Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's August

I know, I know, what a profound statment, right? Like you wouldn't have known it was August had I not seen fit to inform you of this fact at 3:17 p.m., EST, on August 1, right? Well, this August is a very intense month - meaningful and bittersweet and heartbreaking, too.

Think back to August, 2005. What were you doing then? I was just coming down off of the "high" of meeting one of our adopted soldiers, Sgt. Chris Missick, in late July, 2005. At the same time, I was very excited because I had just discovered Angels 'n Camouflage, ("AnC") a group that not only adopts out deployed soldiers, but also matches up veterans with adopters. For so long I'd wanted to do something to encourage and help and honor veterans, and prayed often that God would help me find a way to do that. It was an answer to prayer at that time when I stumbled across AnC; I promptly adopted a Vietnam veteran who, along with his wife, I now consider to be cherished members of our family.
In August of 2005, our Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade was also in Iraq -- and they were in the worst of it. They were getting hit hard, right and left. How I prayed for them and worried for them -- and (as I had done many times since before they even deployed) asked God to please, please work out some way for me to adopt "at least one" 48th soldier. It was very, very important to me to be able to help take care of our local heroes, though I knew I couldn't do much. As August progressed, each day it seemed the news was horrible. So many Soldiers were dying... not just in "my" 48th Brigade, but from everywhere. I remember some days that August feeling dizzy and sick -- "God, just make it STOP! Zap the bad guys and make them go AWAY AND STOP THIS!"
Then, it got real personal on August 16, 2005, though it wasn't until a few days after that the news was released: a soldier from Loganville, Sgt. (then Spc.) Michael J. Stokely, was killed by an IED in Iraq. The news hit me hard. No, at that time I did not know his family or anyone who did. But he was from MY HOMETOWN (where we had lived for two years at that point) and, in another eerie coincidence, graduated from the same high school our church meets in each week. This blog was just a "baby" then, having been started only days before to promote fellow blogger American Soldier's new book. I never anticipated using this blog much after that. But then Mike was killed, and I posted THIS. I also posted the same thing - the newspaper article about Mike's death - in the AnC forum. As a result of my posting that message, I learned that AnC had soldiers from the 48th up for adoption -- and as a result, our family ended up adopting the Soldier who became famously (infamously?!) known as "The Outlaw." Eventually, we informally adopted his whole platoon as well (remember the Christmas cards and Valentine's cards & cookies?!) Eventually, my post about Mike's death led to us hubby and I getting to know Mike's dad, and adopting one of Mike's best childhood friends, and also sending Christmas cards & Valentine cards to Mike's platoon, as well (which was again another answer to prayer - I'd wanted to do something for his platoon ever since that fateful day in August 2005).
So, here it is -- August, one year later. One year after that horrible month. One year after that horrible month, that somehow sparked off a year of an amazing journey and yes, some wonderful blessings, too. The friends I have made over the past year are absolutely priceless. The experiences I've had will never be forgotten. The sorrow in my heart over Mike's death - and all others - remains and is today even deeper than it was last August. Because now it's more personal. Now I know some of these Soldiers. Through pictures and stories, I got to "know" Mike Stokely - or feel like I knew him - and his dad & stepmom. And now, as a member of the Living Legends Team of Soldiers' Angels, I am looking at a list of sixteen -- SIXTEEN -- families who lost their loved ones in that horrible August of 2005, who I will be writing to later tonight. And, according to the Living Legends Team coordinator, that is only a partial list, for the first half of August -- and does not include the six or eight or so letters I sent to families of the Fallen over the past few days.
So here it is -- August, one year later. August, 2005, was a brutal month. At the same time, so many good things originated in August, 2005. Would I trade those blessings, even those precious, deeply-cherished friendships, if I were able, so that the brutality didn't happen, so that those Heroes' lives were not lost? You bet I would -- in a heartbeat. But I do not have that power - not then, not now, not ever. And so I will go on - I will, as the Outlaw says, "Charlie Mike!" -- "Continue Mission!" I will write those letters, cry those tears, pray many prayers. ILater this month, our friend, SFC Norris Galatas will have major surgery - his 17th, if I remember right. I will remember and reflect on what happened last August, and all the year since then.
It's August.


Georgia Blogger