Saturday, January 29, 2011

Military Families man the watch on the Homefront....sometimes the most difficult job in the Military

As readers of this Milblog might have witnessed, I am not uncomfortable at highlighting the words of others who write about Military topics and especially from distinct points of view. Enclosed is one such post from a Military Mom in Winston-Salem, NC.

Military families are the unsung heroes in our country's defense as they fight an unseen battle to keep the homefront going while they await their deployed Son, Daughter, or Parent's return. I salute them and hold them in high regard for their service in support of our military.

Read the words and " walk a mile in her shoes". Her and the other military families keep the watch on the homefront which in many respects is the hardest job in the military.

Riding the roller-coaster
BY ANNE CIVITANO Guest columnist
Published: January 15, 2011

A few years ago I started to think of life as a series of roller-coaster rides. I noticed that white-knuckled anticipation makes up the bulk of it, punctuated by thrilling highs and dramatic lows, and they usually end in wide-eyed, breathless relief. When my son John (Mount Tabor High School, Class of 2009) joined the Army Infantry (101st Airborne Division) days after his 18th birthday, it became evident that he had bought each of us a 12-month pass to the roller-coaster theme park called Deployment to Afghanistan.

Immediately after John arrived in Kandahar I read frightening news that, along with the arrival of the added troops, casualty numbers were soaring. While I waited to hear from John, I threw myself into research, learning terminology, reading books and blogs, bookmarking sites. After a few months, I discovered a group of moms whose sons are also at John’s forward operating base, Howz E Madad, and they have become my steadfast seatmates on this deployment roller-coaster (my “Howzy Moms”). Our motto is, “So far, so good.” From different backgrounds and areas of the country, we have a shared experience; our concern increases until we hear from our child, and then we relax a little. Too soon the process begins again. Anxiety and relief follow each other like the tides.

The worst day so far of John’s deployment began a few days before Christmas. I was awakened by a series of Google alerts exploding in my inbox. The messages described a suicide bombing attack, hours earlier, at a combat outpost occupied by soldiers from Howz E Madad. There were six American soldiers killed, along with a number of wounded. The reports might have been describing John’s platoon, or one of several others — it was unclear. In the first few moments, as I read the words on my computer screen and my heart raced, the sound of blood pumping in my ears overwhelmed everything else. I was hanging on with all my strength as the roller-coaster raced downhill.

With the news of the bombing ringing in my ears, I logged on to the Internet, heart in my throat. Keeping one eye on the driveway (a strange car pulling in might mean the worst), my far-flung group of panicked mothers exchanged every piece of information we could find while we dug in to wait. One mom discovered photos of the blast cloud and the aftermath of the attack. The soldiers in the photos were digging in the rubble of a collapsed building, trying to rescue their friends. They had our boys’ black heart insignia on their helmets.

That was the worst moment of a brutal day. How long, we wondered, until notifications are complete and we can be certain about the fate of our sons? How long until the communications blackout is lifted and we can speak to them?

Next came the inevitable Facebook leak. These thoughtless (and common) breaches of protocol occur when someone posts the name of a deceased soldier ahead of the official release of information, sometimes before all the family members are notified. In this case, knowing which company the deceased soldier was in provided my Howzy Moms and me with hope for our sons (while at the same time increasing the fears of countless other families, no doubt). By late night, it was clear that the platoon that was hit was not my son’s and that he and my friends’ sons were safe.

There were no celebrations, however. Joy is not possible when you are so acutely aware of the pain of the six families whose sons died. There is no unambiguous good news from a war zone. It is enough to say, “So far, so good,” and collapse into bed.

I heard from John five days after the attack. He was back on base. He was surprised and sorry that I had heard about it. He told me that one of his good friends from Fort Campbell had been among the six who died, and one of the wounded is a buddy who will be receiving an impressive third Purple Heart. (Impressive to all but his mother, I bet. I imagine she finds it very difficult to maintain her composure in the circumstances.)

My worst day of John’s deployment was followed about 10 days later by the best. It, too, began with a wake-up call, this one at 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve. John said he had the best present ever for me that it was just made official, the papers were signed, and he is coming home on leave at the end of January for 15 days. He was exactly right; my roller-coaster ride continues, and this time I was catapulted to the top of the world.

Anne Civitano lives in Winston-Salem. Her blog is

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