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