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

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Tomorrow, I will graduate from law school. When I began law school, I admittedly had no idea what I was doing or what I had gotten myself into. I knew that it would be tough, but I did not realize that it would change the way I looked at the world, the way I thought, and the way I engaged with others.

Along the way, I read more books and cases and statutes than I ever thought possible. Certain semesters, I spent 14 hour days at school. About once a year, I had horrible moments when I doubted everything about myself and didn't think that I was smart enough to be at law school. I met other people who also want to be lawyers, some of whom will be very bad lawyers, and some of whom will be very good and honest lawyers. Some of those in the latter category became my dearest friends, who I consider to be family and understand me in a way that few people do.

Most importantly, I found myself at law school, and finding myself meant that I know what type of lawyer I want to be, even though job prospects are currently few and far between for my colleagues and myself. I will be hardworking and advocate zealously for my clients, no matter if that client is a multi-million dollar corporation or a single person. I will not be consumed by a need to make money, but instead a need to feel that I am making someone else's life better and to be content with my career. I will be ethical and remember that legal decisions impact real human lives and I must always be able to sleep with myself at night.

I should feel pretty good about myself and about my graduation tomorrow. Instead, I'm weepy and edgy. I don't want to have to put on a cap and gown and hood and smile. I don't want to pose for photographs. I don't want to be involved a ceremony or sit with my fellow graduates or be handed a piece of paper. But mostly, I don't want to look up in the audience only to find that the person I want to be at my graduation the most isn't there, knowing that he should be.

And when I say "should be," I mean that in the literal sense, because Shane would be home from Afghanistan right now. And his leave time would have started. And he would have been sitting in the audience and I would have been able to find him in a sea of faces. And once I had found him I would have waved frantically, and mouthed "Hi, buddy," and grinned like an idiot. And he would've smiled and shaken him head slightly at how goofy I looked and waved back.

The last contact that I ever had with Shane was a text message that I received on November 5, 2010, at 9:33 p.m. my time:

Hey found out we're all supposed to leave here no later than April 18. My leave starts may 13! Love you. Gonna sleep after guard sooo tired

I responded:

That's awesome, buddy! I think I graduate that day! Love you so much! Sweet dreams.

Shane was in an area that's eight or eight and half hours ahead of my time. Meaning he sent that message at either 5:33 or 6:03 a.m. on November 6, 2010. I know now that he didn't go to sleep, even though he was so tired. I'll never know why, and I'll always be a little bit sore at him for not just going to sleep. Instead, as I read later in reports, he went to the gym, and then he became involved in a firefight, during which he was killed.

Within an hour of sending me that message, he was killed. Of course, I didn't find out until the middle of the afternoon my time on November 6, 2010, that Shane had been killed. So I had half a day where I thought that my brother was going to be home for my graduation. Ever since he left for Afghanistan, I had it in my mind that he wouldn't be there. But that half a day of knowing that he would be at the ceremony has made the last week and the upcoming tomorrow torturous for me.

So tomorrow will be tough. I won't be happy like I should be. I might get weepy. But I will go and I will put on a cap and gown and hood and smile. And I will pose for photographs. And I will be involved a ceremony and sit with my fellow graduates and be handed a piece of paper. And I will probably still look up in the audience, knowing that he won't be there but having to look anyways, just in case, for the person I want to be at my graduation the most, not being able to find him, knowing that he should be there. 


  1. Congratulations on your graduation Elizabeth. You have worked hard, and should be very proud of yourself. Shane is proud of you, and he will be there cheering you on. You won't see him, but you will know he is there. When you are having a rough moment, he will help you through. Have faith, and enjoy your special day. You deserve it.

  2. Shane was there beside you, not in the way your heart and soul yearned for, but there...