Saturday, November 20, 2010

Guest Post: The Integrity of our Soldiers

Some thoughts from my mom...


For 8  weeks now, we've been charting Billy's progress and his fight to beat this thing!  It's hard to believe that so much has happened in such a short time.  What a whirlwind!

When I first arrived in Miami, I really didn't know anyone except Billy, and even he was in a "foreign land" (meaning he was between assignments and in a civilian hospital).   All I had was the name of the hospital, and the name and phone number of his friend Melissa, who had stayed with him at the hospital until I could get there.

In a very short time and quickly, all of that changed.  From the moment I arrived at the hospital, I was introduced to countless nurses, doctors, administrators, etc.  Every title you could imagine, I was made aware of their existence.  I had business cards, phone numbers, and messages to "call this person as soon as possible".  In essence, I was bombarded!  Being the visual person that I am, meeting people face to face, along with having their business card, worked the best for me.  I soon learned to write "who" they were on the back of their cards, and to carry a notebook with me everywhere I went.  I was, to say the least, overwhelmed.  In most cases, if I couldn't picture you, or know what part you played in this drama, I probably wasn't quick to return your call.

However, I had received a call from Cpt. Justin Barnes from Fort Rucker, where Billy was stationed before he went on leave.  Shortly after that, Maj. Derek Smith called me, wanting to assure me that they were taking care of issues on Billy's behalf, and to make sure that our family was being taken care of.  In a very short time, I realized that I could trust Maj. Smith at his word.  He has become a very dear friend, even though we have never "met".

Maj. Smith was there for me.  He listened when I was scared, when I cried, when I shared what Billy was going through, and when I cried  out for help (to get Billy to Walter Reed).  He has been with us every step of the way.  He continues to help us with personal matters, and keeps in touch with us at all hours of the day and night, including weekends.  He is truly a dedicated soldier.  He said that his job is demanding, but I believe he takes it "above and beyond the call of duty".

When we received the care package from Fort Rucker, an American flag and this letter were included.  These were referred to in the blog entry entitled "Camaraderie".  As you read this letter, I'm sure you will agree that these soldiers are a special breed.  As tears streamed down my cheeks, I could only think that more people need to be able to read this letter.  With Maj. Smith’s permission, here is that letter.  Need I say more?

The letter and flag from Maj. Smith.


I wanted to send this letter to express my sincere appreciation for your service to our Nation.  It takes a special person to selflessly devote their life to something larger than themselves, something that often brings little personal gratification and is met with more memories of being uncomfortable and lonely than happy and care-free.  You have already served with distinction and sacrificed more than anyone could ask of you.
Enclosed in this box are many of the reminders of your time here at flight school.  Every Commander at every level wanted to provide some small token and I hope that each one hold some type of special memory.  I wanted to specifically explain the flag that I placed in the box.  I have been carrying around this flag for some time waiting for the right moment and the right person to receive it.  It has a story like most keepsakes and it means a lot to me.
The flag tells my entire story.  It is one of two flags that I carried with me through 3 deployments.  It has seen the escort of Saddam Hussein, a wire strike, a slew of fire fights, valorous citations, forced landings, some close friends dying for their country, heartaches, victories and most notably my greatest realization as a Soldier.  While fighting during the battle for An Najaf we were caught in an ambush.  We suffered a great deal of combat damage and delivered nearly our entire ordinance payload for the ground commander.  Throughout the fight we never lost our focus.  We continued to minimize collateral damage and always considered the civilian population while continuing to stay mission focused executing the task at hand.  It was there I realized that every Soldier in our Army possesses something great, something that separates them from everyone else; a will to fight.  The will to fight I am referring to has nothing to do with the urge to get into a fight with enemy forces.  We possess a passion that doesn't allow us to quit on ourselves or our friends.  It is steadfast motivator that pushes us beyond our normal capabilities and compels us to fight with great compassion.  This will to fight gets us through hard times and forces us to always give our all to everything we do.  That compassion and drive is what separated us from our enemies and is shouldered by every man and woman that volunteers to wear our uniform.  This very will is what makes me proud to serve every day next to people like you.
This flag has always served as a reminder of that will to fight and it would only be fitting to give it to you now to serve you in that same capacity.  We are all proud of you and are praying for you daily.

From Michelle:  Tomorrow is the Billy Run (@ 8:30am).  We have 3-4 people (maybe more) running here with us, and a few who will be running in other parts of the U.S.  If you do run, will you let us know where and when you ran?  And will you send a picture?

How is Billy?
He's hanging in there, doing the best he can with what's going on.  His right side is still pinching.  When his side pinches, the pain shoots up to his right shoulder.  Thankfully, Billy seems to be able to manage that pain better.  We want to be able to take him outside, but it hurts a lot for him to move, so we haven't done that yet.

Billy sleeps often, but he loves time spent with family and friends.  This weekend, more family is here from MA.  My mom's sister Robin is here, as well as her husband Tom.  My mom's brother Jack is here again, and his son (our cousin) Ben came along.  It's nice to have them here!

Last night, Adrienne stopped by on her way to PA.  Earlier this week, Suzanne (Nate's mom) came by, as did Ruth and Jonathan.  Kelsey is here often.  Thank you to everyone who has come or sent letters, pictures, and cards in the mail.  Billy's room is quite full of notes, pictures, and gifts from friends!

How to Pray
  • That Billy would be able to celebrate and enjoy Thanksgiving with friends and family.
  • For miracles. For Billy's intestines and stomach to start working.
  • For management of pain, and that the doctors would have wisdom in caring for Billy.
  • For special times together as family and friends.


  1. I didn't really want to be the first person to comment on this post, but here goes. I knew that I might shed a tear when I read this letter, but... let's just say... I had to collect myself before I wrote this.

    If I know nothing of the man who wrote the letter, nor of the young man to whom it was written, the words and sentiment shared and expressed therein speak profoundly as to the outstanding character and quality of both.

    You have an amazing family and are indeed part of an even greater one. Thank you all for your sharing, service and sacrifice.

    I'm not really a "huggy" person, but.. here's a virtual hug with heartfelt hope for Billy (fight!), and all of you from a little corner of Canada.

  2. Hello, everyone.
    I must say that I could never have stated my thoughts more eloquently than Spockgirl did. Adding a personal note, to say that your family is amazing can not begin to describe the honor that it is to witness first hand. Jill, you specifically have forever changed the kind of mother that I will be. Thank you.
    Thank you all for loving each other so completely. Thank you for raising Will so that he could become a part of our family and our hearts in such a profound way. Will, you are a brother to Rob, and in turn a brother to me. It is an honor to be such.
    I hope that you all have a blessed weekend. Enjoy each other. Take care of each other.

    With much love and undaunted prayer,

  3. I will be running a 5k for Billy and all our wounded warriors tomorrow at 8:30am in Norwood Ma. I will donate $100.00 to the Wounded Warrior Project in Billy's name. and I will continue to pray for Billy, all the health care workers caring for Billy, and his Family. Keep up the good fight! Sue Ruggiero

  4. Your Major is a blessing to you, to Billy, to the Army and to our Country. Thank you for sharing this. In addition to the prayer requests you made, I'm including prayer to sustain Maj. Smith.


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