On my way to North Carolina, to sit next to a widowed fiancée who called our hotline and wanted another widow by her side, I stopped in Atlanta.
With all the travels I’ve been doing the past year I have come to terms with the face that I will see numerous amounts of men and women in ACUs. Today was the same. As I stood at the gate my ACU radar detected a man to my left waiting to board.
Ok, he’s on I don’t have to be reminded of the fact that it isn’t my husband. No. As I make my way down to seat 30B I see him up ahead. ‘There is no way!’ I thought to myself.
Sure enough, I was squeezed between him and an older gentleman. I turned to him, tear defense in full effect and said, “Heading back?” He looked over at me and said, “I’m on break.”
He turned back to reading Newsweek and I went to reading my book. Through the one hour flight I would take glimpses of the ACUs on him, remembering the days when my husband filled them up so nicely. I wanted to glance to see the unit he was in or if he was airborne but knew it would be too obvious.
I was wearing my Gold Star pin and wondered if he recognized it, or the watch I was wearing that was set to Baghdad time, the watch my husband wore when he was killed.
We landed and sat there waiting for all the rows to unload. I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk to him again so I turned and said, “Are you going back over after R&R?” “Yes” he replied. I then went on to tell him thank you for his service.
From his reaction, I knew it may have been something he had heard before and his answer sounded somewhat scripted “Thank you, I appreciate it.”
“My husband was killed last May and I know the danger you are put through," I spit out. His eyes teared up and he said, “Well, I’m sorry.” I told him how I was on my way to actually attend the funeral of the 4000th soldier killed in Iraq, to sit and be there for his widowed fiancée. He told me about how he was on his 3rd tour, where he was based, what his mission was, what rights he wished could be changed for those going through what we do, etc.
I then reached into my bag and pulled out my AWP Card. On it included the site, our ‘1-800’ number and smaller details. “If you ever have something happen and know a widow who could use our help give her this.” I told him what we all are doing, about the site that includes courageous stories of my fellow widows, and the documentary. He sat there quietly and looked at the card as I spoke.
He looked up and said, “I know you all have a lot of work to do to make others know of the hardships you go through on a day to day basis. Keep doing it.” I then shook his hand, told him to have the best R&R possible, told him about the wonderful one Michael and I last shared and how those 2 weeks meant the world.
There really is no point to this story other than the fact that:
- I’m really freaking happy I had the balls to even talk to someone in ACUs, coming back from the place where my husband was last alive.
- That taught me even more; how much strength we have just by opening our mouths when we don’t want to.
- We do have a far way to come, but I am happy in knowing that one other US Soldier knows that there are so many of us Military widows just getting up.
I wish that I could do things better, have more motivation at times, not sleep in till 12 because I don’t want to face reality that day. But most of all, I wish that I could tell and show him all the strength he embedded so deep down into my being that I am able to do the small things that I try to do. Whether that be brushing my teeth or talking to a stranger on a plane.
I’d also want Michael to know that I am not alone. To not be afraid I have no one that understands, to not fear that I will forever be lost. I have my widows! I have the people that call me and brighten my day, who share their corny stories and share a laugh, who toasts with me up to the heavens. I have YOU.
I know he is up there with that gap-toothed smile, which no one knows he was planning on getting fixed LOL So thank you for giving me strength to face my fears.