Old Glory

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11

It is hard to believe today marks 12 years since that faithful day on 9/11 when the face and hearts of American would be changed forever.  Some of those changed more profoundly than others, but all changed none the less.  I have thought about all the lives lost and the families and friends that would never be the same since that day.  Obviously I was consumed with thoughts and memories of my son.
On 9/11/01 my biggest concern at the time was getting my son home from school and safe and knowing that if he was with me I could protect him.  Never (at that time) did I dream that only 9 short years later I would not be able to protect my son as he was in Afghanistan fighting to defend this great country of ours.  He stepped on an IED and was KIA on December 1, 2010 at the young age of 22.  My life and my family's life and his brothers in arms and friends would be changed forever.  We are still evolving into what would be our "new normal".  We have all learned a lot and cried even more and continue to go through normal (if you can call it that) stuff that life throws at us (i.e. cancer, surgeries, parents aging, etc.).  Turns out our lives don't stop just because we lost someone so dear.  I won't lie, there are days I wish it had.  It's too painful to carry on each day without him, but there are no choices when you are faced with something like this.  You have to get up each day and put your feet on the floor and face whatever that day decides to throw your way.  I know that is what I would tell my son (and did when he lost his best friend/cousin) if he were here today and having to experience this for himself.  I tell his brothers in arms and friends every chance I get that Chad would never want them to not live their lives to the fullest and be the best they can be and make a difference in this world.  He would never want them to stop living rather live even bigger for him.  I know that is what he would tell all of them if he could.  So I guess that is what they have me for.
I was honored today when someone I don't know, Amanda Allgood, sent me some photos taken at a 9/11 Memorial in Hawaii.  She didn't have to do that for me, but she did.  It touched my heart to know people care so much.
It is terribly sad that so many have fallen since that faithful day and since, but it is sadly, reality.  I would like to share these touching photos with you today so you can see what I mean.  Thank you again Ms. Amanda Allgood for being that person that is willing to do something for someone you don't even know.  I will be forever grateful.

My sweet boy, Chad

Chad and someone else's sweet boy

9/11 Memorial Ceremony in Hawaii on 9-11-13


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What is it going to take?

This comes from a place that I am actually torn.  There is a part of me that feels like a hypocrite.  Let me explain.  When Chad enlisted into the Marine Corps I had never heard of Blue Star Moms or Gold Star Moms/Families.  It had never come up and I know ignorance of this is my fault as I've never been a big reader, but I had never even heard these terms.  It actually wasn't until Chad passed away that I was even made aware of Blue or Gold Star.

So in very simple terms here is a definition of both.  When you have a child who is on active duty in the military you typically hang a flag displaying a blue star in your window to signify that you have a loved one in the military.
Should that loved one be KIA or pass away due to injuries received in combat your "Blue Star" turns to "Gold".  Then you would display a Gold Star Flag in your window to signify that you have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

When you sadly become a Gold Star Family you are entitled to receive a license plate indicating you are a Gold Star Family.  This is what Arkansas' looks like:

We have one on my vehicle and I had to actually educate the lovely lady (and she really was lovely) behind the counter what this was for and why we were getting it.  It was a difficult conversation and she said this was the first one she had ever issued and I simply responded with Thank God and I pray you don't have to issue anymore.

Here is what prompted this blog today and has my heart feeling so heavy today.  A Gold Star Wife went to get her "Gold Star" tag and had to go through the entire "proving" process of explaining why she was getting this "Gold Star Family" tag.  She doesn't live in AR (I won't give any other details regarding her to protect her privacy) and after spending 45 + minutes explaining why she was getting her tag and basically reliving her nightmare again she finally received her tag.  Having personally gone through this experience and dealing with basically educating the staff that was helping us, I feel her pain and my heart just broke for her today.  She handled herself with the utmost composure that I wonder if everyone in this situation could do.  I myself was lucky enough to have my husband with me so I just found courage to speak when I might have otherwise walked out and tried again another day.  However, I was fortunate enough to have him next to me to give me the extra courage I needed to get through this process.

I don't know what it will take for our country to get educated on things like Blue Star families and Gold Star families so if you have suggestions I am not only interested in hearing them, but I am actually interested in doing my part to get the word out.  This is not my first blog about Blue and Gold Star families and trying to bring awareness, but this isn't enough.  We need others to understand if you see a Gold Star Family car tag, you understand that they have lost a loved one in war.  If you see a Blue Star flag at someones house, you know to say an extra prayer for their loved one serving.  

I recently learned that our Veterans can also receive special tags.  This is just one I chose as an example:

They have several different options with showing what War they fought in and what branch they were in.  I'm asking all of you that when you see these tags (regardless which one you see) that you take pause and remember they have these tags for a reason and they fought for us.  The sad part of this is our Veterans have to pay (while it is minimal) for these tags.  Really?  The very least they deserve after all they did for us is to get these tags for free.  I realize this is my opinion and I'm entitled to it as everyone else is as well, but these are things I don't think the general public is aware of these issues and these symbols.

I do find myself noticing tags now more than I ever did before (and shame on me for that) and I would encourage you to do that as well.