sub header

These words are my diary screaming out loud

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sometimes the strangest things will help you let go

I started watching Army Wives right after I got out of the Navy, I think at the beginning of Season 2.  I wasn't sure about it at first, but the more I watched and realized that it was just about the ONLY military-oriented show on TV that actually did its homework and got the details right, the more I found myself getting into it. I've been kinda hooked, and gotten somewhat attached to the characters on the show.

SPOILER ALERT: If you're a fan of the show, and haven't watched last night's episode yet, stop now.

They've pretty much dealt with every possible situation that a miltiary spouse, family member, or friend could deal with in real life over the years on this show. They've had relationship troubles, kid troubles, transfers, battle injuries, dealing with the aftermath of losing a colleague in action. But up until now, while they'd had some legitimate scares, none of the main families had ever had to deal with a KIA. That is, until last night's episode, when the son of Catherine Bell's character was killed in Afghanistan.

I try to keep bad words off my blog, even though I don't do well with keeping them out of my speech, but last night, while I was watching this show, I LOST MY SHIT. I mean, the show was sad, and I can understand tearing up. Which is all I did at first - I mean, they had the official notification crew show up to tell Denise that her son had died during his fiancee's bridal shower. SERIOUSLY? If that doesnt make you cry then you have a cold, hard lump of coal where a heart should be.  But it wasn't until later in the show, I think the scene where Emmalyn spoke at his funeral, that I really lost it and started sobbing uncontrollably. 

At first I couldn't figure out why I was crying so hard at all of this. But then it clicked. A little over a year and a half ago, in August 2009, a friend and Naval Academy classmate and company mate, Capt Matt Freeman, USMC, was killed in action in Afghanistan. While we weren't super close, we had always gotten along well in school, and we had kept with each other's lives through the years through myspace and later facebook. When I got the news that he had been killed and that his funeral would be in his hometown near Savannah, I knew I had to go. Its only about a 4 hour drive from Atlanta, and I felt like there was no other option. Up until that point, my class had been very lucky. While we'd lost several classmates since graduation, none had been combat deaths. This was a new experience for all of us.

Nine members of 12th company class of 2002 made it to funeral. Most of those eight others had been much closer to Matt than I was.  Two in particular were the ones that had always tried to be "tough guys" at the Academy, as much as one can exist there. They did a pretty good job holding it together, but I saw them both cry the day of Matt's funeral. I don't really know how to explain it, but I think maybe I felt like I didn't have the right to just let it out if they weren't. No matter that women are much more likely than men to let it go in public. But I felt like I couldn't.  And while I cried a couple of times, I don't think I ever really cried for the loss of my friend.

I realized near the end of last nght's episode of Army Wives that I wasn't crying for the fictional Specialist Jeremy Sherwood, I was crying for Matt Freeman.  I was letting out the tears that I'd been afraid to let out that day in August 2009, that I felt I had no right to let out. I wasn't crying for the fictional fiancee, I was crying for the real Theresa Hess Freeman, who had married her husband just a few days before he left for Afghanistan.  I was crying for Matt's parents, for his friends, for his neighbors, and, finally, crying for myself.

So thank you, Army Wives. Thank you for giving me the chance to finally cry for my friend, and to finally let go of the grief I had kept welled up inside of me that day. And thank you for reminding those who watched the show that may not always remember that we ARE in two wars right now, for reminding them that our Soliders, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are still over there, fighting for freedom, and paying the ultimate sacrifice.  I don't think I have to tell anyone here that war sucks.

On a final note, one of the things that struck Matt during his short time in Afghanistan was the fact that kids wanted pens and pencils and school supplies more than anything else, more even than food. They were starving for education.  He asked his mom, a teacher, to send some supplies, and two days later he was killed. His mom started the Freeman Project soon after, not because of his death, but because of his life.  More information can be found on the Project's website.

No comments: