Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's been an busy month since I last got around to writing here. Some of it was just life (will the laundry ever be caught up??) and some had to do with the Veterans' Collaborative and some had to do with what I guess I can just call the aftermath of having lost Thomas.

First: no, the laundry will never be caught up. Surrender now.

The Veterans' Collaborative (a Montgomery County project) met in mid-September and again I am impressed with the range of groups and people who are dedicated to serving our veterans and their families. This particular meeting was mostly local groups with a couple of people like me who have an interest. Next time, we are hoping to include a representative from the school system as well, to have the needs of students with deployed family members represented. Since our experience after Thomas was killed was worse than it needed to be, I am hoping this will also give us a place to start talking about how to deal with the death of a family member (including non-military deaths).

Growing out of the collaborative or maybe grafted on as a result of last year's panel for mental health professionals, we finally taped our first panel discussion for The Cost of Freedom. This has turned into a community-wide project, with Montgomery College contributing facilities and technical support (OK, this would have died on the vine for lack of know-how without MC). We taped in June and apparently yesterday they put our discussion on YouTube (I have not looked yet because I am chicken). The next panel will have veterans of earlier conflicts talking about their experiences and a later panel will be about women veterans.

And then there was my stuff, I guess you could call it. Earlier in September, I was contacted by a Los Angeles Times reporter, Faye Fiore, about doing a story about a family which had lost someone in the early days of the conflict in Iraq. (Actually, it was sort of a networking web that got us to each other, and that is how this whole experience has gone since the day Thomas died.) Faye, as befits a good reporter, was a very sympathetic listener and the draft of the story that I have heard was lovely. She asked for photographs so a week later the Times photographer came and took pictures for a couple of hours. Carolyn has spent time in Iraq--it was, maybe, easier to talk with her because of that. She was in that convoy of Strykers rolling out of Iraq into Kuwait and I think she understood a little of my ambivalence about this event. She wanted to go to the cemetery so she could photograph at the graveside. I was a little concerned that this wouldn't work well since the marker is flat in the ground but she seemed pleased. She also was charmed by the sight of three deer, obviously trolling for fresh flowers to snack on (I'm guessing that deer and green grass are equally scarce in Iraq).

Talking with both Faye and Carolyn, revisiting events and emotions, it was a little hard. My voice would sort of catch and we'd end up pausing for a minute or two, pulling out the tissues, and then go on. Anyway, the story is supposed to run tomorrow, and will probably be online tonight. I guess we'll see how well we all did.

And then the war intruded again. A member of my parish, Brendan Looney, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last Tuesday. Brendan was a Navy SEAL. I do not know the Looney family, but I have sent along my phone number and I will go to the funeral at St. John's on Monday morning. One of the worst things about losing Thomas was just feeling so alone with this loss for months afterwards. There are enough of us now, we will make sure that Brendan's family has someone to talk to.

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