The mothers all sound the same. Fragile and tough, weary and resolute at the same time. Almost always their voices break.
I’m sorry, they say. Give me a minute. As if they have something to apologize for, as if they need to make excuses for the pain that breaks over them unexpectedly after how long? Two months? Two years? Three decades? An ambush of grief. That’s what Noah Boye’s mom calls it.
An ambush of grief. It happened to Kyle Codner’s mom, just the other day, in the cereal aisle in front of the Fruity Pebbles.
Kyle’s favorite cereal. He’d stand in the kitchen and fill the bowl up to the top with Fruity Pebbles.
Kyle, his mom would tell him, there’s no room for milk.
Somehow, he always made room.
It happened to Josephine Ford last week, looking through newspaper clippings of her boy, Travis, the football player, the yell squad leader, the helicopter pilot.
It happened to Alice Hobson on Friday.
Her John was 20 when he died, killed by a sniper in Vietnam on Dec. 10, 1968.
Excuse me, the mother, now a great-grandmother, says.
I’m kind of choked up today.
These mothers don’t share much, spread out across the state in its biggest cities and smallest towns, separated by religion, politics, age.
They don’t feel the same about this war in Iraq.
But they share one thing.
A mother’s heart. A mother’s broken heart.
Alice Hobson, Lincoln, mother of Navy Corpsman John Hobson, 20, died Dec. 10, 1968, near Da Nang in Vietnam.
He had just turned 20 in November and he was shot by a sniper on December 10. Our minister came over every night for two weeks and sat with us at the house.
John was buried two days before Christmas. It was a snowy morning, I remember that.
Our son Richard was in the Navy, too. He brought John back and he always said that was the hardest thing he ever had to do.
Their dad was the commander of the Naval Reserve Center here. He swore them into the Navy.
The day I found out, my husband came home and I knew. The first thing I said was: Which one?
Time is the only thing that really helps. It just passes and you forget many things. Christmas, that’s always been the hardest time.
I’ve never wanted to watch war movies. I can hardly read the obituaries they put in the paper for the soldiers now. I feel so sorry for all the mothers and the children they left behind.
John had so many friends. He was outgoing. He was nice looking, dark hair and brown eyes. He was active at church and in his Boy Scout troop. He liked tennis very much. He had a little red MG he liked to drive around. It’s in the barn covered with tarps.
He called us once after he left but the connection was so bad we could hardly hear him. We’d bought him a horse about 30 days before he went and he wanted to know how his horse was.
I have a picture of him and his horse, Joe, up in my sewing room, just a small one.
Sometimes we sit here and we get to talking about him. You think of things that might have been.
Every year on Memorial Day when we go out to the cemetery, someone has left flowers on his grave.
We don’t know who it is. An old girlfriend maybe. Or a friend.
This year there was a red, white and blue bouquet in the container. It was so pretty we just left it there and put ours in a vase.
We were so proud of him and we had so much grief right after it happened. Right then you don’t blame anyone. But as time passes you look back and you realize the war was just one that should not have been.
This war, it certainly should never have been either.
I had a girlfriend who lost a brother in World War II and her father was a minister and when John was killed, her mother wrote to me. She told me, God makes no mistakes.
I think that helped me more than anything.
Pat Marsh, Omaha, mother of Staff Sgt. Tricia Jameson, 34, who died July 14, 2005, near Trebil, Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded near her ambulance.
It’s like I just saw her off, the specimen of health, robust and happy and then I saw her in her coffin.
They wouldn’t let me see the body. That’s what I disagreed with. That’s my kid. They had her wrapped up like a mummy.
As far as the war, she believed in it. As a mother you want to say, don’t go, but I don’t have that right. When you’re an adult you make your own choices.
Tricia was a soldier and out of honor for Tricia I would never disrespect that. She gave her life. She served a purpose, she did. Not a lot of people can say that.
I believe it was God’s plan. Some people come back and some people don’t come back.
You have to believe, you have to believe in God. I don’t know how anyone could get through this without that. I rationalize that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
I keep busy and I pray and I talk to Tricia. I go to her house. I can’t sell it because it’s part of her. I go over there and I just sit.
I talk to her. I say help me through this. You think I’m strong? I’m not. You have to help me. I know you can.
You know what really helps? She called me three times so I have her voice three times on the answering machine. I play her little voice. Mom, they’re not going to put me out on that convoy right away. I know they’re going to put me in the office to do paperwork. I know they are.
I know she was trying to keep my spirits up.
Becky Henderson, Lincoln, mother of Marine Cpl. Matt Henderson, 25, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on May 26, 2004, in Anbar province, Iraq.
I read this quote the other day:
Mothers are the only ones who will never forget their children, fallen on the battlefield. Just as a willow tree will never be able to lift its fallen branches.
That says it for me. The days go on and the pain may be a little less, but it’s always going to be there.
The grief is like walking through a very long dark tunnel with concrete strapped to your arms and legs. As time goes on, the pain is not as intense, but it’s almost like you want to hang on to it, because you want to remember your child.
I’m against the war. Our administration led us into that under false pretenses. I don’t want other moms going through what I’m going through.
I stood on O Street at a rally against the war. Some people honked, some gave us the peace sign, some people just ignored us.
I felt compelled to do it. When people say you’re dishonoring your son by speaking out, I don’t understand. I feel it’s more of a dishonor not to speak.
I don’t feel like I can remain silent about it.
Matt was in Iraq twice. When he came back the first time he said, You only cheat death once. It was so prophetic.
Matt was a dedicated Marine. When he made a commitment he stuck to it. Was he excited about going back? I doubt it.
I try to read what I can about the war from both points of view.
Maybe we all need to come to the table and work out a solution to this.
I think we need to show the caskets. Show the body bags.
The war is something I think about every day, because I think about Matt every day.
Diana Boye, Grand Island, mother of Pvt. Noah Boye, 21, who was killed when his Marine unit came under fire near Fallujah, Iraq.
I think Noah loved the combat. He was really into that warrior mode. My father was a lifer in the Marines, so I grew up military.
From the time Noah’s brother Joshua joined the Marine Corps in 1994, Noah couldn’t wait to get out of school to be a Marine.
He went into the military with his eyes wide open.
I will say this, when rumors of war started, I would talk to my friends because I was not a Bush supporter. I thought he’s just doing this to vindicate his father’s failure. Then, when I realized my boys were going over there, I had to take another look at Iraq.
This is an impoverished nation and my boys always fought for the underdog.
Now we’ve got Cindy Sheehan and our Chuck Hagel telling the world we’re losing the war. It’s created a lot of hurt and pain for me.
We sit with our pain every day and then you have people telling you your kid died for nothing? Don’t dishonor my kid like that. If they’ve got a solution, say so. Otherwise quit complaining.
As far as us grieving moms, I don’t want that political thing in the middle of our grief.
I ran across this letter, the first letter Noah sent from boot camp. I’d sent him a letter and he wrote: Mom, when I saw who my letter was from I thought to myself, I wouldn’t want my first letter to be from anyone but you.
It’s sad, you’ll never hear that word again. Mom.
I’m still doing baby steps on everything.
I miss Noah so much.
I accept the fact that my son died honorably defending his country, but as far as never seeing him again? I don’t like that.
Sharon Swisher, Lincoln, mother of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Swisher, 26, who died Oct. 9, 2003, when his patrol was ambushed and hit by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades in Baghdad.
I remember my grandmother. She lost a son when he was 12. Every year on his birthday she would sit and cry and I thought, it’s been so long, Grandma, why don’t you get over it?
Now I know how she felt.
When you lose a child it’s totally devastating no matter how they died, in a war or a car accident or whatever.
I go out to the cemetery and I talk to Chris and I know Chris hears me. I tell him I love him and I tell him how proud I am.
He loved the military. Whenever I see a uniform I get goose bumps, I get so much pride.
Chris was proud of what they were doing over there. They were rebuilding hospitals and schools and roads.
We argued about President Bush. Chris told me, Mom, keep your views to yourself. He’s my commander-in-chief and I will do what he asks me. I can’t go around bad mouthing the president, because I’d be bad mouthing my son.
I think we should bring our guys home, that’s my opinion. But Chris was doing what he loved. Those guys they want to do something good with their lives.
I remember when I saw the officials at the door. They asked if they could come in and talk to me.
I told them no. You’ve made a mistake. Go back and check again. I just talked to him. It can’t be him.
It’s been what, almost two years? I still, sometimes, when the phone rings, I expect to hear Chris say, Hey, Ma, how’s it going?
Josephine Ford, Ogallala, mother of Marine Capt. Travis Ford, 30, who died April 4, 2003, when his helicopter crashed near Ali Aziziyal, Iraq.
When Travis was born, God knew how he was going to go. What brought me through was that God knew. Even when my other sons came and told me he was gone, I said God wanted him.
He was the first Nebraska boy and I knew it wasn’t going to stop with him and it hasn’t.
You hear about it on the news and it brings it back to you.
I’m proud of what he did. In fact, my youngest son joined a year ago. He wants to fly Cobra helicopters like Travis.
People remember him. It’s hard but it’s good. Travis isn’t forgotten, that’s for sure.
They said I’m a Gold Star Mom, automatically. The VFW here, they give you a flag and it’s got a gold star on it. Once a year they have a deal and they honor you.
I don’t think about the war. I don’t want to. But no matter what, we have to stand behind our president.
It hurts. That’s why I work all the time. But I guess when you lose a child, that’s it. It’s something you don’t get over. You’re supposed to go before them.
Dixie Codner, Shelton, mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Codner, 19, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Anbar province, Iraq, May 26, 2004.
After Kyle died we found his journal. On the first anniversary of 9/11, he’d watched the TV coverage and he wrote about how brave all the firemen and policemen were and the last thing he wrote was how he hoped he could be as brave as them.
It sort of gave us a window into why he joined the Marines. He thought he was going to make a difference.
I don’t understand why my son died. I don’t. I still don’t. I struggle with that every day.
His death has caused me to ask a lot of questions. What is our goal there?
We’re so proud of Kyle and all the troops over there, but I don’t understand why we’re there.
When I watch CNN and I see that number that runs across the bottom, the number of troops killed, I just think about all the moms and dads out there that just got that news.
I wrote the president a letter. I tried to tell him how his decision affected individual families. I told him I had trusted Kyle’s life to him. I told him I trusted he wouldn’t go into a war without a good reason
I thought he needed to know that. I didn’t get an answer.
I’ve been accused of being unpatriotic, but the person who asked me that hasn’t lost what I’ve lost.
Kyle had a lot going for him. He was smart, he was athletic, he had a lot of friends. When he became a Marine they got a good one. He didn’t have to die to be our hero.
He was there three-and-a-half months. They were going to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, but the place they were, they weren’t very well received.
I still cry every day. I think the pain must be the same for any mother who has lost a child. The only difference is I still get a chance to talk about Kyle.
Any chance I get, I take.
Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 473-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.