We met Julie's friend Chris last night. Chris was in Iraq at the same time Thomas was: though he was not in Mosul when Thomas was killed, he had spent a short time there a couple of months earlier, and was in what is generally described by the press as the northern part of Iraq when it happened. As an Army nurse, he knew the people who would have taken care of my son and, I expect, those who would have pronounced him dead. It was perhaps a private sort of visit, and I won't share too much of it here, but I believe it was healing for all of us.
April was a turning point for us. We received an invitation to a private reception held by the governor of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich, at the State House in Annapolis. It took us several weeks to decide that we would go but, on April 20th, we gathered ourselves up, Richard, Anna, Maria, Matthew, Richard's mom, and I and went to the reception. It was not on the governor's public schedule, there was no press. There were a couple of speakers, including the man who had the original idea for these receptions which he had shared with the governors of all 50 states and the territories--when I asked him if he had contacted the governor of American Samoa he said no because he thought they had not had any casualties. But I knew that two Samoan men from Thomas's Stryker brigade had been killed by then--and when I told him that, he resolved to contact their governor too.
The most important part of that reception though was that the families finally met each other. Up to that point, we had met no other families of the fallen and had felt very isolated. Now, we met the families of the other three men who had been killed the week we lost Thomas, we met families who had lost their sons or husbands during the previous six months (these receptions were held about ever six months during Gov. Ehrlich's term). We exchanged phone numbers and e-mails, we cried together, we talked about how it had been and how it was. It was an amazing relief and I will be grateful to Gov. Ehrlich for the rest of my days for having made this possible.
Several days after the reception, we received a letter from Thomas's First Sergeant, Michael Bordelon. The letter talked about patrolling Mosul while mortars fell around them, with Thomas responding "Roger that, first sergeant" in response to a remark Bordelon had made. We had to laugh--the thought of Thomas ever saying "Roger that" seriously was just too funny. Michael assured us that Thomas would never be forgotten, especially on Memorial Day which was coming up in a month. Sadly, Michael himself was gone before we got to Memorial Day.