This post was a commentary that originally aired on KOSU Radio in 2012.
During the war in Iraq soldier Alex Horton wrote the popular blog, Army of Dude. “There was no whimper, no cries for mother or last words when Chevy died. The explosion that blew him out of the Stryker made him, for a brief moment, a creature of flight. He didn’t suffer.”
Blue Star Flag courtesy Blue Star Mothers of Southeastern Wisconsin
The majority of my professional work has been in public affairs. And, for much of my career, I have been engaged in crisis communications. Over the years, I’ve taken hundreds of media calls about things like fires, floods, accidents, murders, weird legislation, and chemical spills.
I’ve also taken my fair share of public complaints. One time, I had a preacher cuss me out because he believed a military aircraft broke the sound barrier and cracked all the windows of his church.
And, during the long drought of 2006, I learned just how much people love Lake Hefner. I had to deal with boat owners who were tired of having their watercraft marooned in dry boat slips.
You learn in PR how to respond to an angry public. But, sometimes, people can be completely ridiculous, and you just want to say, “Listen, lady, I’m not in charge of making it rain,” or “Hey, buddy, maybe you should rethink whether or not you want to live in a flight path.”
But, there were two calls in 2008, for which I had no training. And, these calls I have thought about at least a thousand times. The first was from a funeral director who called to ask me if I could somehow arrange for a family to meet a casket on the tarmac because their son was coming home from Dover. They could not bear the thought of a hearse receiving his body through cargo. Although the funeral director was no stranger to death, he choked back tears because he’d known the boy his entire life.
The second call was from a Blue Star Mom who wanted my help with something. The call was rather routine until I asked her where her son was serving and she told me, “Well, I had a son who served in Iraq, but he was killed.” And, then she told me she had another son who was there now.
I asked her how in the world she was able to cope with that and she pointed to her work on behalf of the Blue Star Mothers.
On Sunday, friends and family gathered in Lexington, Oklahoma, to say goodbye to a group of soldiers headed to Afghanistan. Photographer Sarah Phipps with the Oklahoman was there and captured them telling their children and spouses goodbye.
She captured so much more.
Will I ever see you again? Will I make it back?
The War in Afghanistan is now our country’s longest war. When it began, October 7, 2001, President Obama was a state senator from Illinois and nobody had an iPhone.
There are 22 chapters of Blue Star Mothers across Oklahoma. They represent sons and daughters who are active duty and veteran military members. They share the pride and worry as they work to support the Armed Forces and each other. They do things like build care packages for soldiers in war zones. They can always use your help, especially this time of year as they gear up for the holiday season.
Finally, Alex Horton stopped updating his war blog last year. He went to work as a public affairs writer for the Veterans Administration. I read his updates on their website from time to time, and I always know he’s prepared for any crisis that meets him.