On Wednesday night we went to a farewell dinner for a fellow army wife who is moving. She's lived here at Fort Polk for about five years. In the last year her life has flipped upside down in a way that most of us pray never happens. July 17, 2006, her husband was killed in Afghanistan by an IED. My husband worked along side her's, fighting the "war on terror". A lot of the guys remaining in the platoon have survivor's guilt because of what happened. The event is often spoken in whispers among the men who were there, and who lost a good friend.
Staci, the widow, has remained strong and proud. As the guys gave her yet another plaque on Wednesday to show their undying gratitude for her and her family's sacrifice, she gave a touching speech that I think will always stay with me.
She told the guys not to ever feel guilty for what happened. She told them her husband would be pissed if he knew the guys were sitting back here feeling bad that they are home with their families. She told us all that she will be alright. That she sits alone in her house and cries, that she's sad and mad and that sometimes she looks up and yells at her husband for leaving her with two girls who act exactly like him. But she's very proud, and she will be fine. She watched her mother grieve when her father died, and her grandmother grieve when her grandfather died. She saw them be happy again, and she knows that she can be happy again someday, too. Staci is proud of her husband, and she's proud of all the guys in the platoon for being so strong. She told us that she has educated her daughters to know the truth of how their daddy died. She told them that President Bush did not kill their daddy, nor did the United States government. The Taliban killed their daddy. Terrorists. They are the only ones to blame.
One part of Staci's speech that really got to me was when she said, once someone told her that every touch she makes counts. Whether it's good or bad, it counts. She said she has thought of that often since her husband has gone, and she works hard to make her touches count. She reminded the guys that they should do the same. Staci asked them that, if they took anything away from their time with her, that should be it. To learn how to make every touch count.
We sent Staci off to start a new place in her life, in a new house she just built, in the place where her and her husband first met. Staci and her two girls have great plans for their new house, including a "daddy room" where they will hang the numerous plaques and awards and pictures they have received.
Staci is one of those "seasonal" friends that I'm sure I won't see again. She will, however, forever impact my life. I will strive to make all of my touches in life count. I will remember her sacrifice to our country, and to my personal freedom. My children will always be reminded of those who didn't come home. Especially daddy's friend. And I know my husband, who wakes up in cold sweats in the middle of the night, will never forget the friend he had.
Life for us here will go on. The guys will deploy again and we will hold down the fort, as usual, and pray they all return home safely.