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, December 1, 2020

Finish Saving the World

Who'd've thought you'd be dead ten whole years? Well, probably logical, rational people. But when it comes to you, those things don't always apply. 

I really thought you were going to come back by now. 

Logically, rationally, I know that's impossible. I saw your body. I saw you in the casket. I even touched you, just to make sure. And we visit you at the cemetery. You. Are. Dead. I know this as a fact. 

But there's this part of me that also thinks there's a chance you could come back. In the way where maybe this is some sort of extended dream and I'll wake up and you'll be fine. In the way where you're undead because of an experiment the military did on you. In the way where this was all an elaborate government coverup and you've been away for ten whole years on a very top secret mission saving the world, and part of that world saving involved us having to think that you were dead. And as soon as you're finished saving the world, you're going to come back.

Those aren't real, though. They're cognitive distortions. My brain lying to itself. And even knowing that they're cognitive distortions, I still keep them. I still hold onto them. 

Because that's kind of all that's left. I don't get to make more memories with you. The ones I have are it and I can't get anymore. So I keep the cognitive distortions. I continue to think magically. I keep waiting for you to come back. And I don't think I'm ever going to stop. So hurry up and finish saving the world.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Just Want To Have One More Car Ride With You

"...and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else."

Sheffield, Rob. Love Is  A Mixtape.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Memorium

Keeping the memory of the dead alive is exhausting.  It involves constantly revisiting the past and trying not to get stuck there while simultaneously not allowing yourself to go too far into the future, or even the present, because that means you're moving in the opposite direction of the memories you're desperately trying to hold on to, of the person that you're trying to hold on to.

Shane, I remember you everyday.  I remember phrases you used to say and how you used a fork and knife and chewed your food and the things that scared you the most when you were a kid and what you smelled like and the last time I ever saw your living face and your dead face. 

I remember days, conversations, feelings that are stuck in photographs. 

I even remember things that never happened; I remember your future for you and what you would be doing right now and the kind of uncle you would be and the stories you would and wouldn't tell about Afghanistan.  I remember conversations that we never had and trips that we planned and fights that we would have and advice that you would give me and your wedding and your first child and what you would look like with gray hair and everything else. 

There is a corner in my mind that I cleaned up and decorated how I thought that you would like and put you there for safekeeping so that nothing ever happens to you or my memories of you.  

I write pieces of memories down in little notebooks and post-its and scraps of paper so that I can prevent them -- prevent you -- from disappearing altogether.  

But how long will it last?  Paper disintegrates and gets lost.  At some point I will likely get lost in my own mind and not be able to find my way back out, like everyone else does when they are at the end of their lives.  

And what happens to you then?  

There will be a point in history where no one remembers you.  No one knows who you are.  No one has memories of you.   One day dad will die, mom will die, I will die.  Every single person who keeps a memory of you in their minds or hearts will die, and we will take you with us.  

There are some places where there are stones and on those stones are inscriptions of your name with the dates you were born and died.  And that will be all that is left.  Names and dates on stones, and nothing more.

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