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