Those of you who read my blog know that my oldest son entered the Army after graduating from college and has just arrived in Iraq for his 2nd tour of duty. I have also commented on the number of young men and women from our homeschool group here in li'l old WF who have entered the armed forces and are serving their country. It isn't because they lack other options - it is because they have a deep-seated patriotism and sense of duty. These kids were between 10 and 16 years old when they watched television coverage as terrorists struck the Twin Towers and Pentagon , and I think those events had a huge impact on them and their view of the world. They feel a need to protect, to defend, to contribute to making the world safe and their nation and families secure.
On Friday, the possible but unthinkable happened when one of these young men was killed by an IED in southern Iraq. An athletic boy who played on the same baseball team as my Eric. A rambunctious boy who loved hunting, fishing, and riflery. A handsome boy with a buzz cut, deep dimples, and a grin a mile wide. I was just leaving our support group's Used Book Sale when my cell phone rang, and a friend told me what she had just heard from her firefighter son - Lucas had been killed in Iraq, or maybe it was Afghanistan! She didn't know. Since the news had not yet been released to the public, I went home and searched for facebook statuses to confirm, hoping that perhaps it was a mistake. But there it was - the grim truth found in an outpouring of shock, support, and condolences on the mother's facebook page.
My son was en route to Iraq. I hid behind a carefully crafted illusion that Iraq was pretty safe now. Things were quiet there. Afghanistan was the scary place. I wanted this terrible thing to have happened in Afghanistan, where my son was not going.
I am an extremely blessed woman, with friendships of pure gold. A number of these friends sent me notes or called to check on me. Me. Knowing that this news would hit hard, with Alex on his way over there. I think I do, but I really don't hide my feelings very well.
Shelley and Lea showed up at my door after church today. Shelley, who was Lucas's CAP commander during his early high school years. Lea, whose son Josh was injured in Iraq when the vehicle he was riding in hit an IED. Lucas's mom, Patti, was president of the local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers at that time, and walked with Lea through every torturous step of those days. They hugged me and asked if I wanted to come with them ... to the Elliott's house. My heart jumped into my throat. At first I didn't think I could... but then I knew I needed to. I'm not close to this family. We have casually known each other as our kids interacted occasionally on the ballfield or in homeschool activities growing up. I am friends with people they are friends with. I never would have thought of going over there on my own. But I wanted to hug this mama of a fallen soldier and let her know I cared.
It was good. There were a lot of people there - family, friends, and other Blue or Gold Star Mothers. It was quiet but not hushed. People were gathered in small groups, talking, remembering, consoling. We hugged Patti and signed the notebook on the counter, so that next week, when the blur of today and tomorrow and the next day are past, she will know who came to the house. I got to hug and quickly catch up with my good friend Kris, who I rarely see because both her kids are graduated now and she is working full time. We sat on the couch with Lucas's older brother, Brad, who was looking through photos of his brother on the computer. We stayed for about an hour, and then said our goodbyes. Arrangements are still being made and a memorial service will be planned for sometime in the coming days. Lucas will receive a fallen hero's burial at Arlington National Cemetery in VA.
I chatted with my friend, Karen, this morning. Her son is also on his way to Iraq, just a few days behind Alex. This is his first time over. She has questions that I can't always answer. But we military moms have a bond. Our children are grown up and off to war, and we are home on our knees, praying desperately that they will come home again.
Lucas was a Christian. He knew the Lord, so we know he is with his Saviour now.