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

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