Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We've never done a lot for the 4th of July except barbeque and go to our local fireworks. Mostly, it's just the day that came between Anna's birthday (the 2nd) and Thomas's (the 6th), part of a week-long birthday celebration. Nonetheless, this is the nation's 230th anniversay, and on this day also, we remember.


Before news teams descended on us that Friday night, our casualty assistance officer, Captain J. M. arrived at our house at around six p.m., bringing us a check for $12,000 meant to hold us until the life insurance could arrive. Capt. M. is a veteran of Iraq: one of the most buttoned-down women I have ever met, no hair out of place, but kind and compassionate. She was possibly a bit nervous but she took us into her heart immediately, as we took her. She gave us her contact information and told us she would be with us as we did things like contact the funeral home and the cemetery. She may have been a bit taken aback as Thomas had told us on his last leave home that if anything happened he wanted to be buried in civilian clothes at our local cemetery, even though Arlington is only about 40 minutes away. (He told his dad that he'd signed a five-year contract with the Army: eternity belonged to him.) We sat around our dining room table settling this business, while our friends clustered in the living room, trying not to listen.

After Capt. M. left, Thomas's name was released by the DoD, and the media came. Anna dealt with them and at 10pm, we watched the report on our local Fox channel. As they have an hour-long program, they actually had a pretty lengthy report, including footage of Mosul. We kept wincing at the sound of explosions and gunfire but the reporter's wrapup, filmed in our front yard, was perfect: He said: "Tonight the house behind me is filled with family and friends", letting the rest of the world know that we were going to be all right. I often repeat that phrase to myself: for whatever reason I still find it deeply comforting to remember how true it was.


I've gotten this far without really saying who I am talking about, though anyone enterprising enough could certainly have figured it out. Thomas was Army SPC Thomas K. Doerflinger, KIA 11/11/2004 during combat operations in Mosul, Iraq.


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