Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A Truly Heartbreaking Goodbye to our Fallen Sergeant Major

7 January 2004 2200

Another challenge has appeared on the horizon. I found out today that the Army is putting a freeze on people leaving – called a stop loss. I am affected by this and now must stay beyond March 20. You were right – you can’t trust the Army. I tell you, this has been a trying time – I know it is for you equally. I love you, and I just can’t wait to get home to you. I just want things to be the way they were when I left. I feel so close to you and I don’t want to lose you. I know this news will be disappointing, so it’s going to be difficult to let you know about it. I love you, and I trust God that all will be OK.
You know, the feeling of my numbness and resignation has grown lately. The “adventure” is over. I just need to get home with you – my best friend.
I look back on the past few weeks of violence and become more quiet. I went to the memorial service for CSM Francis at the Martyrs’ Monument. At first, I didn’t want to go – just as I have no desires to go to funerals. I went though, and sat on a ledge looking down in a theater in the underground complex. There was a harp player, row upon row of visitors – among them were Major General Poncho, the ADM of 1st AD and other famous military personalities. The presentation was very nice and respectful. When the slide show started and the music started playing, I became extremely upset, because he was a great guy and loved by his soldiers.
Slowly but surely, my nose became stuffy and eyes began to water. As the guest speakers spoke and also became emotional, I thought about all the reasons for us being in Iraq, about the expressions on his face that seemed to show a hidden knowledge of his fate. I thought of his wife, how she’s all alone now and a widow. A tear rolled down my eye. I just looked on and rested my chin on the butt stock of my M-16 and stared into space, or at CSM Francis’ picture projected on the stage. At one point, a captain played bagpipes a few feet away from me. I thought I had to be the only one with tears rolling involuntarily down my cheek as I stared straight ahead. Then I noticed sniffling and teary eyes all around. Everyone was touched. Taps was then played and I just wanted it to stop. It’s a painful, final thing to listen to taps playing. After the first few notes, it’s so painful to hear - I just wanted it to stop. After the ceremony, I went down to his rifle, boots, and helmet and waited to get in line to pay my respects. A lieutenant colonel said, “Go ahead corporal,” and in a friendly way gestured for me to go in front of him. I noticed when soldiers were walking away from Francis’ articles – they were in tears. I stood up in front of his boots, helmet, weapon and saluted.
‘Thank you,’ I whispered. I then dropped my salute and walked for the exit. I like others, broke into tears and tried with all my might to hold back. I walked passed CSM Sanders and CSM Fleischmann and they all were comforting. Fleischmann saying, “Calm down, it will be OK.”
I’ll never forget, an Iraqi family standing in line in front of me. A woman dressed in black, her 16 year old son, and docile-looking husband all stood sad eyed. They stood in front of CSM Francis’ things and said a prayer as a family. I’ll never forget seeing that. Iraqis have been victims of this war, and American soldiers too. Many of the emotions that I felt that day are gone with the ceremony – maybe hidden inside, or put away in conclusion. I don’t know. I decided not to go to PFC Santos’ memorial service a few days ago. I didn’t want to hear taps again. He was a kid from Mexico. I’ll never forget him or SGM Francis – ever.
I need to go to sleep now. I love you Nora. I need you, you are my reason for living.


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