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, 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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dinosaurs Rock!

As the months of summer allow me some much needed freedom of mind, I can’t help but wander back in time. I wish for moments that will never be again, but know deep down in my heart that there are many moments that sustain this broken heart.

Shane loved dinosaurs! When I say loved dinosaurs, this just might be an understatement. Shane, even at a young age, knew the names of the dinosaurs – from the allosaurus to the stegosaurus, to the velociraptor to the triceratops, to the apatosaurus to the brontosaurus, all the way up to the mighty tyrannosaurus rex.

When Beth and Shane were little, one of their favorite movies to watch was The Land Before Time. The movie tells the tale of five orphan dinosaurs, who band together while traveling the land. They form their own little family, while facing the odds of survival, and realize their strengths (individually and as a group). 

Did I mention that Shane loved dinosaurs?

Beth and Shane are three years apart in age. Beth has always played the role of big sister with such responsibility and determination. Beth could even be found playing dinosaurs with Shane, even though she might have enjoyed doing something else.

I can’t recall the exact month, but Beth and Shane were young (five and two years of age). It was late in the afternoon when I realized that it was awfully quiet in the house. I went into the family room; the television was on, but no Beth and no Shane. I wandered down the hall and came upon the partially closed bathroom door. I peeked into the bathroom and couldn’t believe my eyes. There on the bathroom countertop sat the two lovely darlings. Beth was very close to Shane, but I couldn’t see what she was doing. I did notice the huge smile on Shane’s face. And then…I noticed his green arms! Yes, that’s right – Beth was transforming Shane into a dinosaur!!!

Beth had gathered up every green marker she could abscond and was having the time of her life. Shane was in his glory becoming a T-Rex! I can’t believe I didn’t grab my camera and capture that moment on film. Instead, it is one of those magnificent moments that are captured only in my heart and mind.

I believe it took a few hours of soaking in the bathtub (playing with dinosaurs) and many changes of the water before the green disappeared. The T-Rex Shane was slowing fading amongst the bubbles and washcloth. The last of the dinosaur green bath water circled the drain, just a few drops left in the tub.

I will not let Shane’s sense of honor and duty fade, nor will my memories circle the drain. Instead, I will try to do my best on any given day; as I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”

Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Screaming Eagles

A couple of weeks ago I was driving on the expressway; it was one of those ghastly gray summer days. The clouds hung low like a sheet settling on a bed.  I was in a contemplative mood, listening to one of my “sad” playlists. As I was driving, approaching Selfridge Air National Guard Base, “These Days,” by the Black Keys was filling my mind. Out of the rain clouds, a transport helicopter appeared, and it looked so forlorn, so mystical.  And then tears streamed down my face, and I wasn’t quite sure why. Why did this helicopter upset me? I teach near the base, so it is not uncommon for me to see the various planes and helicopters in the sky.

I forced myself to confront this demon of a helicopter, and then I realized why I was so upset. I was saddened because I knew so little about Shane’s life in Afghanistan. I know he didn’t want me to worry, didn’t want me to lose sleep, didn’t want me to know about… so, he seldom discussed any of his missions. Instead, when we had the opportunity to chat on facebook we would talk about music, the weather, or how my day was going. This was the way Shane wanted it, so I respected his wishes. I always believed that when Shane came home he would write a best selling novel about his experience, and that would be the way that I would hear about his life in a god-forsaken country.

Before I finished my errands, I stopped and sent a message. Doc is one of Shane’s dearest brothers-in-arms; he also is the medic in Shane’s platoon. So, I asked Doc if Shane ever had to repel out of a helicopter. Doc, always gracious, responded that day with the following message.

Doc gave me his permission to share the story on this blog.

“Kitty I want you to know that I would be more than happy to answer any of your questions, anytime. It's funny you should ask that. I was just thinking about our first real mission. Shane and I were selected to be on D.A.R.T. (downed aircraft recovery team). There was a huge resupply going into an area that was real hot and was very low on food and other supplies. So they were sending in 9 Chinook helicopters loaded with supply. Which is quite dangerous because of how long it will take to do this, the enemy could move in and attack. Chinooks are not very quiet. There were only a total of 12 of us on the team. We were only going to get spun up if a chopper went down. Well, we got spun up.....and it was AWESOME! Shane and I sat right across from each other on the Blackhawk, doors wide open, wind blowing through the cabin, pitch black, and about 8000 ft in the air. We would swoop in and out of the valley around ridges. I remember looking over at Shane (remember we are full kit, all our gear, weapon and night vision goggles down on our faces we look like hardcore aliens) and he smiles huge and gives me a thumbs up. I knew exactly what he was thinking because I felt exactly the same. This is why were here! This is what we do! It was an adrenalin rush and feeling like no other. Shane never fast roped out of a bird. But again no one has in Afghanistan because of the terrain. He did do a lot of Air Assault missions where we rush off a bird that touches down for a few seconds. That was how we surprised the enemy. And Kitty I am not just saying this when I say he was one of the best at it.”

Doc’s response filled my heart with pride; a pride that helps mend this slowly healing heart.

Yesterday, I was again out running errands, traveling the same expressway, listening to a different playlist, more upbeat. “Hey, Soul Sister,” by Train was filling the Jeep. This time there were big fluffy pillows dancing in the azure sky. A jet from Selfridge pierced the clouds, a solo jet, demanding control of the sky. I watched with awe and amazement, as the jet angled into one of those big sweeping turns. My eyes did not fill with tears, instead they filled with wonder and deep appreciation for all the sacrifices our military make to keep us safe.

When Shane was passionate about something – he gave it his all. This is the Shane that the Army had – one hell of a soldier. A man so proud to be part of the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division, 1/327th, Bravo Company, a Bushmaster! A man that paid the ultimate price to help make the world a safer place. A man that I proudly call, my son, my Shane Michael, my Moe…

As Doc concluded (Doc has a real name, and it is Hector, but he will always be Doc), “Kitty, I also wanted you to know that some of us were sitting around talking, and we realized that we all had the same feeling in our gut. The company is not the same without Shane there. We miss him very much. Some of us find it hard to express ourselves, but believe me we talk about him all the time.”

I believe you, Doc! I talk to Shane and about Shane all the time. I am grateful to have a loving family and wonderful friends that share stories and fond memories of Shane. We have all been truly blest to have had Shane in our lives.

As we continue to live our lives without Shane, remember to “put one foot in front of the other,” as we strive to heal and stay strong.

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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July: Independence Day

As the Fourth of July approaches my mind cannot help but wander back to when Beth and Shane were little. We always had our families over for the big holiday; we are fortunate that the Kronners and the Reiferts actually get along and genuinely like one another. Kurt would spend the day cooking on the barbeque, all the kids would swim or play on the swing set or play a game of volleyball, soccer, or wiffle ball or a wicked squirt gun fight. Then the big search for just the right stick to roast marshmallows for s’mores. The day would be filled with love and laughter, that was, until evening approached and the mosquitoes would look for their victims. I would bring out the bug spray and blankets to try and save an itch or two. And then the magic would fill the sky. 

We would sit huddled together to watch the fireworks. Kurt would put on a display of sound and colors. As the fireworks lit up the sky we would ooh and ah and clap with delight. I remember watching Shane and the intensity in his eyes. Maybe he realized at a young age the true meaning of the day – the meaning beyond the picnics and fireworks...

I was blessed to have both my children as students in the classroom. I remember in American literature when we were studying the works from the writers (Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine) of the revolution. Shane’s enthusiasm was apparent – when he was interested in a topic, he truly was interested! I always have quotes on my chalkboard or dry erase board. During this time of study, I placed on the board one of Thomas Paine’s most famous quotes from The Crisis, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” And years later, Shane posts part of that same quote on facebook. Only this time – he is with the 101st Airborne Division, 1/327th, a Bushmaster.

I went to the cemetery a couple of days ago and read The Crisis, but this time the meaning was much deeper and the sorrow was much greater.

Recently, I met for drinks with some of Shane’s friends. Allie, Mary, and Shane were true friends. Mary, one of my former students, was kind enough to share part of a facebook message that Shane had sent her.  It reads, “I'm very proud to be where I am in life right now. This is by far the hardest thing I've ever done, probably will ever do but none of that matters. I've learned how to survive with nothing, the true meanings of tired and hungry, new tolerances for pain and how to ignore the kind that doesn't get a chance to go away, that I can work under stress with a smile, that I'll do anything for my brothers, but most importantly, I've learned what kind of man I am; and that reason alone makes it all worth it. I know that if I don't come home from Afghanistan, that I'm sure as shit going out standing giving ‘em hell. I know my enemy will breath a well earned sigh of relief should that day come. I have really become someone else when I put my uniform on every day. I walk taller and harder, I speak louder and deeper, I smile less if you believe that, and don a look of seriousness and determination. It’s a lot of responsibility to represent those who have worn that uniform before me, and I won't let them down. Men like me have given us 235 years of freedom, and for that I know the hardships are paid for in full. When I go out in the real world and see some kids or teenagers living care free in the moment, that’s when I know it’s worth it.”

So, as we celebrate this Fourth of July, remember to be truly thankful for sacrifices that our members of the military make for our opportunities of freedom. When I will look to the sky this Independence Day, I will search for that special star. The one that has that special twinkle – the one that guides me in my quest to be strong.

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