I haven’t written in awhile for a couple of reasons. First, I can finally go a few days without the need to write, or cry or even experience that deep sadness I am so familiar with. I am finally able to focus on the life in front of me. It lasts a couple of days and then the grief returns, but there is a definite improvement.
I was able to spend a week in Colorado, and finally met the portion of Jake’s platoon that was with him during his life in Afghanistan, and with him when he died; the men that he called his brothers. These are the men who removed him from the desert floor and brought him to the Apache FOB where he was declared dead before escorting him to Kandahar for his long journey home. I have so much love and gratitude for each and every one of them, and I pray that I have been able to articulate this to them. We had a night out where we remembered Jake, shared stories, pictures and videos and laughed. It was perfect. The only thing missing was Jake.
While in Colorado, I had a lunch date with Jake’s recruiters, Sgt. Babb and Sgt. Stickler. I had first met Sgt. Stickler exactly two years ago on election day. I was an election judge at a local polling place and he had been placed in a long line he didn’t need to be in. Because he was in uniform, I pulled him from the queue to expedite things. I told him my son had been interested in joining the Army and he gave me his card. He just happened to be a recruiter, and he was the one to teach and prepare my son for basic training. We met last Tuesday, which just happened to be election day again! I am so grateful for the time I had to spend with him in particular because he was carrying a burden. I had embraced him at Jake’s funeral and told him how happy I was to see him. At lunch, he shared that he considered not attending the service because he didn’t know what to say to me, and he felt so much guilt. I feel greatly blessed to have had the opportunity to tell him that I hold nobody accountable for Jake’s death, not even the pilots. I know in my heart that it was Jake’s time to go, and the Lord took him regardless of anything any of us could have done. I cannot bear to think that any of these wonderful and giving men would hold themselves responsible for Jake’s death in any way. War is ugly and anything can happen. I am just grateful that I raised a son willing to serve and I’m grateful that Jake had the opportunity to create bonds with others just as noble, brave and valiant as he is!