It was a warm August evening in Surprise, Arizona and a small group of friends had gathered as they regularly did on Wednesday evenings. This Wednesday was different as we were celebrating my birthday, which was a week earlier but we weren’t able to get together that week. One of my friends had given me one of the Willow Tree Angels named “Courage.” When she gave it to me she told me that it reminded her of me. She told me “To her I was a Woman of Courage.”
None of us knew at that moment how much courage would be required for me to survive what was about to happen that would change my life forever. As we were finishing cake and ice cream I received what would be the most devastating phone call of my life. My oldest son Kristofer, had called asking where I was and how long it would take me to get home. When I questioned why he said, “You just need to come home.” I had a sick feeling in my being and I knew what faced me ahead. I knew that when I arrived home that I would be informed that my youngest son Marc had died, being the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq.
Something inside of me knew when Marc left my home in March of 2006 that he wouldn’t be returning and that would be the last time I would see him. I’m not a fearful, worrisome type of person and I didn’t dwell on that while he was deployed, but somehow I knew. Eighteen months has passed since that dreadful day and as I pondered what part of my trip to Iraq to write about, courage came to mind again. I have wanted to make a journey to Iraq since Marc died, but knew I wanted to wait for a time when the journey would be safe. Realistically I figured that journey would be many years down the road.
When Move America Forward began to make preparations for our third cross country tour this year, “Honoring Heroes at the Holidays,” I was excited to learn that we would be collecting Christmas Cards to send to the troops and that our Rallies in 40 cities would have one goal, to honor our troops who have served and our serving. This would be my third tour with MAF and I was honored to have the privilege to be able to publicly thank our troops, my heroes and encourage others to do the same.
I knew there was something else in the works beside the Tour and when I heard that there was a possibility of a Press embed and that I might actually be able to deliver some of the Cards to our heroes in Iraq, I was amazed! It would have been easy when I was asked if I wanted to go to say no and bow out and stay home, everyone would understand. After all it still is a war zone and my son had been killed there. It took strength and courage to make the decision to travel to the war zone where my son gave up his life. Courage that was given to me from God above.
We had no idea where we would be embedded in Iraq, but I knew that if by some odd chance the doors opened for us to go, I needed to be there. I knew personally what our troops had given and sacrificed for me, for you, for this nation and I wanted to personally thank our men and women who were willing to give their lives for this country they so loved and believed in. I left it in God’s hands and asked him to open the doors if I was supposed to be there and slam them if I wasn’t.
Courage was my companion the night I boarded the C-130 from Kuwait to Baghdad that purposely made the craziest cork-screw landing you can imagine to avoid being shot down by terrorists. It took courage to fly over the city of Baghdad in a Blackhawk as we looked down on the city where Sadaam once reigned! It took courage the night we rode in the streets of Baghdad in the MRAP knowing that I had been instructed not to travel by ground because of the IED dangers! It took courage to put on my body armor and Kevlar and go out on patrol in the Muhalla and walk the streets with the 1-4 Cav unit that we were embedded with! It took courage to stumble to the command post in the middle of the night in my “jammies” to find out what we should do after the explosion that woke me from a dead sleep and even moved the air around my face. It took courage to tell Marc’s heroic story to 350 troops ready to head home for R&R. It took courage to board the Blackhawk in the middle of the night on a secret flight to be taken to Camp Marc Lee, the base in western Iraq named in my son’s honor. It took courage that night to walk where Marc walked his last steps, to see where he spent his last night, to smell what he smelled, to see what he saw and to embrace what he embraced.
Yet it was in the depth of the night there at Camp Marc Lee that I was reminded what real courage is. Real courage was what our troops, my heroes face everyday. Real courage is being willing to give up your right to every thing you want for your future, your memories from your past and even if need be your life to make a better place for others. Real courage is facing the enemy and being willing to pay the ultimate price of your life because you value others lives more important than your own. Real courage is using your voice, your actions, your life, to impact the world and make a difference. Real courage is selfless, noble, true, humble, right, and honorable. That is the description of our men and women serving in Iraq. I witnessed it first hand. I had the blessing to share Christmas and thank thousands of our troops while I was in Iraq and numerous times they would look at me and say “It’s my honor” “I love what I do” or “No, thank you.”
Our Main stream media continues to try and discredit our troops and make them out to be murders and rapists. They distort the statistics and try to brainwash us. I saw first hand on my recent trip to Iraq the moral excellence, integrity and the compassion with which our troops serve. I saw courage displayed in it’s finest forms.
It’s now time for Americans at home to display that same courage. Courage to stand up for what you believe in and know is right. Courage, to get out of your lazy boy and make a difference. Courage, to call or write your Senator or Congressman. Courage, to write a letter to your editor. Courage to expose the lies and confront liberal groups such as Code Pink, ANSWER, MoveOn.org and others who support terrorists and radical communistic ideals. Courage, to vote! Courage to hold the media accountable to tell the successes of our troops and what they have accomplished. Courage, to defend the defenseless! Courage to replace our apathy with action.
My Willow Tree Angel of Courage sits on my desk with her arms lifted high and fists clenched in victory, as if to say, YES! As a nation that was founded on God’s principles we need to raise our hands high in courage and fight against those who want to remove our freedoms and rights. We need to raise our hands high and thank the one who created us and blessed us to be born in this amazing nation.