Sunday, July 02, 2006

We have a Gold Star banner hanging on our front door. I often wonder what the random people who knock on our door think of it. At first I felt that I needed to explain it to everyone, but we have had a lot of work done on the interior of our house during the past eighteen months, and I just couldn't go on explaining it to workmen. The exception was the guy who thought we had a one-star general in the family and were just showing off. He was nice about it when I explained about Thomas, heck he was even nice about it when he thought we were bragging, but it did show very clearly that Americans have forgotten this tradition. The young man who brought us the banner, active duty Army himself at the time and a friend of all my children, explained that we are allowed to keep this banner up until the war is over. Since Thomas died in the War on Terror, I suspect this banner will be hanging for a very long time.

I slept about an hour that Thursday night of the day Thomas died. Sometime early, I gave up, showered and dressed and went to the 7:30 a.m. Mass at our parish. Our pastor was celebrating--he had clearly told others of what had happened as a lady from the bereavement group came and sat with me. I wept all the way through (after the funeral I remember thinking we should have bought stock in Scott paper or the Kleenex company). We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon having visitors, dozens of visitors, many of whom brought food or books. Some just brought themselves and their babies--the babies were wonderfully comforting and cooperated fully while grieving adults passed them around. My husband's officemates brought sandwiches. One of our visitors, a nun who is also a physician, sat next to me and watched like a hawk while I tried to eat--Hanna was satisfied that I got through half of a sandwich and relaxed a bit.

It was important to have all of those people around us. The four of us could not just look at each other all day waiting for the next thing to happen. The notification team told us that we would be assigned a Casualty Assistance Officer for 90 days (in the event, we have never let her go) who would contact us. She called during the day on Friday to tell us she would be by in the evening with the death gratuity check--um, death gratuity check? I knew Thomas had life insurance but this had never crossed my orbit.

Sometime during the afternoon, Maria called. She had finally been told about her brother about 22 hours after we were, partly due to the Federal holiday (Thomas died on Veteran's Day), partly due to Red Cross rules which required confirmation of the casualty, and possibly partly due to her commanding officer, who waited to tell her at a time when they could make travel arrangements. It was a terrible call, and for the rest of the week, it was clear that Maria was about 24 hours behind the rest of us in her grieving.


At September 12, 2006 at 10:27:00 AM PDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mrs. Doerflinger,
I just found your "We Remember" via the Stryker News Forum. I am so glad I did. Our son, was in the same unit as your son, Thomas, 1/24 INF RGT of the SBCT. One of the calls, our son made after the unit arrived in Mosul in 10/04, was one to tell us, he had lost a brother soldier, your son. This was our son's first taste of war's consequences. It hit him hard. Ever since then I have been searching for an address so I could send you a letter of condolence. I don't mean to open wounds again, but I just want you to know I appreciate your son's service and his ultimate sacrifice and yours. I pray that you have found a peace only Jesus Christ can give.


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