Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sometimes a Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words

Well, this took a little while, but I hope you enjoy the photos. They give you a glimpse of who we are and will help you to put a face with a name and personality in the "Live" Broadcast below all the photos. Now, when I bring them up in a story, you'll know who they are.

Speaking of photos, a couple of people have mentioned the fact that they couldn't bring up but one photo in the Loomis link. My screen shows it fine, but what you may need to do is set the screen to full, then you'll be able to see a "Menu" button. He has several folders under "projects" and one is Iraq. The last pictures on the roll are of the Baptism in Fallujah that took place one or two days after Aaron was killed. His unit had also lost two others just two weeks before.

Loomis was an embed with Aaron's unit the week Aaron was killed. He called me from Iraq and asked if I wanted a picture he'd taken of Aaron reading mail one day before he was killed.

I don't have to tell you the answer to that one. I'll share it with you later on. I need to get my poor husband supper fixed. Yes, I'm horribly Texan. I say "supper" "fixing to" that kind of verbiage.

Anyway, if you haven't read Loomis' article in the L.A. Times, you can on the Internet. The article is called "Imagine Dying". Loomis was with Sgt. Magana at a different house that day. Sgt. Magana is still in the Marines and the last I heard, was back in Iraq. His survival is nothing short of miraculous and Loomis formed a deep bond with Echo 2/1 that day.

Loomis is faithful to keep in touch to this day, and has actually visited here. I'll always be grateful to him for the photo and for putting me in touch with Sgt. Magana. I've had several good talks with Sgt. Magana and am so thankful he made it back to his wife and little girl.

I have wondered if the force of that day was instrumental in leading Loomis on to other projects with the Medics and the Corpsmen. He admires them so very much. Anyway, for those of you who are interested, or have time, check out his photography and article, again, at L.A.

Tony Perry also did a great write-up concerning Aaron's Silver Star. It's about a prayer meeting that Aaron led the night before. The name of it is 'Marine Who Wouldn't Quit Fighting is Honored.'

I tried to set up a link for these articles, but for some reason, it won't work. Maybe it's the protection on them or something.

To the Mushrooms: Rock On!
To my Marine Bunch, "Mom De'on" works.
To Steve: I miss your name on my email. 2 more days, maybe.

And to the Armed Forces...there aren't words enough. God protect and comfort each of you, each of your family members, and everything you set your hands to.

Until tomorrow, then, God's peace.

The Two Buds

Welcome Home Party for Aaron. August 2003.

My dad (Grandpa) and Gary. The last Grigsby's in our family.

I love you, Grigsby's.

My Babies

Aaron and Hennessy. Home on leave. December 2003.

The Infamous Photo

Here's Aaron trying to freak Jes out. The beer is unopened. Christmas Eve 2003. Do you like the elf hat I got Weston? It's his stocking from Nomi every year. 'Course, he gets new stuff in it each year.

"Why Was Aaron Taking My Popsicle?"

Christmas Eve 2003. Aaron wasn't really trying to take Weston's popsicle; he was actually trying to help him out, but when Weston looked at this picture about a year ago, he inspired the title above.

Best Dancers on the Floor

Aaron & Mom (me)
Christmas Eve 2003

Blondie and Company

Kayla, Karen, Grandmother (Tonya's) and Lisa. At the Welcome Home Party that Tonya gave for Aaron in Lubbock, Texas, after his first trip to Iraq. August 2003.

Marine Ball 2004 -- Without Aaron

Aaron's family gets ready for the 229th Marine Ball in November 2004. This was the first ball after Aaron was killed April 26, 2004, in Fallujah. I was invited to attend, and I took several family members with me. Left: Donna, a close family friend (Aaron called her his second mom); Kayla and Zach, both Aaron's cousins; and Jes, Zach's wife, and, of course, Aaron's cousin, too. In the back are Lisa, Aaron's aunt; Tanya, his cousin; and Allie, also his cousin. Aaron took Allie to the 2003 Marine Ball. Aaron's protectiveness of his family didn't quite create a fun night for Allie!

And Shy Too!

Zach & Aaron
Summer 1987

Tough Guys

Ooooh, scare!
Zach & Aaron
Fall 1988

Zach & Aaron

Zach & Aaron: Christmas 2003

Aaron and Kayla

Aaron and Kayla: Dec. 24, 2003. Aaron was saying to her, "You look like you fell into a bleach bottle." She'd just had streaks put in her hair. Any of you who know Aaron know how protective he was, so these "little self-improvements DID NOT fly with him.

And We're Live: Starring the Grigsby's

“People, we’re going live! And it’s 5-4-3-2-1…and WE ARE LIVE with We Are Family… (I got all my sisters with me…yeah…)

“MMMmmm, Welcome to another five pages (no, I really don’t think it’s six. Is it? Okay, six then. But fortunately, the blog doesn’t show page numbers. Brevity is not my thing.”

Back to our program.

Hey everybody, welcome to my Dad’s 72nd birthday party.

“Dad says hi everybody.”

“Hi Dad!” I know you are saying this out loud to yourself. Tell the truth.

No, you guys should call him Grandpa. That’s what Aaron called him.

“Hi Grandpa!”

Now you’re getting it.

But back to our program.

“Welcome to another saga of We Are Family. Tonight’s feature will be on the Grigsby’s.

“Who wants to be interviewed first?”

“Me, me, me…hollers Kayla. (That’s Little Pretty, remember her? Aaron’s cousin, who is now 13.)

I know. Me too.

“Okay, Kayla, tell us what you did tonight at Grandpa’s party.”

KAYLA: “Well tonight I went driving for the first time with my Uncle Bud!
I was like doing really good. Uncle Bud was like hurry STOP!!! Then he’d be
All SLOW DOWN! Don’t you be driving like that. I was like ok I already have a
Grandpa. Well at least that was what was in my mind. What I really said was “ok grandpa” I like to go fast. It makes you feel like queen of the road. Or princess of the
Road. Man that was awesome and then I thought a way to get a hot guy’s attention is
Just honk, wave, and smile cute. But I ain’t sayin that I saw any cute guys. Then I drove up and parked and forgot to put it in park. Well I know for sure that I am not a blonde but
I do need to pay attention to the road. Then later I came to my grandpa’s and ate a hot
Pepper. It was so………. Good. Later tonight I am gonna go with my friend Allie and
We like laugh a lot! But we are thinking of Halloween costumes for her mom’s friend’s
Party. There is only a little bit of my fun life.”

Narrator: (You’ve got to picture the rolling eyes and occasional flip of twilled bang, back, up and off, as if it were a struggle, as if the twill were too heavy…but at last, she’s lifted it, tossed it up and over. What a girl. What an age. Geez).

Aaron would freak.

Next is Karen, my sister-in-law. Zach and Aaron are crazy about her.

KAREN: “It’s been a while since we all gathered together, so of course we are all having a wonderful time tonight. Our family gatherings are always loud, rambunctious, lots of laughter….everyone so glad to see each other. I think that’s why Aaron and Zach always enjoyed a party so much, they grew up partying in this fun but crazy family.
Tonight is my father-in- law’s (Grandpa’s) birthday. I hate to even call him my father-in-law, he has had me for over half of my life, so he feels like my Dad. He has had to pass through some great obstacles in the past 2 years, so this birthday is a very celebrated one. I hope this finds Steve and all of our beloved warriors safe tonight. You all are never far from our minds no matter what we are doing. And Steve, think of the party we will have when you return. Good night and love to all.”

Narrator: She’s the blonde that commented her comment twice. Perhaps Donna will join us one day. She is known to post the same post six, maybe seven times in a row. She too, is blonde.

But, back to Karen. Karen has been married to my baby and only brother (baby-boy-and-born-eighteen-months-after-the-stillborn birth-of-my-parent’s-first-son-last -Grigsby-to-carry-on-the-Grigsby-name- in-the-Grigsby-family-of-oh-fourteen-sixteen-kids—and-the-one-Kayla-refers-to-as-Uncle-Bud), something like that. You get the picture. For Christmas I would get Wal-Mart house shoes and gown, Gary, Gary got ostrich skin western boots. Yeah, I’m serious. This really happened. (Hi Mom!) Gary has been Karen’s baby for 23 years I think. He was rotten when she got him and Karen carries on the proud 44 year family tradition.

She also works in the County Treasurer’s office in Brownfield, yes you guessed it, Texas. She is the mother of two babies, Sadie and Bonray. Sadie is female, size large, and Bonray is a miniature Dobie. All male.

Yes, dogs. Sort of. You’d have to know Karen. They’re dog-kids. No. Kiddogs.

And Karen is beautiful. Picture Wonder Woman—but definitely blonde.

From Aaron’s Message Board:

Dancing with Aaron

Christmas 2003

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
Sounds of the family gathering for Christmas. Laughter, chatter, and as always, music. "Aaron, can you two-step?" Flashing that wonderful, fetching grin, "Yeah, Aunt Karen." "Show me."

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
"There goes my life" over and over, one of your many favorites. Giggles and smiles drifting over from Jess and Kayla watching. Your love of music, something I always delighted in sharing with you.

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
Glimpses of Roy, Gary, Zach...peering in through the window from the deck. Pieces of conversation, faint rattles of food readying waft by from the kitchen where Lisa, De'on and others are milling.

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
I glance up at a stong countenance...Slight smile, singing along softly. Those thick, wonderful eyebrows knitted, concentrating on not missing a step. Arms of a Marine now, lightly guiding, steering, leading.

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
I look down at those large Austin feet, steady in cadence, careful not to step on mine. Remembering when those feet were only nine months old, only imagining then how they would grow and what path they would take.

Gliding, swaying, twirling...
It was my last dance with you, Aaron Cole, but it is one of my constant, favorite memories of you. It's almost two years, but you are not any less loved, missed, thought of. Thank you for this dance..."Your Aunt Karen of Brownfield, Texas USA

Gary still can’t talk about Aaron. But he’s so proud of him. He admires our military.

Gary and I have danced to the theme song of tonight's show. We Are Family more than once.

Narrator: Next is Jesika. We call her Jes. She’s madly in love with Zach (Aaron’s cousin, Kayla’s brother, Zachry Jewell, the one The Reply was written for.) We, as a family, are grateful to God above that she is so in love with Zach, because Zach is another Gary.

Zach was an only child for fourteen years, and then came Kayla.

Yes, Kayla, you were planned.

HHHHhmm. Back to our program.

Jes is the mother of four year old Weston. To Weston, I am "Nomi." Pronounced Know Me (which is what I was to be to Aaron's children). Weston used to see Aaron. He was on a boat, he said. Until a few months ago, Weston talked to Aaron a lot. It was comforting for me. I guess age took over, and that's okay too. But Weston doesn't really think that he wants to go be with Jesus. He's lost Aaron, and his Mimi's (Lisa) Misty (cat) and Oscar (dog). He sees a pattern there.

Jes, too, is Wonder Woman. Only Red.

JES: Well I am just sitting here listening to my husband (Zach) make us laugh, something he is very good at. Karen is right this is a fun and crazy family that loves to laugh. Right now my 4 year old son is begging anyone to go outside with him and play hide and go seek in the dark, he finally got Karen to go!! I am glad we are all here celebrating Grandpas birthday. One of many celebrations that we will celebrate and we have men and women like our Aaron to thank for being able to enjoy times like these. Thank you all and thank you Steve for going over there to let us know what is going on first hand. Our prayers are with you and all of yall’s safe return.

From Aaron’s Message Board: "Hey Aaron Whats up man I am sitting here and I can't get you off my mind. I have been through my first christmas and new year without you and it is pretty empty. But God has and always will bless heroes such as yourself. For without you we as Americans wouldn't have all our luxuries we all enjoy. But may I say in the same breath those very same luxuries we all enjoy are not the same without you. I have had long enough to deal with this and has much as I would like to say everything is fine something is missing in everybody that had a chance to know and love you the proof is in the eyes. Hey death is bitter sweet depending on your religion but for us missing you death is that much sweeter becuase that day all of this confusion is gone and that is really the only comfort I find in the whole situation no words, sayings pictures, bring you back and what can I say I miss you nothing else. So my dieing day will be that bitter sweet moment. I love you and everything you stand for Aaron, damn boy you have set the bar high for this nation like the scripture says John 15:13 Greater love has know one than this. that he lay down his life for his friends. I love You and miss you and hold you in my heart forever. Thank You Aaron"Zach of Lovington New Mexico

Zach, too. It’s tough right now.

So, I guess I’ll wear out some other listening ear.

"Aaron, Thank you for what you did for us. While you were over there in Irag and when you were home. I knew you before I was apart of your family and then I never dreamed that you would be callling me your cousin. I am so glad that I am. I know that you probably thought that you drove me crazy but really you never did. Even when you let Weston have an unopened beer. That picture is something we will cherish forvever. I know my son will never get to know his Unlce Aaron but Zach and I will always let him know just how much you loved him. When he wears your memorial shirt I ask him where Aaron is and he points to your picture and gives you a kiss. I know you will be watching down on him and protecting him just like you would have done if you were here. That puts my mind at peace and always will. Thank you Aaron.P.S. Your mom thinks Weston will be the next one kicking in doors so please protect him!!!We love you"bgvcvvvvgfv dks" this is from Weston 2years old, maybe you know what it says!"Jesika Jewell of Lovington New Mexico.

Narrator: Jes. Plenty of stories about that one. Whooaahh. And I will tell one sometime. Zach will love it because that’s his favorite subject. Satire. Zach’s the one. I can’t wait to bring you an epic on them. I hate to give anything away prematurely, but if anyone out there needs a loan at the credit union here, Jes can hook you up. Zach says apparently you don’t even need his signature. Just see Jes.

And next is my baby sister, Lisa. She’s three years younger than me, four years older than Gary. Together, the two of us kept his bottle warmed for him until he was well past three. I know, I'm having a hard time getting past all this. I signed Dad's card: Love from your favorite child.

Like me, Lisa is not Wonder Woman, any way shape or form (shape being the key word here: we are more like Wonder What Happened?) We once had brunette hair, but that too, is a thing of the past. Lisa is red now, yeah, another word problem in math. Me, I’m salt and pepper. Pretty much pepper after Lisa pulls my hair through a plastic bonnet and paints it every so often.

But Lisa is my best friend. Well, Greg is my best friend too, and they always argue this point.

But I couldn’t have made it without Lisa.

LISA: “Go Red, White, and Blue. There is no way I can even describe how I feel about the commitment you guys do for all of us back here in the U.S.A. I want to let you all know I think of you all, plus your families. You are in my heart and prayers. I love you. Keep Steve Ramos safe if you happen to run into him. He is a great guy! I’m also attending my Dad’s 72nd birthday. He has also fought his battles with cancer. We are so blessed to have him. This is also Lance Corporal Aaron Austin’s grandpa, and I am his Aunt Lisa. Stay safe guys. Please write on this blog I love to hear from you.”

From Aaron’s Message Board:

Thank you Doc for you special memory that you shared. We, Aaron Austin's family share all the memories that we have had in his lifetime, it brings us such joy. We didn't have the honor to share with him what his Marines and those who's path he crossed while in his duty to his Country. His life ended just the way he had been so faithful to his family also. We knew he would do and be there for each and everyone of us. I miss that so, along with all of his other wonderful qualities that he had. I hate to say had because he is sharing them with Jesus and anyone else's loved one in the Kingdom of Heaven. I thank each and everyone who has taken something special from their heart and applied it to this Memorial. We understand that there are lots of hearts feeling the same as ours, either by missing Aaron or missing the loss of their loved one or both. We thank you and pray for you. Just as we know Aaron is doing the same. He is still in our hearts each and everyday, and I know he is up their rooting for each and everyone of us. And to Aaron thank you for the memories that we have. You left us with so many good ones. It is an honor to have been a part of your bloodline. Your Anti, just like you spelled it. I wouldn't change a thing. Love ya man."Lisa Jewell of Lovington, N.M.

Well, that about does it for the birthday party. Except for Dad. Dad had a dream, a vision, something so fantastic, happen to him during his cancer: I’ll tell you about that another time. It’s a story all its own. My dad was diagnosed with Stage IV squameous cell carcinoma four days before Aaron was killed. Aaron never knew. Then, anyway.

Happy Birthday, Dad, Grandpa. You’re a blessing. I heard someone say once that the manifestation of Jesus in the soul was to utter naught a word during times of humiliation. You’re that, Dad, humble.

Since this post time is set on CST, Dad’s birthday will be over. He’s an October 13th kind of guy. Bad-luck Friday every seven years. But the day usually turns out good.

And Happy Birthday to Hennessy, who turned seven or eight on the 12th. I could look up the year, but let’s just keep it where it is, seven or eight. I just always thought it was kind of cool that his birthday was one day before Grandpa's.

It’s late and I’ve worn your ear enough. But see, Aaron is with us. As much as he can be. And I really think maybe he is with us even more than we can hope or imagine, but, we are so limited, compared to that Spiritual Warrior.

Thanks for being a part of my family tonight.

I hope sweet rest comes your way tonight. God bless you and your families.

**Steve, I would say sleep tight, but guess you’re up and about now.

It may be about three days before we hear from Steve. I miss seeing his name on my email already.

De'on Grigsby Miller

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Giving Them A Voice

I have the opportunity to accompany a group of Europeans who are going to Turkey for humanitarian reasons. We leave in a few hours, and I'll be there for about a week. I thought that while I'm waiting for my visa to Iraq to be approved, I could go with this group and write about what's happening there and its affect on Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The group will work down to the Iraqi border.

I will be in communication and able to post from there, and I'll take pictures. They are going to the area that is still suffering from the earthquake as well as a couple of other places. I met this group yesterday. We talked briefly about what they're doing and what I'm hoping to do. I asked them if they would mind having a journalist accompany them, and they told me they'd get back to me early this morning. They did -- around 4:30 a.m.

"If you want to go with us, we're leaving around noon," the lady said. Her name is Natalia, and she's from Italy. The group is comprised of people from several European countries. Heck, no group is complete unless there's a nosy American along, right? Right.

It's funny how easy it is to get into some countries and how difficult it is to enter others. It's not easy to get a visa to Iraq, and I understand that the situation there is more dangerous than Kuwait or even Turkey or Afghanistan. But I don't want to sit on my hands here in Kuwait while Baghdad approves the visa. It could take two days, or it could take a month. It's best if I work on other projects while I'm waiting for Baghdad to push all other matters aside and tend to my visa application. I mean, I'm sure that the moment they see my application, bells will go off, people will start shouting into phones and even the insurgents will halt their murder while someone stamps "Approved" on my application. Once that's done, Baghdad will be able to get back to business, and I'll be on my way.

It's not that I'm anxious to see suffering. I'm anxious to give forgotten and unnoticed people a voice.

I'm anxious to tell you about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Thank You Sgt. Rett

My post today is dedicated to Sgt. Rett, who dropped in yesterday to visit our blog.

The titles Honor, Courage, and Commitment are related to this post. When you find some time, check out their links.

The following was copied and pasted from Fallen Heroes Memorial:

" i sat at work and that firefight just played over and over and over again. for some reason it just wouldn't stop.i broke it down from every different way. slow motion as it played through my head. why didnt i go into that house next door? would it have helped to get you out of there quicker? aaron it hurts so bad to think that you wont be home for another christmas. know that if there was away i'd have traded places with you. i guess it is true only the dead see the end of war. i only hope you know how much good has come from all of this. when we got the word to pull out i was so pissed because at the time i thought that are losses were in vain but come to find out i was wrong. so many good things have come from are blood, sweat, and tears. i love and miss you heart and love goes out to all your family this holiday season.R/SSgt. Justin Rettenberger"

These are just a few of the words Sgt. Rett has posted on Aaron's message board. Our family appreciates how he and Doc Duty continue to talk of my son's actions on that fateful day. We'll remain forever proud of Aaron, but too, we know that sacrifice comes in many forms, many phases, from many heroes. Many survivors.

John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

If you are in war, then you know sacrifice begins with the daily grind of dirt and cold MREs: throw in a few bombs and explosives, and that should just about do it for the old stress level.

There, here, sacrifices are shared by the interested. Some jouurnalist, pushing forward, digging his way through the odd customs, for words to write about a war he's old enough to skip out on entirely. A father's choking acceptance of a posthumous award that bears the name of his youngest son, or perhaps an only daughter, for the mothers who mourn until their own dying day. But today I want to say something to those who make it home from war.

This 'greater ' love is something thay you guys deal with every day. I might have my palms out and open, asking what can I do to help? But really, compared to what you face 24/7, I feel almost silly asking that, or even daring to converse with you. Next to you, I feel almost as if I'm pretending to share in a world that truly, I know nothing about. Your heart and your head must carry a lot of weight. Weight that I wouldn't recognize, passing you on the street, or waiting behind you in a slow line, anxious for you to hurry up and get your pin number punched into that square machine, swiped, and out of my way. I know "you" must be everywhere. How have I treated you? What sort of impression have I given to you, out there on the street. On the battlefield, I know you: you're a hero in uniform doing a job I can't. But when you put on your civilian clothes and journey out, are you still my hero?

I don't expect one of you to be the same as you were before you left. It isn't expected. In fact, it would be scary if you didn't change. And God forgive me if I miss your battle scars out here, out here where,even now, it is too easy for me to become complacent, melancholy, self-involved here on the other side of the concertina and razor wire.

But just come home. Missing limbs, splintered minds, PTSD, stinky feet or really bad hearing. I pray that you, that none of you are taken from me. Just come home. Victorious. Like Sgt. Rett said, so much good has come from your blood, sweat, and tears.

And for those of you who try to carry the dead weight of a buddy back home, down a short dark alley way, back to safety, back to light, then especially, thank you. Sgt. Rett, thank you for your lifetime sacrifices. They won't be forgotten.

There must be so many good parents in this world.

Semper Fi,



Sgt. Rettenberger presents the father of Lance Corporal Aaron C. Austin, USMC, the Silver Star Medal, our military's third highest award. The ceremony took place at Texas Panhandle War Memorial in Amarillo, Texas on July 22, 2005. Austin was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on April 26, 2004.

Sgt. Rett carried Austin after he was hit.

Read more about Sgt. Rett and Doc Duty's actions on that day by clicking on 'Silver Star' in our links section.


Sgt.Major Skiles, Sgt. Rett, and Doc Duty with De'on after Silver Star Ceremony.


Sgt. Rett and Doc Duty at Aaron's grave after Silver Star Ceremony. Sgt. Major Skiles stands behind.

Doc Duty and Sgt Major Skiles were with Aaron when he was deployed to Heaven.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

God Bless America

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm one of those Americans who tear up when the the Star Spangled Banner is played at high school football games or when the U.S. flag ripples in the wind when it's carried through the rodeo arena during opening ceremonies.

I have been away from the United States for a week, but I miss it deeply. I miss the exchange of news when you see a neighbor at the post office or the grocery store. I miss the way people raise a finger off the steering wheel to say hi while driving, and you don't even know them. We do it in Texas, so I'm assuming other states do it, too. I miss the hundreds of American customs that usually go unnoticed -- until you're in a place where those customs don't exist.

I miss seeing those icons that are uniquely American, even if I see them only in pictures. The Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, the Lincoln Memorial, the Blue Angels flying in formation or the dignified rows of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery. I miss America.

I'm not one of the pessimists who believe that Americans are losing their patriotism. It's as strong today as it was on Dec. 7, 1941, or on Sept. 11, 2001. Don't let anyone tell you it's not. Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin never questioned it. A love for his country and his Marine brothers urged him to that Fallujah rooftop in 2004, even though he knew it was unlikely he would come back down.

If anyone tells you that our country is going to hell in a handbasket, please ask that person to drive to a certain cemetery in Amarillo, Texas. There they will find a grave marker with Aaron's name on it. Let that doubter of American faith and patriotism sit on the granite bench at Aaron's head and reflect on the valor of a 21-year-old American who cast his fear of death aside in order to protect his brothers and his country. Let that doubter sit on that bench which bears Aaron's name and then walk away and still say that patriotism doesn't exist in this country.

There are too many grave markers like Aaron's that say it does.

The Reply

De’on Miller
March 4, 2005

The Reply

Am I your hero, then? You ache
for my smile just now. And
thinking back,
always been a big hero of mine, same now as then.
Now I live
as yours, and do you know how sweet,
how fine it all is for me? Now that I'm
your hero.
You sense my smile. Zach.
I wouldn’t change a thing.

Man, I just miss you.

We have different missions, but still
love the same. The same as when we
loved with silly string and rocks we painted
then sold for a dollar, or whatever. The same as when we danced, I
with my bandana, rocking
to His name.
The same as when we fished, and finally, each
made our own game. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Man, I just miss you.

If I could, I’d tell you all your heart
aches to know…aahh, I’m not
narcing. I’ve never done that. I know
you still wonder about the mystery
I’ve lived
out. You were always my hero and I’m your
hero now. I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s been good you hurting—all
this for me. But boy you know something’s
gotta give. God’s gonna bless this storm
you’re in, ‘cause maybe glory just wouldn’t mean
much any other way. Man, I love you, just
how you are. It was always you, to question
and self-examine. Although it wasn’t my bad,
but when it comes to family, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Just miss you, Man.

Now I know cotton trailers, pit
bulls, and angry dads wouldn’t mean
much to some; they meant everything
to me. Aahh, and to have a hero, do
you know what that means?
There’s nothing
like it, Man. And now, you know. And
I wouldn’t change a thing.

Nothing works, Man. Just miss you.

and joking, all those family parties. Made fun
of our moms: they couldn’t even talk
enough. I love you all

just how you are, Man.
Every boy needs a hero. You filled that hole
for me. Heroes are untouchable, Man, or else
they wouldn’t be. Suffering’s hard Man. I know
that. And I know
I wouldn’t change a thing.


I’ve got your back, here in Heaven, same
as you had mine there. Don’t worry ‘bout it, just live it
out, Man. Just live it out. You know
I love you all, everything that’s been. We’ll
always be. One crazy family. You’ve
always been my hero, Zach. And I’m yours
now? Sweet. Can’t touch that. And
you know, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Miss you, Man

And We Have Bad Manners?

Two laws need to be passed immediately in the Middle East.

The first one will prohibit Arab men from blowing their noses in public. It would be OK if they would do into a handkerchief or tissue, but, no. It's a ceremony. They press a finger against one nostril and blow as hard as they can out of the other one, projecting that nostril's contents out to the sidewalk, curb, street, any where. It's disgusting. And, for some reason, they do it with as loud of a trumpeting sound as they can. Charging elephants have nothing on them. You can't walk 10 feet without encountering the demonstration.

The second law will bring about the removal of all the horns in their cars. Oh, how they love their horns. They honk them incessantly, even when they're parked. Kuwait's streets are better than most American cities, and the traffic moves along pretty well. But man do they get impatient when a traffic light dares to stop them. As soon as it turns red, they start honking, like the light cares or will be intimidated by their noise. They look for any opportunity to honk their horns. It's like watching kids ride the bumper cars at an amusement park. Just honking because they can. It needs to stop.

After those two issues are taken care of, we can move on to other matters.

Professor Pipe: A Drama

Yes. I was thinking when this Iraq vacation is over with, that maybe Ramos and I could opt out for the upcoming USO Tours in Writing. I don’t think they have those yet but they (whoever they are) should start one. It’s certain we’ll be in need of USO something or others for special upcoming events as long as the Bad Boys are throwing their little tantrums up and down the parallels of the globe.

Yes. I'd have to write. I’m sure Steve could handle his own with a “live” audience. I, on the other hand, go to pieces if I have to get up and speak or read. Anything oral. As Aaron spoke for Moses, so Aaron spoke for me. To finish my first creative writing class, I was required to give a 6 minute reading of my work. I threw a little hissy about this one. Here is a semi-fictional account of the account.

Professor Pipe: A Drama

“Please don’t make me do this! I took a class to write, not to speak,” I plead.

Prof. utters a guttural “mmm” and continues to drag on unlit pipe. “MMMmm,” he continues, deeper. More guttural.

Some time passes.

Passes some more time.

Time passes some more.

Two leap years pass slowly by and a new form of the alphabet: Nomenclature: Binary Bean Count, has just been introduced to a politically correct world of the one remaining vegetable that has not been yanked off the shelves, pulled up out of the dirt, put people on respirators and scared the living thunder out of the others. Yes! Why: It really is ‘Count Binary Bean Count’ that has taken over the world and uses people as its alphanumeric introduction to creativewritingforvegetables.101.

Why, by Jove, this proves it. Survival of the Fittest! Darwin got more than sunburn, after all. Oh my and how time flies as the Prof removes the pipe from his dry lips, smacking little sucking noises as if the pipe were truly blazing.

He’s a poet.



But where did the bean come? He’s questioning deep within.

And alas, he’s drawn back into the world of dreadful academia; not by desperation of the typical nontraditional student, complete with crow’s feet embedded into a thoughtful but anxious temple. Their claws feathered out, imitated the gaudy pink sunglasses she’d once ordered out of her most recent issue of It’s All About You: a magazine for women who try desperately to grab that golden ring at a golden age, but need dark sunglasses to do it. Sort of like those little things you sleep in. What are they called? Eye shields? Eye Masks? What?

Anyway, they’re size large. Pink. Think Elton John.

But no, it’s none of this: it’s only the droppings of pipe flakes upon his newest suede leather jacket, direct from

“Every student is required to give a reading of his or her work. Check your syllabus.”

“But I just started on Paxil for panic attacks.” My voice is at a whisper, I’m reeling him into a secret I don’t just hand out to the world and all its critics.

He doesn’t bite. His mind is working on his new poem. “Mz. Miller, the syllabus…”

I cut in. “Then, can I bring my son to read for me in case I can’t?”

“I’ll allow that,” he says as he flicks a piece of cherry apple wood pipe crumb from his suede sports slash smoking jacket, plotting his next move for Pipe’s Poetz, a new and exciting journal featuring prizewinning essays on poems and the effects of aromatherapy and imagery in the alliteration of words and line length in the prose poem.

His had been one of the prizewinning essays on poems.

Yes, I’m a little lost as well. So, we’ll just wrap up this tidbit of fiction and end with its true ending (although this stuff could have been going on in the poet's mind. We can’t prove that it wasn’t.)

So. It's a theory, really, then. Isn't it?

So. We’ll call it the Theory of Thoughts During Thinking About How To Answer the Stupid Student.

The Reader’s Digest Version: I took Aaron with me but read my own thing from my own mouth from my own little school seat. Aaron hooked up with some cheerleader who sat across from me. (I’m not sure of the full implications of this phrase, hooked-up, and truly, I probably don't need 'enlightening' at this stage. Perhaps I should say they made plans to talk or meet again later. I am the child’s mother, after all.) I found this out on the way home.

I never even suspected. I was nervous and he was perfect.

End of story.

Love. Really, And blessings and deep, very deep prayer for your safety. Blessings on you and all you love,

The One Aaron Spoke For

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Well, this tech stuff is definitely killing the creative juices. Could anyone tell me how to get our sidebar, toolbar, whatever it's called, back up to where it belongs? I've been to help who of course is no help. We're signed up for everything with everyone: I can't even remember all the passwords anymore?

However, I was able to rid myself of the touristy photograph of me on every little comment. You know I've made a few of them and I was starting to feel like I was the unveiling of a new postage stamp.

Any help will be greatly appreciated as I'm sure Ramos is out on the town in some Lexus with beautiful people even though he has absolutely no fashion sense! Red heels? Imagine.

So I'll be back later after I get this tech stuff worked out. What time is it there now? Okay, 6 AM tomorrow. Now isn't that just hard to grasp? We're not even promised a tomorrow, yet Steve is already in it. Wow. Steve should be waking up soon if he's back from whatever latest thrill. Iraq's got it going on with their borders and immigration, huh?

Bear with me!

Are You Looking At Me?

An irrational fear has been brewing in my mind the last couple of days. It's roots, I think, are nourished by the countless books I read years ago about the Gestapo. Black-coated men sweeping into a house and arresting everyone in it, their power and reach limitless.

I told De'on that I often use humor when I'm nervous or worried. I'm not really afflicted by those conditions, but there are moments when the ceasless warnings I receive collect and weigh heavily. Some of the contractors who have offices in Kuwait and do business in Iraq warn me not to be taken in completely by the feeling of safety in Kuwait. They tell me that I would do well to remember that the Iraqi border is close, and it's known that people who support the insurgents, or the insurgents themselves, can move across borders. When they are in Kuwait, they act properly, conducting their business like well mannered Arabs. Then they return to their murderous agendas on Baghdad's streets.

Most of the time, I don't think the people here give me even a second look. Other times, though, I catch someone eyeing me closely, and I wonder why they seem to be studying me. This morning I passed an Arab who was sitting on a bench, and he was wearing the traditional "dishdashah," the long-sleeved, one piece dress Arab men wear. He was wearing a scarf, and he had it wrapped around his face, too. Only his eyes were showing. As I walked along the sidewalk, I could see that his eyes followed me. He was probably just curious about the Westerner, but it was, still, a little disconcerting because I could see only his eyes.

During the early years of WWII, some Americans, Jews and other foreigners were caught in Portugal, a neutral country. The Germans moved in and out of Portugal, too, and I can imagine how unsettling it was for the Americans and, especially, the Jews to have a gang of Gestapo officers seated at the table next to them in a restaurant. In later years, the Nazis disregarded Portugal's neutrality and took the Jews, but there was a time when they rubbed shoulders with stiff smiles.

So it is here. I wonder who is who out on the streets. I reign in my paranoia to manageable levels, but there's a brutal war being fought just a couple of hours away. And it's not just some of the Arabs who think the Americans are bad news. Yesterday, an Australian attempted to educate me about America's shortcomings and the criminal mob we call our military. He told me that Americans are mushrooms. That we live in the dark and are fed garbage by our government. That wasn't all he said, but I'll spare everyone the drivel. I was shaking with rage, and the people who know me know that it takes a great deal to anger me. It seems to be happening frequently here, though.

Because we were in the company of other people, I wanted to keep it civil, but I still wanted him to know how I felt. So I told him that what he thinks in his own petty mind is his business but that what he says in my presence about my country and about the men and women who fight for my country is my business. He said he didn't mean to offend, and I said well you did. And I told him, politely, that America has always regarded Australia as an ally and wasn't it lucky for Australia that such an alliance existed during WWII when the Japanese were so close to invading that country. That alliance kept his country from experiencing the horrors of Japanese occupation.

I know that I've written some posts that might come across as flippant, that I don't take this business seriously. Believe me, I do. Every night when I go to bed alone, I know it's serious. Each day when I move about this city, alone, I keep the seriousness of the war 1 1/2 hours away in my mind. I'm in a foreign city, moving bureaucratic mountains to get a visa to enter a war zone. I keep thinking that a terrorist is going to burst into my room or get into a cab with me. That's the irrational fear I was talking about at the beginning of this post.

I'm safe, and I have no doubts that I won't be harmed in Iraq. I've told De'on that I know that. But sometimes I feel like I'm Hillary Clinton at the Republican Convention, and I just passed gas -- loudly. It's kind of hard to blend in.

I have to tell you, though, that it just kills me when I see a veiled woman, I mean even wearing gloves, and she's wearing glamorous heels. Cracks me up. Heck, if I were her, I'd wear some red ones.

OK, I'm going to go read Cinderella or something. Oh, and what I really wanted to say to that Australian was ... just how long has it been since you had a country ass whuppin?

Kukes and Nukes

So what is it? Are countries just playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with nuke testing? Oh, wow, isn’t it all just a little insane? The only way I can get past it all sometimes is just to take in that same antique newsreel of North Korea’s military marching down the street. Over and over and over. If these men never get to leave, who do they fight?

Blame it on the paparazzi. If photographers would show up a little more often, maybe we’d get some new rare footage. Come on now, rare is one thing, but these pictures just aren’t newsworthy anymore. Either show us something new or at least use some new props behind the marchers. Maybe a nice pasture scene. These guys have to be old enough now to appreciate something like that.
Somehow the militia, and most certainly their leaders, never age. Look at them. Regimes must have some good genes.
Regardless, I get shin-splints just watching them. March that is.

A quote taken off the Internet news of MSNBC: “The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States,” Bush said in a brief statement in the diplomatic reception room at the White House. “And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”

Okay guys, my question to you: “How do you feel about cold weather gear?” You’ve seen those pictures on M.A.S.H., where they’re all freezing, rubbing their gloved palms together and blowing cold air out their mouths, while simultaneously grabbing a gorgeous nurse. Some scenes are rough, but everybody gets to have a hot toddy to warm up, by the end of the show anyway.

No one was allowed to drink during my war. When PML Delta hit (Delta Detox is what everybody called it), no more drinking at all. Boy, were there some hurting folks those first few days. Delta lasted a good bit before Echo (the invasion itself) hit. I’ll always be convinced they knew what they were doing there. It’s intentional that I use the pronoun they: because I sure didn’t. I’d just spent a year at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (at that time, WRAIR was in D.C.). A civilian job in military uniform. PT on your own, no weapons qualifications or formations. That’s when you have to really discipline yourself. But I did. The Army got their dream when they got me. I did everything they told me, promptly. Since I was 33 when I joined, I took everything very seriously.

Have I told you guys that I used to do 75 pushups in 2 min? I did. The Drill used to holler at me in front of a crowd, “Momma Smurf, get down and show Joe how to push.”

Anyway, I’m losing my thread here. Stop. Rewind back to DC slash Panama.

I arrived in Panama on December 11, 1989. The invasion was on Dec 20, 1989. I wasn’t acclimated, to say the least. I didn’t even know who my NCOIC was. I had to borrow some pregnant girl’s TA-50, and I was one of five females in a battalion of 500. They’d just gone from Combat Engineer Light, to Heavy, a year and a half prior to my arrival. I wasn’t happy. But I was ever so relieved when the magazine had an instructional icon on it, showing how to load the rounds. There were so many of them. Some things you just hate to ask, you know?

So what about you guys? Anything at all you can share with us? Are you at Pendleton or Horno? I went to see Aaron’s room at Horno once. Oh, joy, you're thinking. He showed us how he took the pins out of the bathroom door that separated the two (bedroom? racks? What do you Marines call them?), well, we’ll just say rooms for now. He would take these pins out of the door to the room on the other side so that he could go grab Barnes’ beer out of the fridge. You know, just two or three at a time. Nothing real serious. But Barnes would always wonder what was happening to his beer.

Barnes told us at the 229th Marine Ball in 2004 (actually, it was a luncheon we attended the next day with a bunch from Aaron’s section—boy, there were some stories there!) Barnes told us that it took him about 3 months to figure it out. He loved Aaron. He was Aaron’s “youngest” on the team. He’s called me a couple of times, but I haven’t heard from him in a long time.

You guys take care of each other. I know that goes without saying, but not just now, I’m thinking of later, down the road. Keep in touch. You’ll need each other again someday. I didn’t keep in touch with my friends from 536th Engineer Battalion (C) (H). Yes, after three years, most of us liked each other, or at least knew who to give the space to. I regret losing track. While I was in DC, I tried looking up a few of their names at The Women’s War Memorial, but none of them had bothered to register. They all knew Aaron. And I’ve scrolled the roll calls, searching, hoping that I wouldn’t find a last name I recognized. A couple of times I did, but with the info given, it didn’t match up to anyone I knew.

We all know that war isn’t reminiscent of M.A.S.H. or Hogan’s Heroes. Those are only sitcoms, but, troops, glean the good out of them. They each hold tender moments of humanity at its finest. Love each other. And treasure what you can out of this time. You’ve never looked better. Know too, that life is just tough. You’ve had a harsh introduction, but stay strong. Some day you may send your son or daughter off to war. So grab the tender when you can. Hold on to each other.

Life is so precious. All of it. Has anyone seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? By the end of this movie, I felt it our obligation to remain resilient in Iraq. I felt that all along, but after this movie, I really hurt for the people who need us there. Before, for me, it had strictly been about us. Of course, you could pick up any text of history on the holocaust and feel the same way.

What I’m trying to say is: You’re doing great. I know that many of you are so tired, and there’s nothing I can say but thank you. Thank you for us. Thank you for them.

Well, I’m still waiting ever so impatiently on Ramos. He emailed me and said he was still working on everything for the visa, but that was much earlier. Again, plop, pop. Where’s Steve?

He did admire the man he worked with at the Embassy. I’ll let Steve share all that with you, but even stuck in Kuwait, he’s made friends and captured information. I hope I got those last two verbs in the right order.

Aaron never met a stranger either. He was probably five when Doug took him into Chunky Cheese. Doug told him before they went in, “Don’t talk to strangers. I mean it now.”

Inside, Aaron strikes up a conversation with the man ahead of them in line. I can see it now, Doug fidgeting. Aaron talking nonstop.

After they left out, Doug said, “Aaron Cole, what did I tell you about talking to strangers?”

“Oh, was him a stranger?”

No. He never met one.

Steve just emailed me. Here’s what I wrote him back.
Oh, thank God I heard from you. Of course, you're blowing my post, put I'll just put it anyway. Email me the minute you come back I'm going to have questions. How on earth are you going to get around if they say you can't get around without $2,000. a day security? Are you keeping in touch with Erik, too? Give him my info. Be careful. You're a mess! My gosh, I haven't slept much, my mouth tastes like pond scum and I'm trying to cheer people up while you're out having a high old time and I'm checking my email every 5 minutes to make sure you're still alive!
Here Steve, here's a beer!
I'm just joking. Somewhat. Get back to me ASAP b/c I have really got to get a little sleep.
De'on & Company

No, I don’t think you’ll be able to miss Steve. He’ll be “the perky one.”

airhug…don’t give up on us and don’t quit praying. Now I’m serious, pray for Steve. But we’re getting there, getting there.

I kind of know what you guys go through when we ladies are in labor.

Sweet dreams and we love you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Casablanca II

Humphrey Bogart would be proud.

My journey to the Iraqi embassy yesterday was a combination of Casablanca meets The Three Stooges. The cab driver didn't speak English, and even though he shook his head enthusiastically when I showed him the address, it was clear after a few minutes he didn't have a clue.

The embassy is the Jabria District. Lots of palatial homes, ambassadors' residences, and I saw the Japanese Embassy. We drove around and around, he stopped and asked people, and we drove around and around some more, passing the same landmarks. I was bored and was ready to throw myself out of the cab. If he hadn't been driving about 90 mph, I would have.

Then he stopped suddenly at an intersection, and the car behind slammed into us. I think my neck stretched a foot as it tried to keep my head attached to my body. The driver got out and spent about an hour talking to the other driver. It seemed amicable, and I told De'on that there would have been a fistfight had the accident occured in Mexico or Italy. They say we're a little hot-blooded. I don't know, maybe just a little.

He finally found the embassy, and there were no markings. Nothing to distinguish it from the other houses in the area. I'm still wondering why the U.S. embassy said there is no Iraqi embassy in Kuwait. I have news for them. I was in it. Then, the Americans didn't even have a phone number to the Embassy. All they have is the consul's cell number. They gave it to me after I wrote in blood I wouldn't pass it out to anyone. Somewhere, I swear Sam is playing the piano, and the police are rounding up the usual suspects. If you're lost, go rent "Casablanca." It will be quicker than me explaining it.

So, I didn't know whether to knock or just go in. There weren't any signs remember. For all I knew, it was his residence. I knocked. A very handsome Iraqi man answered the door, and I told him I was there to see the consul. He directed me to a long desk where an incredibly beautiful Iraqi woman sat. I mean, I think they got the two best looking people in Iraq to work in the embassy. Those two should have children.

The consul, maybe he's the ambassador, I don't know, met with me. Hollywood should make a movie about him. He has survived three assassination attempts, the last one was in 2005. His right arm is a little paralyzed from the shootings, and he still has shrapnel in his thigh. I'm trying to rush through all this because I have to pay in blood to use internet here, so I'm trying to make this fast.

He loves Bush, I mean he's a HUGE fan. Oh heck, I'm just going to paste the e-mail I wrote to De'on about the meeting. It will be faster

The e-mail, well, parts of it:

I spent about an hour talking to the Iraqi ambassador. It turns out there is an Iraqi embassy here. Don't you think it's strange that the U.S. embassy said there isn't one? Even the Kuwaitis told me there isn't one. I don't understand. But this was definitely an embassy.

The ambassador or consul, I'm not sure which he is was great. His name is Hamid Al-Sherifi, and he's a HUGE fan of Bush. He told me a lot of things. He said that under Saddam, the Iraqis were making about 75 cents a month. Now they are making hundreds of dollars a month. Big difference. He said yes there is a problem getting electricity on in all of Baghdad, but the difference is that under Saddam, Baghdad was the only place where there was electricilty. Now North Iraq and South Iraq have electricity. He went on and on about the changes, and he said that in a couple of years, the Iraqis will thank the Americans for all we've done.

There have been three assasination attempts on this guy's life, the last one was last year. His right hand is partially paralyzed, and he said he still has shrapnel in his leg. The Islamic extremists tried to kill him because he is an American supporter. He said Bush did the right thing by going into Iraq, and he said the United States is safer now. He said the Americans aren't being told the whole story. I told him that's the whole point about going there. I want to write those stories. He still thinks it's crazy, but he said he would do all he can to get the visa.

The application has to go to Bahgdad, but he would mark it urgent. Still, it could take up to two weeks he said. It might come back in a few days. He can't guarantee how quickly it can be done. The ambassador was great, and you would like him. He said the United States has done so much good in the country, and he knows the good guys will win. It will just take a little more time to get the country settled down.

He said that it's true that there are people killed in Iraq every day. He said how many? 50? 100? He said under Saddam up to 3,000 were killed EVERY day. He said they discovered mass graves. Where were the stories in the American papers about that? Man, that pisses me off that we weren't told that. He said that if you stuck a shovel in the ground you would either find oil or bones. He told me other horror stories about Saddam, and he couldn't say enough about how much better the country is now.

So, that's the story, folks. I spent about eight hours visiting with some construction guys last night about the possibility of tagging along with them into Baghdad. We'll see.

OK, I'm off again to spread cheer around Kuwait City! I bet these people are praying I leave soon. Well, I hope their prayers are answered!
I've been meaning to say something about that pic of me, De'on and Greg. I don't know who that person is on the left, but I hope it's not me. Geez. I look like I swallowed a few donuts. What's up with that Greg?! It was your camera. Did you have it on "let's make Steve look fat" setting? Yeah, that's it. Dang airport lighting.


I’d planned to venerate my son’s memory in a more modest fashion, but alas, I find myself tidying up my affairs (cleaning out my files), and look what I’ve happened upon.

This journey began for Steve over two years ago. He must have begun to involve me in it nearly a year ago. He’d thought of doing a book about Aaron and wanted to “know” him as much as possible.

Plop. Steve dropped out of sight (he’s been to more states and countries in this past week than most of us) and I really didn’t expect to hear from him again. Then pop, he's back. And he wasn’t going away this time, except to Iraq.

But this time. Different. Determined. Not strictly about Aaron. Not solely about the good things you guys are doing. But about something over there. We don’t know what and we know we sound a little odd. I don’t know. We’ll see where it all leads. Just like this. This blog was set up to interact with family and friends who have a stake in this (Steve’s life). Also for information, to help keep our objective clear and our biases out (we all have them you know), to share the “other” news, and a way to hone my writing skills (I’ve been blocked since April—bet you find that a little hard to believe, huh?)

But then something changed. Someone in the military responded, commented. I hadn’t expected that. Not just an added benefit, but pure pleasure. You don't have to thank us for our support, no, it should be the other way around.

Thank you.

I love you all. Again, you might think me strange for saying that, but it is true. And Steve does as well.

Steve tried to go back into the service. When the Army changed the age limit, he began to plan for it. Eight years prior service, heck, he was just slipping in. He took his ASVAB, scored 94 (he forgot to fill in 3 or 4 of them!). Had everything in order, journeyed the 4 hours to our home so that he could meet us in person before he left. He spent 3 days with us, slept in Aaron’s room, with Aaron’s dog, went through letters, pictures, again, his journalistic millions of questions, we said goodbye and I was already rubbing my hands together, mentally stuffing tiny tunas and packing precious proteins, cellophaned yes, but energy all the same. Toy treasures, etch-a-sketches the size of a postage stamp, socks galore, of course, and I coached him on the benefits of leaving off the skivvies while in the desert, I told him Bounce really worked, and oh, yes, you better take some of my Moqui Mud just in case you are stung, and quick, I better call Doug and tell him to make jerky and send, just like he did with Aaron…

Zingggg. Steve’s a vegetarian.

Zingggg again. St. Louis Meltdown. 3-4 months wait on the old DD214.

But his passport was here in a week. The direction changed. A Partnership was formed between me, my husband and Steve. Things may change again. We’ll see. We’re a bit more buoyant on the blog than in our emails. We understand this could be perilous, but yet, we (the three of us) want to push forward. If that is not God’s plan for us after all, then we must dump the mission.

Quote of the day: “And now you know the rest of the story.”

We covet your prayers.


And now, the letter I found.

October 26, 2005

Hi Steve,

Aaron was much more conservative than most people in the nation on some things. Such as abortion. He didn’t believe in it at all. He said to his brother Eric once: “It’s a belief man! It’s like believing in God…you either do or you don’t.” He wasn’t a fence straddler on anything that he felt strongly about. Aaron never registered to vote, but he did like President Bush. I really don’t know if Aaron would have ever registered to vote, not because he didn’t think people should, but he was just so darn busy all the time and hated filling out paperwork of any kind.

He wasn’t bigoted in any way at all. But he didn’t forget easy if you messed with him or anyone in his family or with the friends he cared so much about. He was a friend through and through and found himself in more than one scrape because of this—but he liked fighting. You could see the adrenalin coming through his pores just thinking about it.

Aaron’s greatest trait was his loyalty. He is three years younger than his cousin, Zach. Zach was a hero to him while Aaron was growing up. Aaron was playing JV football and doing pretty well, but when Zach quit his Senior year of football (after going through a few things of not playing as much as he wanted—and Zach was a stickler for “rules” while Aaron always found a way around them) then Aaron quit too. He was loyal to the bone, no matter the cost.

Aaron also had so much love in his heart. Sometimes, he wore his heart on his sleeve because of this. He was also jealous when “in love.”

Aaron loved to have money, so even as a youngster, he worked hard to have money. He loved name brands and was perhaps too easily impressed with nice things, but he’d give away his last nickel. He did time and time again. He had a hard time saving because of this, but I believe he was blessed in many ways because of this trait. But he was always broke.

Aaron loved people and always made the “little guys” feel good about themselves, but whoever he didn’t like probably was ribbed a lot by Aaron. He stayed in trouble at school due to lack of caring (until graduation!) and so he barely graduated. But he made it by the skin of his teeth, although when living with his dad, he was an A student. With Mom, he could get by with anything because of his charm. He had more charm than anyone I’ve ever known and I think that’s the thing I miss the most. He was so full of light; my sister always said he had a Tom Cruise smile.

Aaron loved Jesus and he loved to party. He put a great deal of effort into partying and he put a great deal into worship. He was charismatic.

Conflict between people he cared about upset him the most. He was very hurt over his dad’s and my relationship for many years (though we are perfectly fine since Aaron joined the Marines, and especially since we lost him). But any arguing within the family greatly upset him and he would not allow anything ugly said about anyone he loved. He loved Jerrod, his best friend, as much as he loved his dad and me. When he took leave, he divided it up between me, Doug and Jerrod. He also left me a note on how to distribute the life insurance money should anything happen to him. The insurance was divided like the leave. He always took care of Jerrod. He wanted Jerrod in college, even though he didn’t care to go.

Aaron loved working-out. And he was fast! He ran the 400 meter dash at full speed. And he smoked. Zach used to get upset because he’d never smoked, watched his diet/sleep, all the rules, and Aaron didn’t do that, and he would stay toe to toe with Zach in the 400 meter race.

His familial relationships were accepted “as is.” He took all of us as we were and never said too many negative things about us to the other, even when he was very upset. He was always respectful to me, teased me, charmed me—all those kinds of things. His relationship with his dad was fun a lot of the time, but his dad was the disciplinarian. His dad raised him from age 3-14 (except for a year and a half that he and his dad lived with me in Panama while I was in the Army). When Aaron hit his rebellious age, he came to live with me and visited his dad. I think they talked on the phone for a few minutes every day after he was at Camp Pendleton. With me it was a couple of times a week, because I wanted to “talk so long.”

His family was so important to him. But perhaps the thing Aaron wanted most was a child of his own. He loved kids and they always loved him. His nieces and nephews, his younger cousin, Kayla De’on, who’s now 12, they were particularly important to him. He called her “Little Pretty” and guarded over her. She would’ve had a hard time in her dating years if Aaron were here.

He was close with his brothers, too. He and Eric are a lot alike, even though Eric is about 36, now. They all had a tattoo—Austin Bros.

He was proud to be an Austin. They all have pretty domineering and powerful personalities. His grandpa (Austin) had been with LAPD, worked vice, then the sheriff’s department. Chuck Austin preceded Aaron in death Sept. 2003. Aaron was big-time upset and gave the eulogy at Chuck’s funeral. Loud and bold—he read the 23rd Psalm, and was asked by a few retired sheriffs to join the force after he got out of the Marines. Chuck’s sheriff’s ring was put on his finger right before he was buried.

Aaron shed tears many times. I don’t think he ever did in front of the Marines, but in front of us, they flowed freely.

All of the Austin’s had loud voices and Aaron was no exception. It’s one of the things his Gunny Sgt. will always remember about him. Aaron was loud and he loved to talk. He ran his trap a lot when he probably should have kept quiet. He was still a Lance Corporal for a reason—he didn’t suck up, got caught at trying to suntan out in the desert, always up to something. He was never afraid to see if “he could get by with it.” I’m sure he wasn’t disrespectful, but he’d rather be busy, having fun, that kind of thing. But he was Gung ho and strong, and that’s what made it work for him. He was proud of his accomplishments and wanted more. In his personal effects, he had a set of Corporal insignia—I knew he’d been ready to pin it on for a while. He loved leadership and sought it.

He was fun-loving, always full of laughter and on the go. He loved family holidays and get-togethers, BBQ’s, parties, that kind of thing.

He loved that machine gun. I mean really. While he hated to read or study, he could when it came to that gun. He knew it through and through, and although he was the Team Leader, he liked to be on it himself.

Greatest trait: Love & loyalty
Hardest trait: Jealousy—and he’s loved women since he was a little bitty guy!
Upset the most by: someone messing with someone he loved—that’s what happened that day.

He will always be so very, very missed by all of us, because he was so fun. A ham, a show-off. I’m sure, like the rest of us, he had his own fears, but after he got older, he always faced them. When he was young, he was scared of dogs and he was my blanket-sucking baby. He had his blanket until he was 11, and when someone made fun of him at that age, he threw it away—before that, he’d just hide it.

He got an American pit bull 6 years ago. He loved Hennessy. Hennessy slept with him, rode with him…he just loved who he loved.

As a young teen, he liked sagging, ear piercing, gangster music, that kind of thing, but that disappeared after he joined the Marines. He grew into a man and I’ve heard him remark when he’d try on a large shirt or pants, “Naahh, that looks too gangish…”

He liked all kinds of music, but country began to win out. He loved Texas, and even told someone in front of me, “Man, I even get chill bumps when I fly in and see the cotton trailers.”

Well, I hope this helps, and if I left out something you need to know, just ask and I’ll tell you if I can.

Be blessed!

P.S. I will forward you a picture of the sign they have out in front of the machine gunners school at Pendleton. They named it after him. Also, on the 10th of November, the Marines’ Birthday, I will attend a ceremony in which the Lea County Marine Detachment here will be changing their name to the Aaron C. Austin Post- Lea County Marine Corps League Detachment 1185.

Do I sound like a proud momma? I am. I’ve always been. Spoiled him rotten. My name for him was my “Precious Perfect Son.”

Lord, how I miss all that!

Take care!


So, I still will “show” Aaron in the stories, but in case I die, or you die, I do want you to know Aaron.

It’s very late. But I’m waiting to hear something.

More links. Yikes! I was supposed to do that. I’m an administrator on our blog now. I despise the technical end of things, so if you see drive-bys on our blog, think nothing of it. War’s hell.

Steve wrote this article:

amarillo_com Local News 'Sunray loved him' 05-09-04_files

Pendleton, this one.

Love. Much, much love and gratitude to all those Forward and Rear!


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Progress. Finally. The U.S. embassy gave me the name of the Iraqi consul this morning. There's no Iraqi embassy here, so some people say, but it seems Iraq maintains some kind of diplomatic office in Kuwait. The man at the U.S. embassy told me that I was not to share the phone number with anyone because it's the consul's cell number.

"It's the only number we have for him," the U.S. embassy guy said. "You absolutely can not give this number to anyone else."

Oh, OK. I imagined that the paper on which he jotted the number would burst into flames in three hours like on "Mission Impossible." Heck, they were giving ME the number. Can it really be all that secretive? I'm poking fun, I know, but geez. What's with all this "Casablanca" mystery?

So I called the Iraqi consul, and he was nice.

"Why do you want to go to Iraq?" he asked.
"I need to be there to report on the war," I said. "Almost nothing is being written about the Iraqi people and how the war is affecting them. A lot of Americans want to hear from the Iraqi people."
"It is extremely dangerous in Iraq now," he said. "I do not advise you to go there. If you are caught, it will be the end of the story."

So it went. He explaining to me the craziness and danger of going to Iraq, me telling him that I must go. He then told me that I should call the U.S. embassy and ask them to write a letter of reference for me. That seemed odd. I seriously doubted that the embassy would do that since they don't assist Americans in obtaining visas to other countries. I called the embassy, left a message, and the man who gave me the Iraqi consul's cell number returned my call within 30 minutes. No, they never have and never will write such a letter. I told him OK, I didn't think so, but I asked because the Iraqi consul wanted me to ask.

I called the consul and told him the news. "OK, come to the embassy tomorrow, and we'll get you to Baghdad."

Wow. But wait. What embassy? Everyone said there is no Iraqi embassy in Kuwait, and the consul told me to go to the embassy. He gave me the address and time to be there. Is it an embassy in hiding or something? But the Iraqi consulate in D.C. did tell me there is an embassy in Kuwait. Do the Americans not know about it? Typical.

So tomorrow I trot over there. The consul and I talked for about 15 minutes about why I want to go there and the dangers. During the first conversation, he mentioned that it could take up to a month without the letter from the U.S. embassy. During the second conversation when I told him the Americans weren't going to write diddly for me, he said he'd get me to Baghdad, and he made it sound like I'd catch the red-eye or something. Like bring your bags cause the helo is waiting. Maybe it was just his accent, I don't know.

I talked to a couple of reporters from England today, and they told me to meet them for dinner. I said "cool." I left the hotel and was a little turned around, but I spotted two security guards inside a bank who I thought could give me directions. I tapped on the door, and one of them unlocked it. They spoke about three words of English, but they motioned for me to wait, and one of them got on the phone. I guess he was calling various offices to find an English speaker. No luck. It was 9:30 p.m. after all. The one who wasn't making the phone calls had a badge that said supervisor and he said, "Nationality?" I understood that. I said, "American." He then grinned huge and said ,"Oh yes, yes. Good. Good. You sit. Drink tea. We have tea."

At that time, an Indian guy came walking down the hall, and he spoke English. The security guards seemed elated. The Indian not only gave me directions but told me he'd walk over there with me to make sure I found the restaurant. The reporters were there, but they had only about 20 minutes. The meal was cheap, about two dollars. The reporters were leaving for Afghanistan in the morning. They were in Kuwait for a two-day R&R.

There are a few sour grapes here though. I needed to exhange dollars for dinars, and I went to this little exhange place in the middle of a market. The man at the counter glared at me and my American-ness. He examined the $20 U.S. bill for a good while and then rejected it by throwing it on the counter at me and then waving his hand at me, dismissing me. I was livid at the treatment.

"What's wrong with it?" I asked. He pointed to a corner of the bill where a pinhead-size part of the bill was missing. I mean the tear was so small. I'm a stubborn American and one who doesn't take lightly to being insulted by foreigners, especially those who I think owe us a debt. I know, I know. The Ugly American. But geez. If it hadn't been for our military, and, yes, the military of other countries, Kuwait would still be under Saddam's rule. So, to be treated like that is unacceptable. I won't write here what I told the man, and I shouldn't have said anything, but I did. I should have walked away, but I was furious. Perhaps he's not from Kuwait. Perhaps he's an Arab who despises Americans and who thinks all we do is run to Israel's side. There are plenty of those. Anyway, I blasted him with colorful English. As I walked away, I thought oh man, maybe that was a mistake. I still had to walk through this Arab marketplace. But what the heck. The shopkeepers didn't even look at me.

I hope I'm in Iraq in the next couple of days.
I received this warning from the U.S. embassy today: Extremists may be surveilling Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas and rental car facilities.

Oh, so now they tell me!!
2 of the 4 Marines in my family: Uncle Bennie and Aaron, age 3

To LCpl. Graves

You are a doll! Moms can say that for the Internet world to read and get away with it.

LCpl. Graves, I think you must know a great deal about Aaron already. After all, you’re a Marine. And Aaron wouldn’t have it any other way but to be a Marine. Don’t worry though, you’ll know him (as well as his family) before we are ever through here. Steve will bring us the new news and I’ll fill in with the old news, memories that will always be reminiscent of "news" to me. I mean, think about it. A parent fills twenty-one years of talking and thinking about their child. It’s not natural to stop, no matter what. It becomes different, of course, but the need to share their personalities, their words and actions, to share them, well, it’s just not natural to suddenly quit.

So, from nearly the beginning to the earthly end of this phase of Aaron’s life, perhaps two documents will give you a general overall picture. I’ll continue to fill in bits and pieces as the days (and nights) advance. Aaron was fun. Aaron was loyal. These two adjective bookends hold many stories between and beyond.

September 2003

I was tired of policing up after the male child that day. When I got up from the sofa to fetch him a box of juice, I asked my mother if she needed anything from the kitchen. She glanced up from the television, as it blared, and shook her head, or nodded—or something. Sometimes you have to know a person well enough to decipher their nods and shakes—their yeses. Their nos. I stood there for a moment and looked at the two generations I was sandwiched between. The elder crunched her ice. The younger sucked the corner of a quilt, bleached from use.

A pair of underwear lay dead in the middle of my pathway. I called out for the owner to retrieve their underpants. I didn’t turn around to watch his head shake from left to right, and it was by rumor only (from the ice-crunching Granny) that I heard him say, “Her will get them.”

I stopped on my way back from the kitchen, and rescued the Teenage Mutant Ninjas. Size three.

Throughout the course of his nineteen years, I was there as he volunteered and unvolunteered. He’d join, get the uniform, throw a few karate kicks, sprint several hundred meters, or catch a few footballs. He enlisted. Knowing full well he had a bad back. Courageous, perhaps. But then, he changed his mind. I asked him, couldn’t he at least join long enough to get the uniform?
But then, right away, I gave his back x-rays to the recruiter (a rescue of sorts). A year later, he went anyway.

The news blared on the television inside my apartment. Peace had resided there. But I couldn’t—no—I would not rescue myself from the blare.

Another Marine. It wasn’t the brass of the trumpet, or some such music (was the trumpet in my head?) that quickened my heart. It was that thing beating against the flagpole. What was it called? A chain? A flag raiser? There must be some noun for it.

Lance Corporal Gutierrez was the nineteen year old the tether (?) clanked for. His family earned their citizenship through the clanking of chain.

Later that night, walking, crossing back and forth through the neighborhood, expending energy to ease my mind, I wondered about the sort of mother Gutierrez might have had. I questioned flags, crosses and burdens. God. I wondered how much was enough and how many too many.
When I passed an elementary school, I heard the clank. The wind blew.

Many Marines shipped home.

When the wind is high in this West Texas city, and when I stop at the red light of a certain intersection (where the teenagers cross to school), I hear that same sound, as the flag waves, high in the dust.


Aaron’s Silver Star Citation is carried by his dad wherever he goes. Doug has the original as I have the original of his Purple Heart. We each have copies of the other and my copy of the Silver Star citation is in a frame. But my sister-in-law, Karen, turned me onto this: It is a Congressional Record of October 26, 2005. Karen came across it on the Internet. It’s a very lengthy document and we all know that the names of the fallen get used in various ways, some good, others, no, but I was impressed by this, and overall, you’ll get the gist of what Aaron did that day. What it does not say, is that my son died three times before he finally quit fighting.

Aaron always was hard-headed.


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under
the Speaker’s announced policy of January
4, 2005, the gentleman from California
(Mr. HUNTER) is recognized for 60
minutes as the designee of the majority
Mr. HUNTER. Madam Speaker, I
take the floor tonight with my colleagues
to talk about the values of
freedom and the men and women who
have, in very difficult places around
the world, but especially in the
warfighting theaters in Afghanistan
and Iraq, have fought to change the
world for freedom and, in doing so, to
secure the United States of America,
and to make us a more secure Nation,
and to accrue to the benefit of generations
over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
I thought to talk a little bit about,
especially following the speakers who
have deplored our policy and condemned
our policy in Iraq and Afghanistan,
I thought it might be important
to remind ourselves why we are in
those theaters.
Madam Speaker, I brought tonight
some of the citations for gallantry, gallantry
that was carried out by American
soldiers and sailors and airmen
and marines in Iraq. I wanted to read
one of those. Then I wanted to talk
about what these soldiers and sailors
and airmen and marines have purchased
for the United States of America.
I want to talk about the value of
what they have done for our country.
This individual is Lance Corporal
Aaron C. Austin. This is a commendation,
a copy of a commendation, and a
posthumous Silver Star medal, the Nation’s
third highest award for valor
that was sent over to our office by the
Secretary of the Navy. It talks about
the incredible job that this young lance
corporal, one of the guys who makes
the Marine Corps work, that is an enlisted
man just a couple of ranks up
from private, but somebody who has
taken a leadership position, who leads
a fire team or a squad in places like
Fallujah or Ramadi.
For conspicuous gallantry and bravery
in action against the enemy as a
Machine Gun Team Leader, Company
E, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental
Combat Team-1, 1st Marine Division,
I Marine Expeditionary Force.
That is a force that takes a very dangerous
difficult area west of Baghdad.
This great lance corporal, in an incredible
firefight in which they were
attacked from many different directions,
by dozens of rocket-propelled
grenades, RPGs, attacked by thousands
of machine gun rounds, and then assaulted
to within 20 meters of their position,
Lance Corporal Austin supported
his fellow marines, 16 of whom
were wounded in this firefight, ensured
that they receive medical treatment,
and then rallied the few remaining
members of his platoon and rushed to
the critical rooftop defensive position
to withstand the attack. I am quoting,
‘‘Braving withering enemy machine
gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire,
he reached the rooftop and prepared to
throw a hand grenade. As he moved
into a position from which to launch or
throw this grenade, enemy machine
gunfire struck Lance Corporal Austin
multiple times in the chest. Undaunted
by his injuries, and with heroic effort,
Lance Corporal Austin threw his grenade
which exploded amidst the enemy,
halting their furious attack.’’

He did that with the last efforts of
his body before he succumbed to that
mortal wound.
By his bold leadership, wise judgment
and complete dedication to duty, Lance
Corporal Austin reflected great credit
upon himself and upheld the highest
tradition of the Marine Corps and the
United States naval service. That is
what Gordon England, Secretary of the
Navy, said in this posthumous award of
the Silver Star medal to this lance corporal,
one of thousands of about 140,000
personnel who have been in the theater
consistently over the last several
years, accomplishing their mission in
So we know that this lance corporal
had incredible bravery, and I think following
especially the speakers who
have criticized this mission and said it
is without value, I think it is important
to talk about the value for this
Nation that this lance corporal and the
other hundreds of thousands of men
and women who wear the uniform of
the United States have delivered to us
through their service to our country.
To hear the speakers who have criticized
this mission talk, we somehow
have created a terrorist enemy and an
insurgent enemy that, because of our
own fault, attacks America, and the
way for us to hold off these attacks, to
dampen these attacks, is to be suppliant
and to do nothing and to be compliant,
and somehow we have agitated and
upset the enemy who otherwise would
not be intending to hurt Americans.
I am reminded that when those
planes hit the United States in 9/11, it
was following two major military operations
that this country undertook. Interestingly,
we took them both on behalf
of Muslim nations, protecting
them from neighboring nations, from
the attacks of neighboring nations.
One good question to ask the speakers
who just finished was what did the
United States do to deserve those attacks?
They further said, well, we did not
find any nuclear weapons, other weapons
of mass destruction, in Iraq, and,
Madam Speaker, let me tell you what
we did find and what the world found
and what history will reflect to the end
of time.
I keep in my desk drawer a picture of
Iraqi Kurdish mothers holding their babies
tightly against them as they lie
dead where they fell on the hillsides in
northern Iraq where Saddam Hussein
killed them with weapons of mass destruction;
that is, chemical weapons;
that is, poison gas; the only leader, to
my knowledge, since Adolf Hitler to
kill his own people with poison gas.
Every time I hear a speech about how
things would have been better if the
Americans did not show up, I pull that
picture out to remind myself that
things only get better when the Americans
show up, and sometimes it is lonely,
and sometimes it is tough, and
sometimes we only find a few of our
really toughest, closest allies like the
Aussies and the Brits standing side by
side with us. Although we now have
lots of people from those countries that
we liberated, which Donald Rumsfeld
refers to as the new Europe, people like
the Polish troops, who are securing,
taking part in the multinational organization,
securing the southern part of
Sometimes we have a difficult mission,
but it is very clear to us since
September 11 that if we do not change
the world, the world is going to change
us. For Americans who wonder why we
have not been attacked over the last
several years, why there has not been
another September 11, one answer is
that we have kept the bad guy off balance.
We pursued them in caves, in
mountains, at 12,000 feet high where
they thought we would never get to
them. We have gotten them in safe
houses where they thought they were
totally safe, and we have pursued them
to places where they never dreamed we
would be able to find them. Because of
that, we have kept them off balance,
and we have kept them in a position
where it has been very difficult for
them to organize another attack
against the United States.
The idea that we can somehow pull
back into the United States and not
pursue this war against terrorism and
everything will be fine is a very erroneous
idea. The men and women of our
Armed Forces who are undertaking
this very difficult mission in Iraq are
accomplishing the mission. The mission
is of great value because we have
discovered in this century that when
we have brought freedom to countries,
those countries have not been a threat
to the United States.
We are not worried about the nuclear
weapons in Great Britain’s arsenal because
Great Britain is a free nation. We
are not worried about the nuclear
weapons in the arsenals, for example,
of France or Israel because they are
free nations. But we are worried about
nuclear weapons and the possibility of
nuclear weapons being obtained by nations
which sponsor terrorism and
which are themselves tyrannical to
their people.
Every time we establish a nation
which is free, and it does not have to be
a perfect democracy or a perfect republic,
but a Nation that has a modicum of
freedom for its own people, and which
has a benign relationship, a good relationship
with the United States, and
which is not our enemy, and which will
not be a launching point for future terrorist
operations, then we have
achieved something of value that will
accrue to the benefit of future generations
of Americans. That is what our
troops are doing. Our troops are doing
something which is worthwhile and
which is good.
For my friends who read off very solemnly
the names of dead Americans,
please do not give the impression that
their lives were given without value,
without reason, without cause, because
they were given as a result of a very
important mission. They have given
great value to our country, and we owe
all of them a great debt of gratitude.
Madam Speaker, I have some other
citations that I will read at a later
time. I am just talking a little bit
about these great men and women who
serve our country in uniform, who I
think agreed with the proposition that
what we are doing in Iraq is the right
What I would like to do right now,
though, is yield to the gentlewoman
from Tennessee (Mrs. BLACKBURN), because
she has a few things to say about
this issue, and then we have five or six
other colleagues that I would like to
discuss this very important American
mission with. I yield to the gentlewoman
from Tennessee.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Madam Speaker,
I thank the gentleman from California
so much for yielding.
The gentleman from California
(Chairman HUNTER) has done a wonderful
job in leading in this war on terror
and leading in securing this homeland
and homeland security, which is right
at the top of concerns of the American
people. He is a true leader, and this
House is fortunate to have him as
chairman of the Committee on Armed
Services. This country is fortunate to
have his leadership on this issue.
Madam Speaker, over the last few
weeks, I have noticed a change in the
rhetoric, a troubling trend in the rhetoric.
We have heard some of it here tonight,
and it really saddens me when
those that are opposed to an aggressive
war on terror speak as they speak.
Increasingly we are seeing those that
oppose the war downplay the importance
of the war, or they are trying to
minimize the seriousness of the sacrifice
that our military is making. I
find that very sad.
VerDate Aug 31 2005 06:10 Oct 27, 2005 Jkt 049060 PO 00000 Frm 00148 Fmt 7634 Sfmt 0634 E:\CR\FM\K26OC7.172 H26OCPT1

So, there’s the world’s end to him. For us, there is no end.
God bless you, and Semper Fi, Marine. See what all you can generate with a simple wish and a few words?
P.S. You can visit
to find out more about Aaron and the people who continue to love him.

I’ll bring out some others as time goes on. Steve has written a couple of articles on Aaron.

I pray your dreams are sweet.