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