one that I cherish the most. I feel this photo captures the essence of Shane – his passion and love of music.  

So, today, I might stumble, but I refuse to stand still or step backwards. Instead, I will force myself to move forward as I continue to, “put one foot in front of the other.” I do this in honor of my son, my Shane Michael, my Moe.

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Big Secret

I am beyond tired, but my mind will not settle for the night. I have spent the good part of the day thinking about a secret. Yep, a big secret between a brother and his sister. Secrets are tricky things; they are in a world of cloaks and veils.

On September 10, 2010, I was in my classroom, last hour of the day. I remember there was a knock on the door, and I turned around to see who was coming in my room so late in the day. And then I could not believe my eyes. There was Shane with Beth standing behind him. I stopped dead in my tracks, there was Shane. Shane! Shane told me he was still stuck in Afghanistan waiting to fly out for his mid-deployment leave. Beth and Shane had devised a plan to keep Shane’s homecoming a secret from Kurt and me. Beth alone went to the airport (with her special sign) to greet Shane. They drove straight to the high school and were escorted to my classroom. Shane did not take time to shower or change his clothes, which he had been in for a couple of days, but came right to school. And there were my children – oh, my heart was so full of love!

The following Monday, Katie, one of my seventh hour kids, gave me a present. She told me not to be mad at her because she broke a school rule, but to open the present. The present was a framed photo; Katie took out her cell phone and snapped the surprise. It is from the back of the room and not the clearest photo, but it captures the bear hug I gave Shane. I love this photo!

How Beth was able to keep this secret from me – well, I have yet to figure that one out. I do not know who concocted this plan, but it was a plan with a high level of secrecy.  It was shared between a brother and his sister, who had such a special bond.

I was reminded of this bond when I was watching the news, and Governor Christie delivered his speech at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. He said, “…when you think about the brother or sister who no longer has that person who they can pick up the phone and call and speak in that shorthand that only comes after spending a lifetime together. When you think about that measure of loss. All of the changes and inconveniences in our lives, pale in comparison.” Well said Governor Christie, well said.

As September 11th has now rolled around – take time to remember the victims and their families of September 11, 2001. Take time to remember those who sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to help keep America safe. Take time to remember their families and friends. Take time to reflect on this great country and the freedoms that we cherish.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Monday, September 5, 2011

The longer you are dead, the more I feel like I didn't really know you.

"I just want to know you."

"What does that mean, know me, know me. Nobody ever knows anyone else, ever. You will never know me."

Bret Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Never

When I was younger, I would play the game “I Never” with friends. Everyone would sit in a circle with their hands in fists in front of them. One by one, each person in the circle would take a turn saying something they had never done. If someone else had done something, they had to put a finger up. The goal was to think of things that the others in the circle had done. Whoever got to 10 fingers up first was the loser.

Nowadays, I play “I Never” with myself. When Shane’s death was very recent, the big “I Nevers” were in the forefront of my mind. I Never get to see Shane again. I Never get to talk to Shane again. I Never get to celebrate a holiday with him.

As time stretches and the space between Shane’s death and the current day grows, it’s the little “I Nevers” that get me the most. These “I Nevers” creep up on me in quiet moments. Like today, while standing over the sink, wishing we had a dishwasher, I paused as I rinsed the suds off of an indigo blue bowl. It is one bowl of a set of four that reside in our cupboards, and I use one of them almost every morning.

But it wasn’t until this day, holding the bowl under steaming hot water, watching soap fall down the drain, that I thought how the bowl came to be in its current place. Shane and I had purchased the bowls, along with dinner plates and side plates and mugs and servingware. I don’t remember if they were for Mother’s Day or our mother’s birthday or maybe Christmas. But I remember going shopping with Shane, in the basement of a department store. I remember he was wearing his black Converse shoes and the light was very harsh and we looked at probably every set of dishes before coming back to a particular set of indigo blue dishes that we had examined when we first arrived in housewares. It’s a silly little memory. But it brings about a host of “I Nevers.” I will never walk through a department store with Shane. I will never make a decision with him, no matter how big or small. I will never buy another present for our parents with him. I will never walk a little ways behind him, surprised at how much of a man he had become as he walks with his hands in his pockets, shoulders slightly hunched, always looking thoughtful. These are the “I Nevers” that I will probably miss the most, but which are most capable of slipping from my mind because they are tiny moments, not occasions captured with a camera lens.

All of this came to my mind as I finished washing an indigo blue bowl.

I never take much care with dishes, but today I dried the bowl more delicately than required, and placed it gently in its proper spot in the cupboard.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Breaker, Breaker

Shane was so proud to earn his Infantry Blue Cord. I remember how proud Kurt was to pin the cord on Shane’s right shoulder. This memory seems like another lifetime to me; it is clouded in the belief that Shane would be fine, Shane would return home, Shane would be starting to write his novel.

In Shane’s mind, when he joined the Army there was no greater position than to be part of the Infantry. Shane was good with his weapons, actually very good. During JRTC, it was discovered that there was a need for a new radio telephone operator (RTO). Shane was selected by SFC Bolin and CPT Hinrichs because he was “very smart and strong.” To put it mildly, Shane was not a happy camper. This was not his desire, but these were his orders. In very little time, Shane had to learn many operating systems and codes before they deployed to Afghanistan.

After learning about Shane’s new position from Kurt, I decided to try and lighten up Shane’s mood. I sent him a message with the title, “Breaker, Breaker.” Shane did not find my humor entertaining. Actually, it was one of the few times that Shane was fairly angry with me. The anger did not last long, but Shane remained as the RTO until he came home in September.

Shane spent many hours alongside his Platoon Leader (CPT Sean Hinrichs). I have often wondered what, if any, conversations were had between Sean and Shane. After all, Sean was a commissioned officer, and Shane was an enlisted soldier. I know Shane was very guarded about his personal life, and I have wondered if Sean was the same. Recently, I emailed Sean about my thoughts, and he politely responded. It was as I had thought – small talk, jokes, the crappiness of a situation.

Sean shared this memory of Shane in an email dated November of 2010. “As our time in Afghanistan increased I got to know Shane quite well. He bestowed on me the greatest honor a Platoon Leader could ever receive. During our Combat Patch ceremony, a ceremony that marks the first time a newly deployed Soldier can don a Combat Patch, Shane asked me to put the patch on his right shoulder. It may seem like a simple gesture but to me it was something special and something I will never forget.”

I have yet to meet Sean, but I have met Sean’s father and uncle. Sean’s father and uncle flew in to attend Shane’s funeral. Kurt, Beth, and I were so humbled that these gentlemen rearranged their schedules and were able to represent Sean. This action speaks volumes; it measures the greatness of the brotherhood of the Bushmaster Brothers. To this day, I still try and grasp the depth of this brotherhood. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever truly understand this brotherhood, but I do know this much, from cord to patch, Shane was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers-in arms.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Talk and the Lecture

The Talk…

It is interesting how bits and pieces of the last two years seem to float in and out of my memory; almost like clouds on a lazy afternoon. I have gone back and forth on whether to write this post. It is extremely personal, but there is such a strong message that must be shared.

Shane and his Bravo brothers were given leave time in March and April before they deployed to Afghanistan in May of 2010. In late March, Shane came home for a few days before heading to Las Vegas with some of his Bushmaster brothers.

Shane was fairly quiet this time, I wondered if it was his way of coming to grips with the fact he was soon going to be deployed. Shane did not want any large gatherings; instead he decided on small visits with family and friends. Shane did not pick up and play any of his guitars. I guess he needed to separate this civilian life from his military life.

Just Shane and I were home the afternoon of “the Talk.” Shane was at his computer and I was at mine. Our computers are perpendicular to each other – the conversation started with our backs to one another. “Mammy,” he said, “we need to have a talk.” And with that my body froze – I did not want to have this talk, I did not want to listen, I did not want the words to come out of Shane’s mouth.

“Okay, Buddy – I will listen,” and with that we turned and faced each other. The tears were already streaming down my face, and Shane told me that this needed to be taken care of. I realized that my crying would only make it harder on Shane, so I found some courage and dried my eyes. I grabbed the first piece of paper I could find – a back of an envelope.

Shane told me that we needed to have this talk, just in case he did not make it home. Shane told me that I could plan his funeral and his funeral Mass; he felt that I would know what to do.

Then he added one thing, “Mammy, there are two songs I want played sometime during my funeral. The first song is “It’s Alright” by Guns N’ Roses and the second song is “Fix You” by Coldplay.

I nodded throughout the talk and tucked the envelope in a safe spot – just out of reach, but close enough to readily grasp. We survived the talk; I believe there was a weight lifted from Shane’s shoulders.

Shane left for Las Vegas a few days later. You know the saying, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” – that is true for my knowledge of Vegas. Only Shane and his brothers know the stories behind that trip, but I think this photo speaks volumes!

The Lecture…

My lecture came in the form of an email. It was sent on Friday, April 02, 2010 at 3:57 AM. 

Hey, Mammy,
I’m here in my suite still alive and not that drunk getting ready to grab a little sleep before I check out….A dealer carded me saying I had an angel face. I replied with an angel of death. A deal with the devil, I suppose…. And hopefully, I come back ok to live out my new life. But I tell ya Mammy, and I know this will make you cry, but I can’t hold it in anymore. I feel like I’m going to get killed over there…. I’m going to try my best to come home, but we shall see. I hope it’s just my nerves, time will tell. But you need to be strong and drive on, you’d disappoint me if you never got over it. I love you, Mammy. And it’s ok, because sometimes it isn’t always someone else’s son.”

And when the time came, I remembered where that envelope was, and we honored Shane’s wishes. Kurt, Beth, and I planned the funeral and funeral Mass with care and consideration for Shane. “It’s Alright” was played at the funeral home after the prayer service. “Fix You” was played during Shane’s funeral Mass by one of Beth’s dearest friends. Eric, with his soulful voice, sang while his fingers strummed Shane’s acoustic guitar.

I am ever so grateful that Shane and I had/have an open line of communication. It is important to build strong relationships with your children. Kurt and I are both blest to have wonderful relationships with Beth and Shane. It is important to be able to talk and listen to dreams and fears; hopes and aspirations; and life and death.

You were right Shane; it wasn’t someone else’s son that day in November. It was you, my son, my Shane Michael, my Moe. I will honor your wishes; I will be strong and drive on. I will not disappoint you…

As I continue to put, “one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Little Bit of Luxury Called...a Towel

Well, my old nemesis is back. I am exhausted, running on empty, but my mind won’t settle. I let my mind wander down the labyrinth never knowing which twist or turn I will follow.

Tonight, my mind turns to December of 2009. Shane came home with his meager belongings from Fort Benning. Home. Shane was home for ten days before heading to Fort Campbell to become part of the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), “Bushmasters” Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment.

Shane came home with freshly washed uniforms and linens, but I needed to rewash everything. I needed to send Shane off with uniforms that smelled like home; I know it was silly, but it was important to me.

As I was separating Shane’s articles of clothing (I have no idea why I needed to separate anything because everything was a shade of green), I couldn’t believe my eyes. I picked up a piece of cotton. At first, I thought it was a hand towel, but then I realized that it was Shane’s bath towel. And then my eyes welled up with tears; I couldn’t believe that the Army expected my Shane Michael to dry off with a ratty towel. I would have never kept this towel, it would not have passed muster, even with my rags.

I was offended, I was insulted, I was saddened that was what Shane would have to use to dry himself after a shower. Oh, but wait, back then I still assumed Shane would be in a position that he could shower.

A shower to me is an every day experience. A time to wake up, a time to contemplate, a time to tell myself that everything will be okay.

When Shane was in Afghanistan, a shower was a luxury to the Bushmaster brothers. Maybe, Shane thought that towel was a luxury. I never got a chance to ask Shane about the towel situation, but there are a lot of things I will never get a chance to ask Shane.

So, the next time you are stepping out of the shower and wrapping yourself in the luxury of an Egyptian cotton bath towel, let your mind relax. Take a moment to swaddle your mind with the knowledge that our military personnel make many sacrifices to help maintain and secure our freedom in this land that we call, “the home of the brave.”

Shane, I hope you are swaddled in luxury in the afterlife.

I will continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Friday, August 5, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

“All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go”

Except there were no packed bags, only an Army backpack swung over the shoulder of my son.

Two years ago today, Shane boarded a plane that took him to Fort Benning. A plane ride that would forever alter the course of his life. A plane ride that forever altered our lives. A plane ride that turned Shane from a young man into one tall Soldier.

I am ever so proud of PFC Shane M. Reifert, my son, my Shane Michael, my Moe.

I might stumble today, but I will continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

A Package in the Mail

A couple of weeks ago, we received a box from Fort Campbell - priority mail, medium flat rate box. I was not expecting anything so it caught me off guard. The contents of the box entered my mind and heart, which are already overflowing with so many unanswered whys.

Memorial Ceremony
1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

1400___________________________________09 NOV 2010
PRELUDE                                    “Leave No Man Behind”
                                                ~Blackhawk Down
INVOCATION                              CHAPLAIN
BENEDICTION                                      CHAPLAIN
LAST ROLL CALL                          1SG R.
POSTLUDE                                  “Freedom Theme”

Almighty God, Father of all mercies and Giver of all comforts, deal graciously with us who mourn, that casting all our cares on You, we may know the comfort of Your love and presence. Make us all aware of the brevity of life and the need to live it with a noble purpose. Keep us in this hour of need and enable us to find your strength sufficient. AMEN.

PFC Reifert was born on 27 October 1987 in Detroit, Michigan. He enlisted as an Infantryman on 05 August 2009 and attended Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Upon completion of Infantry training, on 17 December 2009, PFC Reifert was assigned to the “Bushmasters” Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment.

While serving with the “Bushmasters,” PFC Reifert held various duty positions to include; rifleman, radio telephone operator, and grenadier. Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, PFC Reifert participated in the Company’s pre-deployment training at JRTC.

During the deployment, PFC Reifert participated in four Air Assault Missions which included; Operation Azmary Fury I and II, Operation Strong Eagle II, and Operations Bulldog Bite II A. In addition, PFC Reifert participated in over 100 dismounted and mounted patrols while serving with Bravo Company.

PFC Reifert’s awards and decorations include: The Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO ISAF Medal.

The program’s back cover is Psalm 23.

Also, included in the box - the flag, certificates, photos, and items that Shane’s Bushmaster Brothers left in his honor. There are dog tags, patches, emblems, coins, and para-cord with a cross and dog tag. My fingers lingered or grasped the items, as if I could gather strength for the upcoming days.

I reached again and again for the para-cord necklace. I closed my eyes and gently placed the cord in the palm of my hand – there rested the cross and dog tag. The cross was worn; it is pitted from wear and tear. The dog tag is marked and scuffed from metals hitting each other. I knew in my heart that this cross was something very special. The dog tag and cross belong to SSG Dustin Campbell.

I emailed or messaged the men that I could give credit for the items. Unfortunately, there are items in the box that are not distinguished by a name. This is my thank you for your thoughtfulness and caring.

I sent Dustin a message thanking him for his gift from the heart. Dustin gave me permission to share his response, which tells the history of the cross.

You are welcome for that, it was just something for me to give after Shane giving so much to us, that cross was worn throughout Vietnam by my dad and through Iraq in my first deployment and then again through Afghanistan. Thank you for all that you have done for our platoon as we are all starting to head in different directions I think that Shane's memory will hold us all together for a lifetime.

I told Dustin that I did not feel right keeping the cross – that this cross belongs in his family. I mentioned that I would like to keep the cross for a bit, but then return it to him. I have worn the cross a time or two; hoping for an understanding of this brotherhood of the Bushmasters. 

Some people might say that the package contained fabric, paper, metal, and cord. True, it contained fabric, paper, metal, and cord – but to me, it contained so much more. It contained courage, duty, honor, strength, and this damned thing called the brotherhood of the Bushmasters.

I will forever cherish these gifts – they help me in my dark hours as I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma


Monday, July 25, 2011


It is late, I am tired, but my mind won’t settle for the night. Sleep has become my nemesis, and tonight, I am losing the fight.

Tonight, I am at Shane’s computer, sitting in his chair, typing on his keyboard, and listening to his top 25 most played songs on iTunes. I don’t like Shane’s keyboard, but this is his gaming computer and gaming keyboard. It seems foreign to me, even though, all the keys are in the same place as they were back in typing class in high school.

I stroke the keys and let my thoughts come to the surface, just as the mighty whales rise to breathe.

Determination is what enters my mind; Kurt and I are truly blest to have two very determined children. While Beth and Shane set different courses for their lives, it is a characteristic they both share.

Beth set her goals on education. She was determined to graduate with honors in high school, college, and law school; a goal she accomplished. Tonight, Beth is still studying, cramming her brain preparing to take the bar exam. I marvel at her fortitude and resolve to continue with her purpose in life. Beth is determined to make a difference in this world, and I am ever so proud of her.

If I close my eyes and block out the world around me, I can hear Shane’s determination. Shane was one heck of a guitar player. Shane would spend hours upon hours in his bedroom, amp on full volume, and practice until he got the sound just right. I remember Shane learning how to play “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns N’ Roses. The opening riff for the song was played again and again and again and again, until it was perfect. I remember complimenting Shane, but he shrugged off the comment and acted like it was no big deal.

Shane carried his determination with him in the Army. Shane was determined to help keep America strong and free. I do not know who to give credit for the photograph, but it captures Shane’s determination. The photo captures the look of a soldier, a soldier who is dirty and tired and determined to do his best. A soldier who is truly missed by his brothers-in-arms, who truly understand this photo. A son who is truly missed by his mother, who strives to understand this determination, but ever so grateful to say Shane is my son.

I will conquer my nemesis. I will continue to “put on foot in front of the other” as I head off to dreamland.

Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma