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, November 5, 2012

If only...

As I reflect upon my life over the last two years, I find myself wondering
If only…
If only, one step to the left…
If only, one step to the right…
If only, one drop of the shoulder…
If only, one turn to the left…
If only, one turn to the right…
If only…

If only, doesn’t have an answer...

Instead, I am left to make my way through this new life. I must venture into this new world of darkness and light – stumbling, drifting, falling, and picking myself back up again and again.

I am truly grateful for the love and support of my family and friends.

Thank you for the gentle words and expressions of love

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


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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Next Time, Bury Me With You

I want to drag the weight of my body to the cemetery.
Past the highways.
Past the fast food restaurants.
Past people who don't know any better and who don't see me anyways.

I want to feel ashphalt ripping through the fabric of my clothes.
Ripping through to my skin.
Leaving a trail of tiny blood marks behind me.

I want to reach your headstone.
Your grave.
The place where your body lies.
I will rise my bruised and battered body to my knees.
And I will dig.

I will take my bare hands, mangled from my journey,
And I will begin to claw.
I will rip through the carefully manicured grass until I feel dirt.
And I will not stop clawing

Until my fingernails have detached from my flesh
And leave nothing but dirt-ridden sores.
Until I reach the wooden box that holds your corpse,
The one that was chosen because it was warmer than cold metal.

Though bruised and bloody and exhausted,
I will open that box, that casket, that tomb
And I will crawl in with you,
Next to your rotted, decaying body
Trapped in a meaningless uniform
With meaningless medals,
Marking you as a stranger.

I will lie next to your body
And I will cradle your flesh,
Staring into the night sky,
Finally able to rest.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Gift...

Recently, we visited Great Lakes National Cemetery as a family. Kurt and Beth humor me with my cemetery rituals – always enter the cemetery with the 80s music playing, a visit to Shane’s gravesite, which includes flowers, poetry, music, conversation, and lastly, a Coke and sourdough pretzels.

Then a drive around the cemetery to view the nature. The cemetery is located on over 500 acres with a small lake; it is truly a beautiful resting place for the veterans. And then I spotted the swans – they were far off, but I wanted to capture another photo of the swans and their not so tiny cygnets. Kurt stopped the car, and I ventured through the tall grass and weeds. After taking a photo or two, we stopped once more at Shane’s gravesite.

It wasn’t until later that I had an opportunity to put the photographs on my computer. I could not believe my eyes when I zoomed in on the photo. The swans are fairly well hidden amongst all the trees, but there, on a fallen branch, is a turtle. Yes, a turtle! 

This little turtle put such a smile on my face because of a silly video on youtube entitled, “Zombie Kid Likes Turtles.” The video has over 37,000,000 million views since being posted in 2007. A young boy with a freshly painted zombie face is asked by reporter what he thinks about his face paint. The boy’s response is, “I like turtles.”

And with that, “I like turtles” was a response commonly heard in the Reifert household no matter what was the posed question. Just when I thought I would no longer hear that response, it would pop up again. Thus, turtles became another connection to Beth and Shane.

Gifts with a turtle theme always have a special meaning and are not given lightly. Recently, Beth gave me a turtle charm, which I will wear on a necklace. And if I close my eyes tightly enough, I can still hear Shane say, “I like turtles.”

So, little turtle on the fallen branch, were you there for a reason? To put a smile on my face? To help mend a broken heart? To bring fond memories to the front? Or quite simply – Shane being Shane and bearing another gift?

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


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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Because of Shane...

So many days and nights, I still struggle with Shane’s death. Why? Why was such a truly honorable and noble soul taken in the prime of his life? It is one of those questions that will never ever be truly answered. So, I search deep into the core of my very being and attempt to find an answer, an attempt to find some peace, some guidance, some consolation, some healing. And then I close my eyes and three men come into view.

SFC Garrett Williams
SFC Stacy Price
BG Darrell Williams

I know each of these men because of Shane. Actually, Kurt, Beth, and I all know these three men, but I can only approach this post from my perspective.

SFC Williams was Shane’s recruiter, SFC Price was our Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO), and BG Williams represented the Army for Shane’s funeral Mass and presentation of the United States flag at Great Lakes National Cemetery.

Each man holds a very special place in my heart. I have decided to write about each of these men as they came into my life.

Garrett was Shane’s recruiter. Shane started talking to Garrett in the spring of 2009. Shane was so fortunate to have Garrett as his recruiter. Garrett took Shane under his wings and offered Shane the contract that he was looking for. And with that genuine concern and care for Shane (he was just not another “recruit” on his quota board); Garrett became part of my life. I first met Garrett at the recruiting office when we dropped off Shane to go to Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). This was the first of my many good byes to Shane during his time in the Army. I tried with all my strength not to cry, but I could not hold back my tears. Kurt, Beth, and I each said our good byes and the best of luck. And with that Shane was driven to MEPS and then the next day placed on a plane to Ft Benning for One Station Unit Training (OSUT) for his basic combat training and advanced individual training.

Now, I am sure for most families that is the last they heard from the recruiter, but that was not the case with Garrett. I remember it took me a couple of months to find the right words to craft a thank you note to Garrett, but it took me that long to truly mean the words that I had written. I am not sure if I adopted Garrett into the family or if he adopted himself into the family, but it was just that simple. Garrett has a remarkable rapport with Kurt, Beth, and me.

And when Shane was killed, Garrett was right there for us. I still remember Garrett coming to the funeral home, on his day off, to offer support when we were planning Shane’s funeral. Garrett was the perfect buffer during a painful experience. When we planned the prayer service at the funeral home, we immediately thought of Garrett to speak during the service. My cousin, Sister Mary, led the prayer portion, and Garrett spoke of the Shane that he knew – the young recruit with so much promise and potential.

Garrett continues to be part of my family. Presently, Garrett is no longer stateside; instead, he is in a godforsaken country. I knew and will know again, that Garrett is someone I could call any hour of the day or night and tell him that I needed his help, and he would be there. Occasionally, Garrett has use of the internet, so we are able to still chat. I worry about Garrett as much as I worried about Shane – that is how special Garrett is to me. I miss seeing that charming smile.

Stacy entered my life because of Shane being killed. We were Stacy’s first family as a CAO. Poor Stacy, we were such a mess, our entire world had just been turned upside down and inside out. Yet, there was and still is Stacy. Stacy has an endearing quality about him, which must explain all the patience he has with my endless list of questions. It was Stacy who made all the arrangements for us to fly to Dover to witness Shane’s body returning stateside, not only did Stacy make the arrangements, but was with us the entire time. It was Stacy who made sure everything went smoothly when Shane’s body was flown to Michigan at Selfridge Air National Guard. It was Stacy who walked us through the mountains and mountains of paperwork. It was Stacy who painfully delivered Shane’s medals. It was Stacy who delivered Shane’s belongings. It was Stacy who had me sign off as all medals, awards, belongings, reports, more reports, and even more reports had finally finished coming.

By all accounts, Stacy no longer needs to stay in contact with Kurt, Beth, or me, but we still call and message one another. I remember one day hearing some news that was terribly upsetting. I called Stacy during my prep period and talking (let’s be honest, it wasn’t talking, it was plain old bitching). He let me vent and rant. I will never forget that phone call. I took almost an hour out of his busy schedule, but never once did I hear him sigh or complain. We share a joke about “crabby pants.” Some days I wear them and other days Stacy wears them.

I first saw BG Williams as he entered Holy Cross Church; he has a presence about him that demands respect. I happened to catch him out of the corner of my eye. I closely watched him as he made his way through the crowd to the front of the church. To be totally honest, I had decided I was not going to like this man. I thought, well, here is a general who never met Shane and would get up and go blah, blah, blah. I will be the first to admit that I was totally wrong about BG Williams. When he spoke at the funeral Mass, he spoke from the heart. He had done his research and spoke about Shane in truest form.

At the funeral luncheon, I intensely watched the general and Beth deep in conversation. I have no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell from the expressions on each of their faces that it was an exchange of ideas. Then the following day at Great Lakes National Cemetery, BG Williams spoke again, but this time he had another duty. BG Williams presented the United States flag to me with sincere and genuine sympathy in his eyes. It is a flag that I wish we did not own, but we do. The flag rests in a special box in our living room. Every once in awhile, I will open the case and touch the flag, and I can still see the look in BG Williams’ eyes.

Before the general left, he gave me his business card, but included his personal cell phone number. Now, that was one class act. I remember calling the general to wish him all the best for the holiday season. And with that one telephone call, we truly became friends.

Recently, we were invited to BG Williams Change of Command Ceremony. Beth and I were able to attend. It was such a privilege to meet the general’s lovely family. Actually, Beth and I were treated as family during the ceremony. BG Williams took time out of his speech to mention Shane and my family. We were so humbled. I wish BG Williams all the best with his new position.

Putting the words to paper has helped ease my sorrow a bit.

SFC Garrett Williams, SFC Stacy Price, and BG Darrell Williams – thank you for your service, thank you for your commitment, thank you for your sense of duty and honor, thank you for being a part of my life.

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


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

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (2. 2. 1-2)

The summer months have allowed my mind to travel down memory lane. I remember the excitement and joy when I discovered I was pregnant with each of my children. I did not want to know the sex of the babies, for me, it was like peeking early at Christmas presents.

I remember when Beth was born and wanting our daughter to have a strong name. Kurt and I easily agreed upon Elizabeth Mary.

Ah, then when I became pregnant the second time, we could not as easily agree upon a name for a boy. I remember wanting to name the baby John Michael. Kurt thought there were too many Johns already in my family. In hindsight Kurt was right, my godfather and one of my brothers share the name. So, we mutually agreed upon Shane Michael, which is an Irish form of John.

No one in either Kurt’s or my family had the name Shane. My family has a fairly strong tradition of naming children after someone in the family. This little baby seemed to fit the name. I remember holding him in the hospital thinking, no, knowing, we had selected the right name. And that was that, whether I called him Shane or Shane Michael, it was just a-okay.

I remember the day Shane was baptized, and Fr Ron saying Shane’s name. Again, I knew this was a perfect match.

When Shane joined the Army, I wondered if anyone knew or cared enough to know Shane’s first name. It was always, Reifert this or Reifert that.

And then I realized I was sadly mistaken when Shane deployed to Afghanistan with his Bushmaster Brothers. Ah, this Bushmaster Brotherhood, something I still grasp to fully comprehend. I have come to the conclusion that only the men of Bravo Company fully understand this brotherhood.

Previously, I posted about visiting Fort Campbell and meeting Shane’s brothers-in-arms. It was an afternoon filled with laughter, tears, and storytelling. I remember meeting Chris, who was there with his wife and son. I remember meeting Zack who was a bit on the quiet side. Both men were so polite and respectful.

A little over a year ago, Chris welcomed his second son into his family. A little over five months ago, Zack welcomed his son into his family. Both Chris and Zack named their sons, Shane. Ah, for much different reasons than Kurt or I ever had in naming Shane. Kurt, Beth and I are honored and humbled. Oh, this brotherhood of the Bushmasters continues to truly amaze me.

Oh, Juliet, I must beg to differ with you. Juliet dismisses Romeo’s name as a mere meaningless convention. Mr. Shakespeare, you got it all wrong, especially when it comes to the name, Shane.

I wish each family many years of love and happiness with their Shane.

And now I know the answer to my question, that Reifert’s Bushmaster Brothers know his first name.

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


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

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Brutality and the Beauty

Earlier in the week, I headed off to Great Lakes National Cemetery with Jane (Shane’s godmother) and two of Shane’s cousins, Jillian and Jack. Jane was kind enough to drive; I was still weary from a very trying year of teaching. My mood perfectly matched the weather – gloomy. It was overcast; and, at times, rain came from the sky.

My mood improved as I caught up chatting with Jane, Jillian, and Jack. Jillian is getting married in a couple of weeks, and Jack recently graduated from college. The Kronners had already purchased their flowers to place at Shane’s grave, but I still needed to purchase my flowers. We stopped and I made my purchase; I tried avoiding the raindrops, but they kept finding me.

When we arrived at Great Lakes, the rain finally ceased. As we entered the cemetery, I noticed that all the flags were flying, which meant that there was a funeral scheduled for that day. As we were placing the flowers, we could hear the 21-gun salute.

And then the brutality of our visit hit me to the core. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be standing over Shane’s grave. I never believed that life would be this cruel. The four of us shed tears and a few stories. We shared a Coke and sourdough pretzels – that is one of my rituals at the cemetery. I can close my eyes and remember the very last time Shane and I shared a Coke and sourdough pretzels. 

As we drove around the small lake at the cemetery, I noticed two swans in the farthest corner of the lake. 

When we finally made our way around, we noticed that there were not only the two swans, but four cygnets looking for food.

I got out of the car and quietly approached the swans. Their majestic beauty swooped over me with the gift of peace. I inched closer and closer to the swans, not wanting them to swim away or worse yet, attack me. I worked my way through the tall grass and wild flowers. I watched in wonder and awe of the raw beauty of nature. Every once in awhile one of the parents would look my way, but I think they sensed I was not a threat. They allowed me to absorb the tranquility and peace. 

I left the cemetery that day with a deeper appreciation of nature – this thing called nature that helped heal this broken heart.

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


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

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Squirrels, silly subject, but one that has been one my mind. I have always loved the natural wonders found in nature. When I was growing up, I used to have a squirrel that would eat peanuts out of my hand. For a couple of summers, a grey squirrel would come running down the street when I would make a silly clicking sound. He would take the peanuts right out of my hand. He would crack open the shell and nibble away on the peanuts. And then one summer, he stopped coming…

Occasionally, Beth and Shane would make fun of me when I would talk about the birds and squirrels. Beth and Shane were great at ganging up and picking on me – always in fun, always in jest.

Our dog, Lola, does not like squirrels. One of Lola’s favorite pastimes is to chase the squirrels right up the tree, even though they are on the other side of the fence!

I still like to feed the birds and squirrels. The feeders are right outside the kitchen window. We have a wide variety of birds and critters that like to come and eat. This spring I have been watching one momma squirrel in particular. She has a routine about her feeding schedule, almost as if she can tell time.

Last week I watched as she came down the maple tree. The tree is magnificent in size, offering shade for much of the house. The bark is old and worn, just like the side of a weathered barn. The branches are heavy with green leaves and whirlybird seeds. As she approached the bottom of the tree, she stopped and checked for Lola. When she realized the coast was clear, she touched the earth. There she sat and ate her dinner. And then I noticed a baby squirrel coming down the tree. Oh, this put such a smile on my face. There was the momma and her baby eating. The baby still wanted to nurse, so the momma squirrel would be patient for one or two sips before she would move to gather her next nut. I know it is so silly, but this simple act of a mother’s love for her baby put tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

The next day two more baby squirrels were feeding under the tree. Now, there are three baby squirrels that eat under the tree. I have been placing extra food out for the baby squirrels.

You see, I have been placing extra food because the momma squirrel is no longer coming down the tree. She has stopped coming…

The momma squirrel was killed when attempting to cross the road. I scooped up the squirrel so no other cars would run over her and properly disposed of her body.

Poor babies, poor momma squirrel.

I wonder if those baby squirrels are missing their momma. For some odd reason this has made me miss Shane even more. I did not know that was possible, but it has.

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

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Burn My Shadow

Awhile back I purchased this song on iTunes; it is without a doubt the most haunting song I have ever heard. I printed out the lyrics to read as I listened to the song. Recently, I viewed the music video, which has increased the disquieting effect on me. I don’t particularly care for the musical arrangement, but the lyrics keep drawing me in to listen to this song again and again.

“Burn My Shadow”
~ Unkle featuring Ian Astbury

I have burned my tomorrow
And I stand inside today
At the edge of the future
And my dreams all fade away

I have burned my tomorrows
And I stand inside today
At the edge of the future
And my dreams all fade away

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away

Fate's my destroyer
I was ambushed by the light
And you judged me once for falling
This wounded heart will rise

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away

An' I see the light, too light for love
An' I see the light, too light for love
An' I see the light, too light for love
An' I see the light, too light for love

An' I see the light, too light for love
Burn my shadow
An' I see the light, too light for love
An' I see the light, too light for love
Burn my shadow
An' I see the light, too light for love

And burn my shadow away
And burn my shadow away
Oh, how I loved you

I desperately want to sit down and talk to Shane about this song. He is, without a doubt, the one person who would walk me through this song. We would discuss the various levels of the lyrics, the angles, the approaches. We would have one of our philosophical conversations. When the conversation was over, I would have a smile on my face. An honest-to-goodness smile! A smile that warms the heart.

And then brutally wraps me in a cloak of darkness. I will never have this conversation with Shane. I can only play this conversation in my mind – just as I can only play the song.

I will close my eyes and listen to the song and maybe, just maybe, I will gather the insight that I am desperately looking for.

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


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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Break

Recently, I was invited to speak to the Family Readiness Group (FRG) at Fort Campbell. For those unfamiliar with the FRG, it is a group of family members, volunteers, soldiers, and civilian employees who provide activities and support for families during deployments. The FRG is also responsible to help families in case of an injury or casualty. I thought long and hard before I accepted this invitation – was I strong enough to speak to a group about Shane’s death? Was I strong enough to travel by myself? Was I strong enough to revisit Fort Campbell?

The speaking engagement was scheduled during my spring break, which eventually swayed my mind to accept the invitation. I already knew in my heart and mind, that this spring break would be not the spring break of 2010. It was April of 2010 when I traveled to Nashville and had wonderful experience with Shane before his deployment in May.

Most of Shane’s Bushmaster Brothers were off “playing” in the mountains, preparing for their upcoming deployment. Shane was so proud to be part of the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division. He was even prouder to be part of the Bastogne Brigade Combat Team which stands ready to deploy within 36 hours worldwide. I was fortunate that a few of Shane’s brothers-in- arms were still on post. I requested and was granted permission to have Thomas Kappler and Jordan Daniels as my escorts. I had the privilege of meeting these honorable men back in October when Kurt, Beth, and I visited the memorial at Fort Campbell.

For some reason the Army thought I needed to fly out on Thursday at 6:50 in the morning; even though, I was not scheduled to speak until Friday morning. Actually, it worked out well because I had the entire day to spend with Thomas and Jordan. These men were always polite and respectful; after all, “honor and duty” is part of their core. I was comforted seeing two familiar faces at the airport. We spent the morning in Nashville, which is a magnificent city. We had breakfast in the business district, which was in full swing. Men and women in business suits, carrying briefcases and coffees, were hustling to get to work on time. We ventured to the river, home of entertainment area, which was quietly sleeping off a nasty hangover. The smell of stale beer still lingered in the air. The afternoon was spent touring the post and hearing stories of Shane, including a visit to the memorial. In the evening, Jordan’s wife and son joined us for dinner. It was a relaxing way to end the day.

My escorts picked me up on Friday morning to bring me on post for my talk. Oh yes, the talk - I still hadn’t decided exactly what to say. I always get so nervous speaking in front of people, so I like to have my ducks in order, but this was different. I wasn’t quite sure from which angle I should approach my audience. And then I remembered to just be me, and with that I decided to speak from the heart.

Ah, this broken heart, was it going to be strong enough to guide me through my speaking engagement? I drew a deep breath and thanked the group of volunteers for their time and personal sacrifices. I let them know that it was 17 months to that very day that the Reifert household was turned inside out and upside down. Not just the Reifert household, but each and everyone who knew and loved Shane. I spoke about a mother’s love for her son. I spoke about a father’s love for his son. I spoke about a sister’s love for her brother and best friend. I spoke about grandparents; aunts and uncles; cousins; friends; and brothers-in-arms love for Shane. I spoke about a young man’s dream of serving his country; then, a man’s dream of protecting his country. Finally, I spoke of a Soldier’s deep belief in fighting to keep his brothers-in-arms safe. I expressed my views about what I appreciated from the group and a few things I would like to see changed. I closed with a few lines from John O’Donohue’s “Matins 2”
          May I live this day

          Compassionate of heart,
          Clear in word,
          Gracious in awareness,
          Courageous in thought,
          Generous in love.

And when I was finished speaking, I knew that Shane would be proud of his mother. I knew that I had made the right decision in venturing to Fort Campbell.

After lunch with my escorts and a few of the volunteers, the 1SGT’s wife asked me if I would come back to the company headquarters. Karen said, that while neither she nor her husband ever met Shane (this is a new position for the 1SGT), his name is always spoken in the utmost respect. She took me to the Bushmaster’s back offices, where there is photo after photo of Shane on the walls. I thanked her for sharing this gift with me because it helped me grasp a tighter hold of this Bushmaster Brotherhood.

My trip to Fort Campbell was made complete when I was able to meet up with the Loheide family. Matt and Marianne recently welcomed their beautiful daughter, Bella, into the world. Kurt, Beth, and I first met Marianne back in January of 2011 at the Eagle Remembrance Ceremony. Marianne is one of good ones, always honest, always compassionate, always caring. While Marianne and I may differ on favorite sports teams, I gladly call her my friend.

When the time came to venture to the airport, Thomas and Jordan, allowed me to ramble on about Shane. I will be forever grateful to these Bushmaster Brothers, who must make their own mothers very proud.

As I sat at the gate waiting to board the plane, I reflected about my visit to Fort Campbell. I fondly thought about the shenanigans of Thomas and Jordan. I closed my eyes and thought, yes; Shane could have been part of the shenanigans. He would have been part of the shenanigans, and maybe, just maybe, he was part of the shenanigans. Oh, that part of the story is for another day…

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


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


Sunday, February 12, 2012


I often think about the Shane that I know and love and the Army Shane. I know there is an entire part of Shane that I only got a glimpse. The reason I only got a glimpse is because that is the way Shane wanted it; he wanted to keep me from worrying, he wanted to keep me from truly knowing the sacrifices that were made, he wanted to keep me from the truth.

Recently, Colin Shearing, one of Shane’s brothers-in-arms sent me a few photographs that he had taken of Shane. I asked Colin about the photograph and he responded, “It was taken in the beginning of our deployment. It was one of our first actually big missions; it was called Operation Strong Eagle One. The photo was specifically taken on a rooftop in Daredam. It was taken on day three of what turned out to be a five-day mission.” Colin gave me permission to post this photograph.

This photograph stopped me in my tracks because this is such a rare capture of the duality of Shane. Here is Shane in that godforsaken country. Here is Shane in his uniform, dirty and without a shower for at least three days. Here is Shane with that gait that is frozen in time.

I could easily close my eyes and put a cleanly showered Shane in his favorite Black Keys t-shirt, old jeans, and Converse shoes with that exact same gait. Those of us who knew and loved Shane could do the exact same thing. This is Shane!

They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but to me – this picture is a gift that cannot be measured in words.

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

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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Candy Wrappers

Candy wrappers, silly subject, but they won’t leave my mind.

When we were at Fort Campbell for our visit in the fall, we received some of Shane’s belongings.

When Shane was killed in Afghanistan, his belongings were packed up and shipped stateside. Shane’s uniforms were laundered and neatly folded. Shane’s books and letters were neatly packed. Shane’s electronics were safely packed. I was so grateful to touch his iPod because we had gone shopping for a new one. I remember having to sign one of the many documents verifying the return of the items.

I was saddened because nothing smelled like Shane. The only glimpse of Shane was the ruffling of the edges on the letters or sand that had fallen into the pages of books.

Candy wrappers…

The very last letter we received from Shane when he was at Fort Benning for OSUT (One Station Unit Training) was postmarked November 09, 2009. The letter is eleven pages in length, written over one week’s span. The letter begins with, “Well, Holy shit is all I can say….” I can close my eyes and hear the excitement in Shane’s voice. The letter is filled with Shane’s advanced individual training for the Infantry. The letter is written with similes and metaphors – just trying to give us a glimpse of his training. Included in the letter is a, “PS – I included a candy wrapper for the candy they gave us on Halloween. Remind me to tell you the story sometime.” The wrapper has a scary monster with glowing eyes and a wiggly smile. Shane did share the story, which put smiles on our faces.

Candy wrappers…

I have previously posted about our last visit to Fort Campbell. During the visit, we met Chris Childs, who was one of Shane’s good buddies. Chris told Kurt that he had some of Shane’s belongings that were mistakenly not sent to us. Chris took great care of Shane’s belongings for the remainder of the tour. Chris gave Kurt one of Shane’s duffle bags and his rucksack.

Included in the duffle bag was Shane’s beret. Oh, we were all so grateful to receive that beret. I can close my eyes and see Shane putting on the beret during the family day weekend at Fort Benning. He was so proud to place the beret on his head, which meant he had qualified for an overnight visit with his family.

Also, in the duffle bag were a couple of Shane’s uniforms. Yes, dirty uniforms! Uniforms that did not smell like my Shane, but the Army Shane. Yet, I was so grateful that the uniforms came with sand and stains and dirt and candy wrappers!

Yes, deep in one of the pockets were a couple of candy wrappers. Kurt was so good at sending Shane and his brothers-in-arms care packages. And there they were – a Starburst wrapper, a Twizzlers wrapper, and a bubble gum wrapper. I felt I had just discovered a priceless treasure. It was a bit of home, it was a bit of trying to give comfort in a godforsaken country, it was a bit of sweetness, it was a bit of love.

Candy wrappers…

Who would have ever guessed something that is so easily discarded could bring so many fond memories?
Yes, a bit of love and so much more.

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

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

"This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth." - translated from a plaque at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Before Shane deployed to Afghanistan, he began to cut back on his communication with our family. Phone calls became less frequent and went unanswered. Conversations were shorter. Darker. His voice tense. Always holding back and keeping conversation light. Speaking words, but not really talking.  

The day before Shane got on a plane with the rest of the men of Bravo Company, he called me. I was surprised to see his name appear on my phone screen. I was standing on my futon, overlooking my giant open window, and hanging paper cranes.  The sunlight was so beautiful that day. It bounced off of the windows across the street. It hit the paper cranes, many of which were made of reflective paper. There was a breeze that came in through the window that allowed me to wear a sweatshirt and not be too hot or too cold.  It was the sort of weather that happens only a few times a year in Michigan.

Hey Buddy. What’s up?

Hey Bethie.

What’s going on?

Nothing. Just packing. Hey – Johnson wants to know how to . . .

There we were, having a completely normal conversation, as if nothing big was happening. The phone call consisted of attempting to explain international cell phone data plans to Shane to relay to one of his friends. It ended abruptly. Shane rushed off of the phone, saying something about an inspection. And that was it.

I sat on my windowsill, honored and hurt at the same time. So I looked at the cranes, hung with fishing wire and tape, as the moved in the breeze.

And I thought about Sadako Sasaki.

When I was in grade school, I learned about Sadako Sasaki, the girl who attempted to fold one thousand paper cranes. Japanese legend holds that anyone who folds one thousand cranes will have a wish granted by the gods. Sadako lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped and was hospitalized due to the effects of the bomb. She attempted to fold one thousand cranes, but died from leukemia, caused by radiation exposure, before completing her goal.

Her friends completed the task and buried the cranes with her.

As I sat cross-legged on the windowsill, I realized that I was okay with that being my last conversation with Shane before he deployed. It was normal. It wasn’t forced. There wasn’t a painful goodbye. I knew in my heart that I would talk to him again. I just didn’t know how little time I had left.

So I went back to hanging my paper cranes. I never made one thousand of them. Never came close and never even tried.

Nowadays, the paper cranes are packed away in a storage container. Saved up, I suppose, for a time that I might need the gods to grant me a wish.