Bubba's Belly

I am posting from Tybee Island, Georgia, right outside of Savannah. I'm spending a weekend with 14 of the most awesomest women... fellow military widows. So far, things have been going great. I feel like I've really gotten to just be myself, talk about whatever I want and no one is thinking I'm nuts or judging - in fact many have thought, felt, or did the things I sometimes wonder make me a little on the crazy side. Thank God for fellow widows and how much sanity, comfort, and most importantly friendship I feel from being around them. I'm taking a break from my widow adventures to blog about something really awesome real quick though.

I have met a widow this weekend, Nicki Bunting, who is doing great things. The first great thing, is she worked her butt off to hold the plane for me when I was literally RUNNING through the airport. Luckily I made it before take off, phew.

The second (ok, first time-line wise and priority wise, but hey my first personal encounter was her holding the plane mmk?) and most important thing she is doing is the creation and organization of her own charity. Nicki is the founder of Bubba's Belly Run. Nicki was 4 weeks pregnant when her husband, Cpt Brian "Bubba" Bunting, was killed on February 24, 2009. Nicki started Bubba's Belly Run in 2009 just a few months after Bubba was killed. Last year, the money earned from the run went to the American Widow Project (the awesome org that's sponsoring this fantastic event), Flat Daddies (life-size cardboard cutouts, great for deployments or families of the fallen) and Fisher House. This year, Nicki says the money will be going to American Widow Project, T.A.P.S (another awesome org for support of survivors of fallen service members) and A Soldier's Child Birthday Foundation (which sends birthday presents to children of the fallen).

I am posting today to ask you to check out these causes and consider donating or running in this fantastic cause. The run takes place on September 26 in Potomac Maryland. Nicki says you can also register and run from afar, you can run wherever you are and she'll send you a shirt! It is a 5K or a one mile fun run. She is also selling flags that are displayed along the race route. The goal is to sell one flag per service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Right now, the total count of service members killed is greater than 5,600. Buying a flag would be an awesome way to show your appreciation for the sacrifices each of these service members and their families made for freedom. Please consider checking out her site, this phenomenal widow designed this whole project herself and she's pretty "tits" so please at least stop by her site and definitely consider adding a dollar or two!!

Bubba's Belly Run

More update on my awesome widow weekend later!!

My Newest Boycott- Six Flags

Warning: This is going to be a post mainly about me bitching. So if you don't want to read about me complaining, you shouldn't read this post. You have been warned.

So, today, we were supposed to enjoy an adrenaline filled day riding roller coasters. We being my mom, sister, and a couple of her friends. We bought our tickets online, packed up some dry clothes for the ride back, and headed off for the 1.5 hour trek to Bowie, MD.

I fell asleep in the car, as is my usual M.O. when riding along, and was awoken by the other gals in the car saying "WHAT?! CLOSED?!?!" I popped my eyes open and shouted WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S CLOSED?! (probably looked like a maniac, I tend to look a little crazy when I first wake up). And there it sat, at the entrance, a sign that read "CLOSED - Open Weekends"

Well, when did this happen? When did the season end? And why on Earth did the website not state that the season was over on the website when we purchased our tickets?
There was a man trimming the hedges so we rolled down a window to see if he had any insight. He told us something along the lines of "Yeah, they just decided to close it. I didn't even know the right schedule for the week. They changed everything this morning." We were of course pretty upset, and we also wanted our money back for the tickets. I don't live in this state any more so there really isn't another opportunity for us to all go, and who wants to go on a weekend when 9 million other people are going to be there?
The gardener man suggests we talk to the man at the gate. The man at the gate checks our tickets and tells us that for refunds we'll need to talk to guest relations and they open at noon, he also said something about it not being on the website but that it was closed because the county schools were back in session. It was barely passed 11. We drove around for a minute but decided to just go back and wait - who knows how long guest relations would be open.

We ended up at guest relations with another family who were inquiring about the same issue. We were greeted at the window by one of the rudest "customer service" representatives I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. The family in front of us was from England - when in the world would they use their tickets again? We told the man that the park closure was NOT stated on their website, and if it were it weren't very visible. Mind you, while we were waiting for guest relations and while we were up there talking, we watched cars and cars come up to the gate and leave - it was very obviously NOT well known that the park was closed. The guest relations man was adamant that it had been posted on the website that it was closed during the week, and like I said was just completely rude. No "I'm sorry" and no sense of compassion at all, just straight up I don't give a crap how far you drove or flew, what you're going to do with the ticket, I am not going to do anything for you.

He told us something about the park was being rented out by Comcast for the day but they canceled. That had absolutely nothing to do with us, or the fact that the website did not say it was closed. It went back and forth, us and the other family trying to get it through to this man that it was not clearly stated there - even the gardener and the security guy had told us it had JUST recently changed (now if you look at the website it's there and noticeable, obviously it wasn't there or we wouldn't have bought tickets for our plan of going today). The argument was falling on deaf ears and this man just didn't want to help or give a hoot. We told him that he was being incredibly rude, the woman in front of us said you're supposed to be guest relations yet you have no relationships with guests! - and when we informed him of his rudeness he LAUGHED. Just thinking about it now makes me so angry.

Six Flags, these are the people you hire to work for you? These are the sheisty things you do? Decide you're going to close and at the last minute put up a tiny "We're now closed on weekdays" box and say screw you to those who saw the site before it was posted/didn't notice it because it is a tiny grey box? Well, you've certainly lost one customer, and I'm sure those English people and the two families that came up after us won't be returning, either.

Oh and get this, guest relations man told us there are 11 Six Flags locations. English family said well where is the next closest one? Man said New Jersey. English fam said yea and that's like a six hour drive. Man said well actually, it's 3 and a half. To these people from another country who just told you they were leaving to go home tomorrow, way to show that good ol' American hospitality. (By the way, from where we were, the Six Flags in NJ was more of a 4 or 5 hour drive).

Thinking about it is getting me all fired up. This is a man that kept saying "the website pacifically stated..." I can't freakin' stand rude and ignorant people!!

After that though, the day turned out pretty well. Cruised the mall in Columbia and had dinner at the delicious Melting Pot and got to see one of my gorgeous sisters who I thought I was going to have to break our date with because we were going to Six Flags... it ended up working out and I had fun. Now I am going to finish my paper. I just found out I have one extra day before heading to the AWP End of Summer Getaway. Widow brain had me thinking I was leaving tomorrow but it's not til Friday. I feel kind of dumb, but it's ok, I'm getting used to it. Ha. So off I prance to work on my paper (hey, at least I got half of it done last night thinking I was leaving tomorrow!)


It's the first time I've been alone-alone in quite some time. Since like, deployment basically. Because then Ariana was born, so I had her, and even when someone is watching her I'm typically with family or friends. So I took a little trip down to NC by my lonesome and Ariana stayed with grandma (I'm sure grandma is SO upset about baby time, right?! haha). I had quite a few things I wanted to get done, some legal junk, pick up the truck so we can get back and blah blah blah and it was just easier if I went sans baby. Although I'm missing the crap out of her and ready to be back with my little poops asap.

It was actually a pretty decent trip. The first night back I think I was just so relieved to be in my own house. I slept in our bed (!!!) and got a pretty good night's sleep. The next day I woke up and started some of my errands and hung out with some friends I hadn't seen in what felt like forever. I hate being away from my good friends lol. Then came home and slept well again! Friday I got a TON of stuff done and nothing could get me down. Well, I'm sure something could have, but it certainly felt like nothing. It was a good day, I was in a great mood and people didn't irritate the crap out of me like usual (ha). I had some friends over that night. Enjoyed delicious chili cheese dogs and crunchy fries and wine and beer. It was all a great time and I was having a blast. But of course I indulged more than I should and ended up getting in an argument with one of Jonny's best friends. I couldn't really tell you what it was about. We kind of went in circles. I think I sometimes take some of my anger out on him. I know that's completely unfair but it happens. This friend has been around since I met Jonny - literally, like that night I met him as well - and it's like he's a tiny piece of Jonny so I guess when I get angry with Jonny I get angry with him too. I hope he understands I love him like the big brudder he is and knows I'm just in a tough spot. We seemed to end on good terms so I'm pretty sure everything is ok. I also hope I didn't scare away some of my new friends... it wasn't that bad, I don't think, just a stupid argument. Then I decided to just be weepy and cry myself to sleep, which isn't that unusual since I do it often, it's unusual that I'd had such good sleep the couple days prior. During the day I was alright, just had the drained, weird feeling and absolutely zero motivation. I didn't work on my paper that I was supposed to finish this weekend instead I sat around watching TV. Oh, I lied, I did get my oil changed (considering the last time it was done, Jonny had done it him self, so probably... November? I know it was when we were in Maryland...). So at least I was slightly productive, go me! But before and after that it was just a hang around the house day.

Tonight, I'm missing Jonny bad. Well, I'm always missing him bad, but I am just feeling pretty empty and down tonight. I once described it as if someone takes a spoon and hollows out your insides. You feel the pain of them scooping them out, and then you feel the nothing, the hollow loneliness. Sometimes I just feel like a shell. Like I'm just walking around the body of a person that once was. And the crazy part is other days, or moments I guess, because it can change in a second, I feel almost normal. Hm. I hate those moments where something will happen, be it good or bad, just something, and I want to tell him, and I forget for a split second, a nano second, that he's gone. And I think O Gosh I need to call Stink he would get a kick out of this. The reality after that is always a super bitch, for lack of a better term. A total slap in the face. You can't call him, Rach. You can tell him, he probably already saw it, but you can't call him and you can't hear his reaction. Argh.

Hm, I should get some sleep, I'm on the road again tomorrow. Mrs World Traveler I am (Ok, Eastern United States... ha).

Reality TV

These days, there are reality shows for... well... everything. I was just watching Heli-Loggers with my dad, a reality show about loggers who use helicopters. He also watches Ice Road Truckers and Whale Wars... My aunt is addicted to Real Housewives. I know several people who watch 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom (hate those shows, but that's another conversation for another day). There really are reality shows about everything.

But what about things that matter (ok, I guess these other shows are things that matter to other people, but things that matter to me haha) - like our military personnel? I realize that the government would probably never allow a reality show about military families. There's no way they could control what would be aired and who knows what kind of face certain families would give the military. But what about one for the widows? We are no longer "government property" and that is REAL. Widows are certainly some of the strongest, funniest, most interesting people I know. It would definitely give Americans a sneak peak into what we face, day to day, after one of America's military has fallen. It would definitely give faces and names to the stories... And it would probably make for some very interesting TV. I'm not saying I really want my whole life on TV for display (I mean, it's already here on the internet, but at least I decide what I'm going to talk about) but I just think it's an interesting idea. Definitely might put things in perspective for people... Just sayin'

Month Five

Well, I've made it this far. It still sucks and I still wonder how I'm going to make it so much longer...
I had a rough night. Every night's been rough lately, though. Nights are stupid.
I did fairly well during the day today though. Played guitar quite a bit. I bought one while I was up in Maine, Jonny always wanted to learn to play, I always wanted to learn to play, so I figured I'd learn for the both of us. I guess I thought I'd start out relatively decent though, like it would be easy for me to understand since I play a few instruments. However, I'm seeing that's not quite so, I've got a learning to do, and a lot of toughening up of my fingers - they are sore!

I should get to doing my homework, I've got a little bit of running around coming up here in the next few weeks so I definitely need to stay on top of it.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that I am not using my husband's death as an "earning" for myself. I was not proposing that I be on reality tv (actually, I'm pretty sure I said I wouldn't want to be on it in my post) I was saying it would be interesting and real. I never said I was proposing it, nor do I plan to. It was actually more of a joke (clearly a reality show like that wouldn't be made and it would be really sensitive if it were, as in they'd have to be careful about how they did it... I was basically saying there are reality shows for everything else but not something that matters? Satire.) but I suppose I can't expect judgmental people who have too much time on their hands to understand my sense of humor. I do not expect my friends to give up all their time to me, I actually told them that from the beginning when people weren't able to make it to the funeral or come to other things, that I understood they all still have their own lives to lead, I get upset with my friends when I don't hear from them for days on end (as I did before my husband even died... as most normal people would if their friends just seemed to disappear...), but once again someone who spends their time putting down others probably has no friends and wouldn't understand that either. I never said I was writing a book, I said I'd like to maybe one day down the road. I love to write and before I even thought twice about it, several people told me I should. Writing is therapeutic for me and I believe that people may gain something from what I have to say. Who knows if I wrote something if it would even sell, it most certainly is not to make money. So to the person who didn't have the balls to say who they were but leave a nasty comment, you have no freakin' clue what you're talking about. And you have no gusto if you can't even say who you are so I can reply directly to you. The sad thing about this all is there is a chance that you know me personally and are just out there to try to take me down. Well, keep on trying sister because I'm not going anywhere. I typically don't respond to people's nasty remarks but I couldn't leave this one, I don't ask you to read and I don't ask you to comment, I do this for myself so if you don't like it don't visit the page. I also don't ask for your sympathy, I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me. I'm well aware I was dealt a pretty shitty hand but I am making the best of it and doing what is best for me and my daughter. It's almost like you were jealous that I can grow from something so awful in my life. Like you wish you had "opportunities." Well, I'm sorry that you didn't have the one thing in your life that meant the most taken away from you, gosh that must be so hard. And I'm sorry that you're not taking the time to turn your life the direction you want it to go in and make the best for yourself. And I'm sorry that you have so much time on your hands you can go to people's pages and anonymously leave nasty comments.

I guess the women who started TAPS and AWP and Real Widows, the org and the radio show, and the books written by 9/11 widows and children of fallen Vietnam veterans or the Widows who wrote the grief handbook, and Taking Chance, the movie based off real families experiences in the CACO process... all these things that help other widows or that help give a face and feeling to Americans who just can't grasp that this is real, well I guess all those people are just taking advantage of their loved ones' deaths as well. Shame on them, shame on all those people for opening their own doors and making something of themselves all the while making a difference.

Everyone grieves differently, and some people feel the need to just do something with their grief. Make themselves better, put information out there for others, whatever is therapeutic, whatever works best. And if you can't deal with that, get your petty judgmental ass off my blog and keep your nasty thoughts to yourself, because you're not going to profit and you're not going to change me and you're not nearly going to tear me down. I am stronger than you and your nasty words and I am going to come out of this with my head held high knowing I make my husband proud every single day.

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."

Because She's Awesome

I haven't been updating as much as usual lately. Part of that is because I'm on vacation and part of it is because I usually blog at night but I've been having some rough nights. It seems like every one of my friends (ok, not literally but you know) on facebook has been posting homecoming vids. That one suprise one and there are a few others. Now of course, I'm not by any means wishing everyone in the world were a widow, I'm not wishing there were another single widow period. Not in the slightest. This life is rough and tough and sucks and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. However, seeing these vids does stur up some crazy emotion in me, as can be expected. I don't have a homecoming story to tell, I don't have a picture of a reunion... I never will. So it sucks, and I'm bitter and jealous and sad. So I've been trying to avoid the interwebs a bit lately (which any of you guys who are friends with me on fb know I don't succeed in doing ever lol). It also seems to be coming up on ball season, and while I do have many a dress I can sell to you (seriously, if you wanna browse from my dancing days just let me know, I've got tons) I have never been to a ball myself, one thing I was really looking forward to, and will not get that opportunity. So it kinda sucks. For me, not for you. Some people apologize to me when they talk about these things or post them - there's no need to apologize. That's your life and you don't need to hide it, it just sucks for me. So I guess I've avoided blogging because it's been sitting on my mind at night, not so much during the day but definitely at night, and I just didn't want another super sad crazy emotional post. Not right now anyway. I really have been having some pretty decent days, but night time, whew, night time is freakin' tough.

Therefore, before this post goes too much in that direction. I'm going to share some light with you all. The light of my life. That's right, this is an Ariana update!!
Ariana Ralyn will be 7 months old in a mere 2 days! The day after tomorrow, my baby girl is 7 months!!
I can not believe how the time has flown. She also took her first "crawls" this evening!!! She's been scooting all around like a mad woman, but tonight, she got up on those hands and knees and went crawl crawl. It was soo great. I was so excited. It is simply amazing to watch her learn how to use her body. Learn how to make her body move in the ways she wants it to in order to accomplish a goal, in the case of tonight, making it across the floor to my cell phone.
I think she is also working on some teeth. She was a bit fussy tonight and after she went down for her usual bed time she woke up a couple hours later. She was wide awake so instead of fight with her I let her come and play to tire herself out. That's when the crawling festivies occured. I'm glad I decided to be a push over tonight and let her come play. Oh and the wearing out worked, she's outsies now!
She's enjoyed her vacation, loved floating around in her tube in the lake, enjoyed all the extra attention. She is just such a good baby. I couldn't ask for an easier, more enjoyable little girl. Thank God for that little ray of sunshine, I don't know what I'd do without her (or if she were super fussy all the time... haha). She is just amazing. So for those of you who are more visually oriented, I leave you with some photos...
Apparently I'm doing something that everyone likes... so I like it too!

In the go position! Calm down, no need to worry friends, I am just sitting in my float on the sand, no big deal!

You'd think by her face she hates this, but in reality my kid LOVES pickles, she wouldn't let us take it from her!
Have a good weekend friends and
Semper Fi!
(couldn't get my button down here)

I Guess I'll Write

Even though I feel as if I've got nothing to say. Usually when I start out like this I come up with something so we'll give it a shot...

I've been feeling pretty angry lately. Maybe an explanation for my lack of posting I can't articulate anything but anger. Anger at the world, at my husband, at God, at the war, at everyone who's husband came home, at homecoming statuses and photos and posts and all things homecoming related, at the friends who promised they'd be there but have disappeared, at myself, basically just angry. It kind of creeps up on me and I really want to hit something. So lately I've just been kind of sitting. And facebooking, which I should cut down on. Oh, and smoking, which I also should cut down on. Oh addictions...

I've been thinking about friends a lot. I know, I know, I harp on this subject. And people warned me. And I even said from the beginning, people would disappear, but once it starts happening... and then continues... well it sucks. I want to grab some people and shake them. Scream at them - what happened to you saying you'd be there?! What did I do so "wrong" that you don't even check in to see how I'm doing anymore or answer my calls?! And then I remember I do have friends, who talk to me everyday (or at least close to it, ya know, who make an effort), and those are the ones worth thinking about. The other ones, well they're not worth it. And the new friends I'm making. They are really cool, my widster friends. I wish I knew of more widster blogs I could follow. But if only it were so easy to just block out the bad news, I swear human beings as a species are suckers for focusing on the negative, well at least this one. I'm working on it, ok! I'm working on finding the positive but some days I let the negative over take.

Ooo I do have something to talk about besides whining! My DREAMS. I have been having weird dreams lately. Of course barely any of Stink, he's a hard one to catch in my dreams, that husband of mine... but I know I dreamed of him once this week, I can't remember it but I woke up knowing I'd spent time with him during my slumber, and that is always a good feeling. But the dreams I have been remembering... I've been buying a house. These have been like every other night. I'm pretty sure the dream Jonny was in we were buying a house, but I can't really remember. But anyway, every other stinkin' night just about, I'm buying a house in my sleep. I can't tell you where or anything but that's what they're about. I'm like, Ok dreams, please give me a LOCATION and I can follow up on this because that's what I'm struggling with the most - where to settle permanently (or semi-permanently, you know). But it's been pretty neat to keep buying houses. I remember one dream I found out the house I was looking at was haunted and then I just had to have it. It was strange but made pretty good sense. So who knows what I'm going to do with that, I don't know if my husband is trying to tell me to buy or I just want to or it's just the simple fact that I love looking at houses... I could look at houses all day long lol, who knows, I'll keep you posted.

Oh and who watched Army Wives tonight? Oorah Marine Wives!! Teeheehee. If only I can finish as gracefully on September 25... YIKES!


My brain is so muddled. I guess this is the infamous widow brain. I feel like it will be the death of my memory. I forget things. All. The. Time. I forget to respond to emails (I just found some important ones from June... oops), I forget to return messages, I forget where I'm going. Much of the time, it's like I can't concentrate or focus. I have to really buckle myself down to do my school work and I often read the prompts 4 million times before doing it because I can't remember what I'm supposed to be looking for when I start reading (definitely not typical of me from when I was in undergrad).

A few months ago, I was heading to a friend's house. This is a house I spent nearly every day at, literally. Probably a good 5 out of 7 days were there (and probably 4 of those I spent the night), so I should have known where I was going. I made it on base, turned into her neighborhood and then completely blanked out. I had no idea where I was going. I was on the phone with another friend and had to get off so I could concentrate. I drove around her neighborhood for a few minutes and realized I had absolutely no clue how to get to her house! My grief counselor had warned me this would happen so I was semi-prepared. I called my friend half in tears and half laughing. WHERE DO YOU LIVE?! She laughed at me (good-naturedly, since I was already laughing... of course) and guided me to her house and when I got there I jumped out of the truck in near panic attack but still laughing. Luckily I've got the sense of humor to still find it funny and I laughed it off, thank you widow brain, for screwing with me yet again.

Sometimes, it's a bit scarier. When we were in Florida before the funeral, some friends and I went shopping for my funeral attire for the week. I was in the dressing room with a friend, and the rest of my friends were waiting outside and keeping the baby occupied. All of a sudden, I couldn't remember anything... about the accident. I looked at my friend and I can only imagine my face must have been white as a sheet because when she looked at me she knew something was wrong. I told her I can't remember. I can't remember. What happened?! She looked at me like Oh shit, I'm going to have to tell her her husband is dead. I saw that on her face and assured her I knew that much, I couldn't imagine having to re-break the news so I let her know I knew he was gone. But I couldn't remember how, what had happened to lead to this? She had to literally walk me through what had happened. Mind you, I was very involved with my husband's career and I grew up in a military environment, but I couldn't even remember any of the acronyms. When she said MRAP, she had to explain what that was. When she said IED, I was lost (and really people even outside the military world know what that is!). Literally step by tiny step. As she told the story to me, it came flooding back and I could once again remember. I made her promise though, that if that ever happened again she'd have to do it again. I know it must have sucked really, really bad for her telling me all the details, but I just can't not know, ya know? And I was so thankful I had a friend who could do that for me.

My point here is that the brain is a tricky thing. Our brains do what they can to protect us and help us survive. My brain must have thought I needed to put that out to be able to get through the pain, I'm not really sure. It is amazing and unbelievable and scary and difficult all at once. And now I still experience brain-blips but it's mostly in the form of just forgetting every stinkin' thing. My ears stop listening when people give me details these days. I don't stop listening, but it's like I stop registering. While you're telling me I could hear every single thing you said, but if you asked me to repeat it right after I would miss parts. It's frustrating because it doesn't just interfere with knowing about what happened but with every day life. Maybe there is some kind of supplement or something that I can take to increase brain power and memory. Ginko perhaps? Ginseng? Hmmm...

On another mud note... I am doing the USMC Mud Run! For those of you who have been here a while, you may have remembered at the beginning of deployment I talked about wanting to do it. (I looked but can't find the post, it's somewhere out there between December and March... hmmm). Anyway, I had said I wanted to train during this deployment and get prepared and do the mud run in September with my babe. I figured it would be super fun and a great way to get back in shape post-baby. Well of course since every thing happened it hit the back burner and I completely forgot about it until I saw on someone's blog about the Warrior Dash and I remembered how badly I wanted to do the mud run. So, I decided that I would carry over this goal from "before" and go after it now. And still give my husband a great laugh. I've got my team of 4 all set up, 4 of us wonderful widows (or as our team name says - Gold Stars Gone Wild - hahaha) and I think it's going to be a powerful experience for us. Where we support each other to finish and grow stronger after completing. I'm preeeeeetty excited. I also have some more friends doing it, since you can only have teams of 4 I've encouraged all my friends to create or join another team and we will still do it together. I wanted a big group of people down there, and right now I know of one other team of my friends, possibly a third, that will be with us.

If you are interested in the 2010 USMC Mud Run check it out here
It is on Saturday, September 25 in Columbia, SC and the proceeds go to wounded and KIA Marines and families (in the SC area, I believe, but either way - good cause!)

Lance Corporal Zachary Smith

I've been selfish. I ragged on the People magazine for not talking about our fallen guys, yet all I do in my blog here is talk about my fallen guy and myself. Ok, ok, I know it is my space for that, but I have decided it's about time I let you all know a little bit about the other guys 1st Battalion 6th Marines lost on this deployment, if People won't I will! So, for you blog friends I will now be showcasing each of our fallen Marines, with the permission of the families of course.

I am going to start with the first Marine we lost, LCpl Zachary Smith. I've had the pleasure to get to know Zach's widow, Anne, and I feel we have grown very close since she came and visited with me before the 1/6 memorial.
Zach was the first loss, the first Fallen Angel 1/6 faced in this deployment, he was killed by an IED during a foot patrol. But during this post, I am not going to focus on his death, I'm going to focus on his life and his love. So now good friends and loyal readers, I present to you...

LCpl Zachary D. Smith
04.02.1990 - 01.24.2010

Zach is from Hornell, NY, which no, it is not in the city. If you ask his wife, Anne, where she's from she'll tell you "Farmtown, like the game on Facebook." I have gotten the pleasure of getting to know his lovely family the last few months and they are all amazing people. His dad, Chris, is a New York State Trooper. After 9/11, Chris spent a good amount of time in NYC helping the people there, Zach was in 6th grade. His mom, Kim, remembers that Zach didn't want his dad to go, but believes it may have been one of the factors that helped him start leaning toward a military career. He decided he wanted to be a Marine in the 8th grade and joined the delayed entry program as a senior in high school. He could not join right away because he was 17 and thus had time to think on his decision, however this did not deter his decision, instead he spent time monthly with other Marines preparing for his enlistment. Upon turning 18 and graduating from high school in June, Zach headed off to boot camp to swear in to the United States Marine Corps. Zach's mom said he was that person that everyone loved. She remembered how she would go into the local grocery store and Zach would be playing with a child while the mom paid for the groceries, or chatting up the older people in the cafe. The grocery store deli attendant, an older woman, misses how Zach used to come in and say hello and ask how she was. Typically, teenagers don't really "associate" with older people, but Zach really seemed to care how she was doing and always put a smile on her face. Although Zach died 6 months ago, the Smiths are still receiving an outpouring of love, Kim says she can really tell how much the community loves and misses him.

Zach and his family were very close. Their family "thing" was to pound the chest twice when seeing each other (from how I understand, kind of like an I Love You thing, ya know, a "thing"), when Zach was in boot camp, he signed his letters # #. Anne and Kim both told me about when they would read the letters and say Number sign number sign?? Until they realized it was actually Pound Pound - he was keeping up a family tradition even from miles away. When he left for boot camp, Kim created a 93 link paper chain around their home in red, white, and blue, visually counting down the days until he would be home again. Zach has a brother, Nate who is 24 and a sister, Grace who is 11. Kim wanted them to be able to see how close they were getting to Zach's return from boot camp, and she did something similar for his deployment. She counted out marbles for enough days for a 9 month deployment, just in case it went a little long, and her and Grace would put in a marble each night to say good night to Zach and count another day down until their Marine would be home. Like all of us who did not get the homecoming we yearned for, they were ready and waiting for their Marine's return home. The day Zach died, the bottom of the jar had just barely been covered with marbles, he had been in Afghanistan about one month.

Zach's story, just like my Jonny's and so many of the other fallen's, includes a love story as well. Before I begin their story, I just want to tell you a little about Anne from my perspective. Anne is a true good, genuine person. She is one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met. She is great with my daughter (my daughter REALLY liked her!) and is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone. And she is one tough cookie, although she doesn't realize it at times, she really is.

Anne met Zach in high school. A mutual friend of theirs actually suggested she talk to Zach and she thought he was a goober! Zach was clearly into her though, and persistent, as he would prank call her often. She always knew it was him and would call him on it but he would of course say oh no it's not me. About 10 months before senior prom, he called her and asked her if she'd be his date and as she says, it all started there. Our unit was originally supposed to deploy in August, and Zach began talking about getting married to his love shortly after finding this out. He wanted to plan a nice wedding before they left. Anne says a lot of people thought they should wait, including her. She thought they could plan a much nicer wedding with more time post deployment but he was persistent. At the time, he wouldn't tell her why, but he did tell his mom that if anything happened to him while deployed, he wanted to know that he married the girl he loved. Zach proposed in a unique and special way. Anne described Zach as a big golfer, and he incorporated his love for golf with his love for Anne. He took her to dinner and then took her to the number 4 hole at a local golf course. This golf course is up on a hill and from it you can see the whole city (this is at night, just picture it people, I did - beautiful!), it is also the hole where he scored his first hole in one (yes, 19 years old and it wasn't his ONLY hole in one, he's gotten TWO!). Anne remembers it was so special because of the moment and the place. Like I said, such a beautiful setting.

They were married on July 25, 2009 a little under 5 months before he deployed. They were married for one day shy of 6 months when he was killed. At the time, Anne thought she was pregnant. One month from the day she was notified, she found out she wasn't. Both Kim and Anne remember that as an extremely hard day. Anne wanted to be pregnant not for a distraction, something to do, or just to be a mom, she wished she were pregnant so she would forever have a piece of Zach with her and finding out she was not was almost as hard as the day she found out Zach was gone. Anne and Zach were true high school sweet hearts and very much in love. She describes him as very funny, having the best sense of humor. He made everyone laugh all the time, and although it may have been his goofiness that first made her hesitant, it was probably that same goofiness and sense of humor that drew her in.

Zach was a real person. Zach is a real soul. He has a real love, a real family, a real story. He had a future. He will never, ever be forgotten, and neither will his family.

To Anne, Kim, Chris, Nate, Grace, and all who knew him, I hope I did him justice. I love you all and you will forever remain in my heart due to this unchosen but very strong bond we all have now. To my blog friends, please lift this family up in your prayers as you have mine, they too can use good thoughts sent their way and never forget this fallen angel, LCpl Zachary Smith.

Media - Love Em or Leave Em?

So more than ever, the media has become a very large part of my life. I am constantly on the lookout for articles about my Jonny (google him, there are quite a few, some good, some not-so-good...), about other widows, or about things that will just apply to me in general. I talked to several reporters from all kinds of forms of media - television, newspaper, and radio - when I began this journey. People have asked why or how I could do it and all I can say is that I believe America needs to know. America outside of the military community doesn't seem to grasp how serious this war is and the heroes we are losing. The big news stations often present the KIAs as just another number, a name scrolling across the bottom, but what they fail to remember is that these guys have stories, lives, pasts, and they were supposed to have futures. So that was my reasoning for why I talked to the press, to get Jonny's story out there, so people could see he was a true human being with a life, and Ariana and I, and our families, are real people who are left behind. Whether or not it changes anyone's perspective on the war I do not know, but I'm hoping it touched at least one person and made them realize - "Holy crap this IS a real man who had so much to come home to and he died for me and every other American" From some of the comments I've received, my goal was attained and a few people realized this, or maybe they knew it already but just showed their gratitude, and that is all I really ask.

Anyway, this is not the point of today's post, just the intro. As I mentioned, some stories are not so good. I remember one story shortly after his death basically said he had joined just because he couldn't find a job. We were all taken aback by this because that was not the only reason he joined. My husband was a career Marine, if that was why he joined I don't think he would have set out to be a lifer, the Marine Corps was something he wanted to give himself too for reasons above and beyond himself or a selfish need for stability. But anyway, they had said that and my mom had talked to the reporter after it came out and said his facts were not straight and I remember he was extremely rude with her, said the story's already been printed and basically it's good enough. That was our first experience with not having all the facts straight. That story had talked to limited people in his life and gone from there, hadn't talked to his mother or his wife. Anyway, after that most of the stories on him were pretty accurate and well written. All of the reporters I talked to were respectful and just decent. CNN did a spotlight on him, I believe, but the details around that were a bit fuzzy for me. I believe they talked to his mom and then went from there, which I didn't know anything about until right before it aired. His mom sent me an email that it would be on at 10 (CNN told her they would just email her the day it aired that's why short notice) but unfortunately I never got to see it. I contacted a rep and they said they would send me a copy of the segment, which I still don't have, so to this day I don't know what was said about my husband on CNN. They talked to his mom this time though, so I'm sure the information was right on, I would just like to see how it was done... hopefully soon.

Ok, so still haven't gotten to where I'm going. A lot of you have told me you've come across my husband's mention in People magazine (This is where I'm going...) and I thank you all for making sure I got the heads up. Yesterday, I went out and got 2 copies (one for Ariana's scrapbook) and read it as I was going through the store. When I got to the section on the Fallen, I must say I was pretty disappointed.

First, there were some incorrect facts.
1. Brandon Barrett, whom People listed as 1st Lt was Posthumously promoted to CAPTAIN Brandon Barrett. It is the rank he earned and should be published anytime he is being talked about.
2. They missed one of our guys. There were 10 KIAs with our unit this deployment. The one they missed his Cpl Jacob Turbett. He was assigned to 2 Combat Engine Battalion, however he was attached with 1/6, therefore part of 1/6 during the deployment. I believe the unit counts him as one of our personal loses, he was honored at the 1/6 memorial, his name is listed on our memorial wall in the battalion. He "counts" and I was very disheartened to see him left out. He deserves the honor of a mention as well and I am sure his family was not happy to see that he was left out.
The last issue I had with the article is once again it presents the KIA guys as just names, ages, and states. Just a number - 9 (an incorrect number, but a number nonetheless). It fails to show that these 10 names have 10 stories as well. The rest of the article highlighted different Marines from the battalion (how they selected them I do not know) each with a little blurb. But nothing at all about the KIA or seriously WIA. To me it was almost like they were making the fallen seem less important than the guys who came home. Now, I am very proud of our guys who came home, but are the ones to leave out really the fallen? The fallen who we have to work to make sure they are not forgotten. The guys who came home can tell their own stories, it is the fallen whose stories need to be told for them.

Either way though, I was very glad People covered it at all. I know that's not their typical type of story and they covered them when they left and when they returned, so all in all it was pretty cool, those were just my gripes with the article. I emailed the editor and got an automated response back, so I am hoping it makes it somewhere for the corrections that need to be made. My mom also emailed the editor. If you feel the need to email the editor, the email is simply editor@people.com. I really don't know if any of my messages will be read but it's worth a try.

Since I'm on the topic of media, I've got one more hard point I want to discuss.

Combat Media.
I really don't want to go into whether or not they should be there. Everyone's got a different perspective and I'm not going to give you mine on general combat media but I do have a very strong opinion on one type I have seen. A reporter was embedded with a medevac team. There was a series of photos done, including guys being worked on in the helos, guys right after they had been wounded (OR KILLED), body bags being carried, etc etc. I don't have the link anymore, I got rid of it so I wouldn't waste away in front of it wondering if one of them were my babe, but I do believe it was on NY Times.
Here's the issue I have: A very good friend of mine came across 3 photos of her fiance right after he was shot and killed. Photos of his wound rapped and bleeding, of him being carried off the field, and of him being worked on. Is this really what a grieving 20 year old girl needs to find? Is this appropriate for any of the families to see?


Of course after she told me about it I hunted down the series and stared at them, shaking from head to toe (this was weeks ago, I just hadn't been ready to write about it yet) and choking back vomit when I saw someone who's hands looked like my own love's. After hearing details of his death and learning it was at night that he was killed, I realize the person I had myself convinced was him actually was not him, however that person is someone else's family member. That is the last thing we need to see as we work through this grief process.

I know I talk about making this real for Americans, but this isn't the way that I mean. To me, this doesn't make it real, it objectifies our Marines even more. It turns them into that car accident on the side of the road. When you pass that accident, you're not really thinking about their family or life, you're looking to see "OH MAN how bad that wreck was!!" And that's what I see happening with these photos. I just don't approve, I think it's completely disrespectful to those of us who are left behind, to come across photos like that.
But of course, once again, that's just my opinion, do with it what you will.

And because this post was so long I will leave you with a few photos
Ariana and I before the 1/6 Memorial

Jonny's mom Rachel, me, and Ari at his place amongst all the Fallen Angels. Ari is looking right at daddy

Ariana dancing with Jonny's SSgt, AKA Uncle Rog, at the memorial dinner

A few of his guys and Rachel, Ariana, and I with his field cross and sketched photo

I am Lucky.

It may not seem that I am grateful or knowledgeable of the good things I have in my life at all times, because honestly, it is hard to remember all that I have at all times. Sometimes, it's easier to see all that I have lost, all that I am living with out, and all that I miss so much. But sometimes, I have to stop and think that I am lucky.

The number one reason I can say this, is because I, little ol' Mrs. P, got to be Jonny Porto's wife. I am a lucky girl, I got to know a love like no other. I was loved and adored by a man that I loved and adored right back. I got to know what some people may unfortunately never know. When I am feeling down, I try to focus on that love. Not how much I miss it, although that is hard to push aside, but how fortunate I had it, no, STILL have it. I had a fairy tale romance with a hottie tottie, brave, honest, honorable, genuine, simply amazing man. I will forever be in love with that man. True Love stories have NO endings. I found a quote on the Real Widows facebook page that said "Grief is the price we pay for love" and I thought on it for a second and I realized, while it is painful and there are days I feel like I will never see the light again, it's a price I am willing to pay. It meant that I was (and am) in love, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, not even the relief of this pain. Because I can look back through the tears and the pain and remember that love and from it, gain strength.

I am also lucky because from that love the most gorgeous little girl in the universe (ok, I might be slightly biased) was produced. I thank God for her every day. She is amazing and I know in my heart she will do amazing things. So I can honestly say I am lucky to have been loved the way I was and I am lucky to have our daughter, our little J, little Stink, Daddy Jr, who will be a constant reminder to me and everyone else of the love her daddy and I shared.

I am lucky because I have friends. I have both good friends and not-so-good friends. I want to thank the not-so-good ones because you make me see how good I really have it. You make me realize that I can rise above this because there really are still good people out there. You show me an ugly side of friendship that makes me appreciate the wonderful friends I have so much more. And an even bigger thanks to the good friends. The ones I can call at 3am with the bad-night code phrase and they know exactly what that means and often times how to rectify it. And if they can't, they still do their best and stay with me until I can breathe again. They come to my ridiculous parties/nights out and listen to my stories and distract me and remind me that I'm still alive, I can still have fun. They help me out when I'm in a bind, sick and unable, whether it be watching the babe or bringing diapers. They love me for me, in my good times and my bad, and they accept my bad and know that the bad is going to be part of this and their only job is to help me find my feet when I feel them slip out from under me. They feel when I feel, they hurt when I hurt. They remember. They remember Jonny even if they did not get a chance to meet him, they will not let him, nor myself, be forgotten. I pray that I continue to have such luck in friendship as the years go on.
And as far as friends go, I am lucky for you bloggy friends. The outpouring of love on my post 2 posts ago (after his memorial) and the love on many other of my posts as well, continues to amaze me. I want you to know that even though I don't usually respond (a lot of times I try to but you don't have your email set so that I can... go here - Thanks JG - if ya wanna fix it ;-D ) I read each and every comment. There are quite a few I keep in my inbox and reread when I'm having one of those moments. I am crappy at replying to emails in general (there are a few "business" emails I haven't gotten back to... oooops) so please don't ever take it personally if I don't respond, I honestly probably just forgot that I hadn't yet responded, I typically respond in my head as I read I just forget to write it down... widow brain is a turd.

I am lucky because I have family. I have two big families that want nothing but the best for Ariana and I. We are so surrounded with love and stories and memories and laughter and protection. We always have somewhere to turn when things seem too hard. Families that let us live and don't expect too much but are willing to grab us when the going gets tough.

So yes, while I often ask myself, How did I get so unlucky? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I still have times when I must think, Wow, I am lucky and I am blessed.

Living without him is killer.
Noticing the hand sanitizer is running out and laughing through my tears sucks. Rolling onto his side of the bed and finding it cold instead of warm like how it used to be is terrible. Looking at a wooden box instead of his beautiful face is torture.
But taking a minute to reflect on my blessings reminds me that I can do this (even through all the suck), I will do this. I am going to live my life. It's going to be painful and awful and rough at times, but I am going to live my life, and I know that's all he would ever ask of me, to continue living, for me and for our beautiful gift from God, Ariana.

*I know I've posted like this before, and hopefully I will post like this again. Sometimes I just need to re-remind myself how much I still do have. Thanks guys for hanging in there even when I may tend to be repetitive.

Copyright © 2014 | Designed by: Broken Road Creative