Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dover Where?

My parents drove me to West Florida to meet up with Jalfred's mom and sister to travel with them to Dover. I didn't want to travel by myself anymore. During the drive down, I laid my head in my mom's lap the whole time while my dad drove. One of the most comforting things to me is for my hair to be played with...it puts me right to sleep.
We finally arrived. The last time I had been at Jalfred's mom's house was when Jalfred was alive. I went there for Thanksgiving. I remember having a wonderful time, but Jalfred was missing. He would call us all as often as he could on Thanksgiving. He wanted to be with us all so badly. I told him how this was the last thanksgiving we would be apart. Who knew that it was the last thanksgiving of his life- spent in Afghanistan.

I realized during the flight to Dover, that I actually had no idea where Dover was. I didn't really care. I still had no concept of the date at this point. I just had to do what we had to do. In a sick way, I was excited to "see" Jalfred. Isn't that sad? I just wanted to be near him so badly, in any way that I could. I was sick of being far from him during deployment and now I was facing being far from him, forever.

I remember getting onto the plane with Jalfred's mom and sister. There was a young man in uniform sitting in the row behind me. He asked if I was married to someone in the military as he looked at the dog tags around my neck and the ring on my finger. I didn't know what exactly to say at first, so I said the whole story. I liked talking about Jalfred to perfectly good strangers. It's funny how they seem to care more than certain people who actually know you. After the plane landed, the rest of the family and I stepped off. I saw the soldier walk away as well, and then he stopped, looked back at our sad faces, and came to give us all hugs. Jalfred's story was beginning to touch so many hearts already. It had only begun. 
During the drive from the airport to Dover, I can recall just staring out of the window. I looked at all the houses. I was so jealous. I want a house. I want a house with my bear. It's not fair. I also would drift into thought about me and Jalfred planning out our future and how we wanted our house to be. I still felt he was alive somehow. I still clung to all that we had planned.

We arrived in Dover, come to find out, it's in Delaware. It's an Airforce base. All bodies returning home from war come through Dover. Let me tell you one thing, there are more soldiers actually dying over there than what they tell you...We arrived at another Fisher House. This one was very nice, like a fancy hotel, but with a full kitchen. None of us had any appetite still. This Fisher House wasn't as homey as the one in Germany, but it was very nice. We were greeted by several people. I forget who most of them were, but they were all so wonderful. I felt like they actually cared, not only about us, but about Jalfred too. Every where we went, we showed people Jalfred's picture. He wasn't just a number or a name...we would make certain of that.

We met up with the Army chaplain there. Turned out he was Seventh Day Adventist, just like us. They gave us prayer shaws specially made for families of the fallen. They talked with us, listened to us, and made us feel very welcome in a very unwelcoming situation. We also met another family. They were welcoming home their 21 year old daughter. She was shot in the head just like Jalfred. The only difference was, she died instantly. They didn't even get to say goodbye to a warm body like we did. We shared with them and vice versa. They knew exactly what we were going through. I was so sorry for them too.
What they call the Dignified Transfer is a special and symbolic ceremony of the transfer of a fallen soldier's body from foreign war, back home into the United States. Dignified it was.

We dressed in full black. I wore the same dress that I would wear to my hunny's funeral. The family and I walked into a room where there was about ten soldiers all standing at attention for us. It was powerful, moving. They briefed us on safety and how difficult it would be to see. Again, difficult it was, they were very right.

We rode a suri, which is a shuttle type bus with seats all facing each other to the air strip. As soon as we turned around the corner, I saw Jalfred. He was high in the air on a platform...in a flag-draped casket. From afar all I could see was red white and blue in a rectangular shape. I lost it. We got nearer and nearer and it got a little realer and realer. NO. He could not be in there. No, it's not possible. Not my baby. They made a mistake. I sobbed. Jalfred's mother and I stepped out of the suri and held each other tightly, watching the platform lower to the ground, holding our world.
I kept thinking of my baby and how he looked inside...the casket. Horrible images flashing through my mind. Imagine for one second, God forbid, welcoming your loved one home like this...in there. I watched as the soldiers respectfully carried my man from the platform of the plane to the white truck. It felt like a dream. My mind couldn't take it anymore. I cried so hard, so very hard. It was a gloomy day, however, Jalfred's mother noticed something most did not. During Jalfred's transfer, the sun shown through the clouds. There was sunshine on our baby, and when he went away, so did the sun.
I'll never forget this white truck driving away into the distance. Carrying all my love with it. Carrying Jalfred.

(These pictures weren't of Jalfred's transfer, they're just to give you an idea of what I saw)

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