Looking at these photos makes me feel old. It's been six years and yet it seems like just a short time ago - January 25, 2003. From the day his unit was activated, we had one short week to come to the realization that our son was heading off to war. One week to get his affairs in order - Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament. On September 11, 2001, I knew in my soul that this day would come - but I was never prepared for the emotional toll it would take on all of our lives, and how I would come to lean on my family and friends more than ever. On this morning, all of the families met at the South Bend Armory to say "good-bye". TV stations were there, doing interviews.
Lots of photos were taken and lots of tears were shed. Our family did receive a short "reprieve". While most of the unit flew out on this day, the commanding officer and a select few remained behind for a few more days to make sure that all the heavy equipment was loaded correctly. This small group flew out on Monday morning. Chrissie had gone back to college and Kevin and Kelli had gone on to school (at Bobby's request). Bob and I, along with Carrie and Katie and Colleen went to the Armory on Monday morning to say "good-bye". Unlike Saturday - when it had been packed with news crews and families and Marines, on this morning, it was just us - two parents, three sisters and one soldier. I remember standing there for a few minutes, making small talk - no one wanting to make the first move. And then Bob pulled Bobby into his arms and hugged him. I remember all of us in one giant group hug, with tears flowing and prayers being said. And then he walked away.
I sat in my car and watched as the van pulled away to take him to the airport. I sat in my car and cried and then I got myself together and went to work and tried to keep my life as normal as possible for the next six months - until he walked back into our arms.