A Mother’s Message After Her Son’s Injury in Iraq

I hope that you will share this with all the moms out there. We
at times want nothing more than to smother our children with hugs
and kisses and at other times we ask ourselves, why?
I hope that you will share this with all the moms out there. We at times want nothing more than to smother our children with hugs and kisses and at other times we ask ourselves, why? No matter what, we love our children with all our being and will always be their protector. Sometimes a mother’s journey is smooth sailing and other times it’s not. But we forge on cuz we are the MOM!

As Mother’s Day approaches, I would like to share with all the “moms” out there an e-mail that I received from my dear friend, Marcia, on the anniversary of her son’s traumatic injuries in Iraq. On the morning of April 20, 2005, I and my four sorority sisters were preparing to leave for New York to celebrate our 50th birthdays when the phone rang at 5am. I thought that Marcia was making sure that we were up and ready to leave for the airport. Much planning had gone into this trip and we were ready for eating, drinking, and shopping our way through New York! Well, it was not Marcia on the phone, but rather Betsy calling to say that she had just received word that Marcia’s son Brandon had been wounded in Iraq. Instantly, our fun-filled trip to New York was forgotten and all we wanted to do was be with Marcia. Within an hour all the months of planning were canceled and we were driving to Woodland to be by our best friend’s side to offer support for what was to be the unknown for hours.

It is one year later. Here is Marcia’s letter:

“There are many dates that we recall throughout our lives; anniversaries, birthdays, deaths, and births to name a few. In a soldier’s life the anniversary of their incident is forever imbedded in memory. They refer to it as their Alive Day. They know it as well as their birthday. I suppose it is a type of birth or rebirth of sorts. They certainly have lived through a trauma that most of us cannot even imagine; many have lived against all odds. For that reason alone we should celebrate. In fact, tonight, Brandon is hosting a small dinner for those nearest and dearest friends, fellow soldiers, peer visitors and two of the physical therapists.

“So why do I also grieve as this date greets me? Maybe I know that a part of my son is lost to me forever and I do not speak of his leg. As Brandon has said to me on a few occasions, “If I had just lost a leg this would have been easy.” The stroke is rearing its head and will give Brandon the most challenges. Because of the locations of the lesions within the brain he shows the following: poor short term memory, mood swings, weak cause and effect, and poor concentration. lt is evident that he is not aware of many of these symptoms and gets angry when we try to discuss them in order to give him compensatory tools. His seizures can just as easily be attributed to the head trauma as it can to the low magnesium. This area is under control. Though his numbers are still in the low range they are stable so the BI weekly shots and magnesium supplements are helping.

“I knew the minute he told me that he was going to Iraq he would return a different person. How does one not? When I walked through the door of the ICU there was a second realization that there were yet other pieces of my son that would never be the same. I would have to get to know him all over again; our relationship would find new territories, we would have to learn to dance a new dance. This new dance is still being learned one year later and on many a toe has been stepped.

“I cry more now than I did throughout this entire year. I find myself dissociated (my doing) from friends and life as I knew it. Who can I share with? Who will truly understand? Who will comprehend that the doorbell or the phone sets my nerve endings afire? Who can fathom that the sound of silence is ideal? Who would be able to comprehend that my trip to Tacoma, Washington to meet some of Brandon’s unit would bring such joy and relief? I needed to see them, to touch them and to listen to them.

When Brandon was kidnapped (at three months old) 23 1/2 years ago, I got to a place where I had to sit down with the sheriff who for all intent and purposes saved Brandon’s life. I had to listen to the audio; I had to hear him tell his story. I had to hear what I already knew, what I only presumed and I learned new things about that event as well. I should not have waited so long to do this as I have always been a person that wants to know as much as I can or I tend to make suppositions, which, as we all know, create havoc. So this time around I am trying to learn and realize as much as I can as early as I can in order to gain power to push forward, power to heal, power to open new doors and power to let my son go once again.

I had a dear friend who also happened to be the kindergarten teacher for both of my boys tell me once that being a parent is the hardest job any of us will ever have and the one for which we are least trained. I have remembered this statement for 18 years and have since passed it on to many a young parent. Who can ever prepare for events such as Brandon’s. I tried!

From the moment Brandon left for Iraq I braced myself for the worst; never wanting to be caught off guard. I believed that if I were as prepared in the event that he was injured or killed I would be able to stay standing and do what had to be done. Take it from me, steeling myself did nothing other than permanently affixing my shoulders to my ears. I am so thankful that there was a team of us back at Walter Reed those first few weeks. This allowed us to always have someone with Brandon which he requested 24/7. He didn’t sleep the first few weeks and became panicked and manic. Loud noises would make him hyper-vigilant and the silence would do the same.

Two vivid memories stand out in those first few months; one was the first time we took Brandon outside and the first thing he noticed was the smell of the grass and the other one that can make me smile at anytime is of Adam (younger brother, age 21) riding in the hallways in the electric wheel chair and Brandon alongside learning to walk with his C-leg both grinning at each other. Prepared? How could one EVER be prepared for such a moment?

My wish would be for each of you to be able to spend a day observing these men and women in their various therapies. At first the sight is overwhelming but as you step back and watch you cannot help but be impressed, awed, humbled, hopeful, and like me, I believe you would walk away feeling inspired and energized.

The number of individuals and organizations in the D.C. area that offer services to the soldiers and families is staggering. From concert tickets, ball games, tours, clothing, air flights, to free usage of rental cars (to name a few), the aid is widespread and appreciated.

We hope Brandon will be home by summer. He has started his paper work for his Medical Boards. They review the docs summaries and determine the amount of disability he will receive. He did have another seizure this past week and was taken to the hospital. I do wish that they could do an MRI but with the shrapnel in his body that is not possible. His future plans are uncertain at the moment but time is on his side.

This year has been a time warp to say the least. The good news is that I don’t recall having another birthday so I can stay 50 for another year!

Thank you for letting me enter your lives in such an unpredictable fashion. You have give me an outlet that afforded me the ability to share all of the events and the subsequent emotions. I will be forever grateful to you for walking this journey with me.

To all you moms out there, remember, when we have those tough mom days, stop for a moment and realize how lucky we are and how smooth OUR journeys have really been. Hug that rascal, big or small!

Happy Mother’s Day.

Gloria Pollock is a long time Gilroy resident and volunteer. Anyone interested in submitting a guest column may contact Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]