Sharing a heartfelt story told to me by a dear friend . . .
I have a military dog tag. I put it on a chain with 2 charms. One reads, “give peace a chance”, the other one is a “peace sign”. I truly believe we need more peace in our world. I have never been in the military so I really haven’t earned the dog tag, but I have paid my dues . . .
I found the dog tag in a storage box along with a few pieces of military clothing, a pair of boots . . . and some sand in the bottom. When I first put the necklace around my neck I wore it on the outside of my shirt. I was proud to wear it and I wanted others to notice it. A few people made comments about it. They liked it and thought it cool that I wore it, but they had no idea about its history . . .
Many people wear dog tags; the young especially. Maybe they are proud of the military and want to show their support. Or maybe they have a sibling who gave it to them. But mine is no ordinary dog tag. It’s special. It makes noise when I move about. I like the sound it makes; it comforts me. It reminds me of its owner all the time and I like that. I took the “give peace a chance” charm off. I decided the necklace needed to be simpler.
I no longer have the desire to share the necklace with anyone so I tuck it inside my shirt and it lies next to my heart. Once in a while, it falls out of my shirt when I lean over. If I am alone I will leave it out, but if anyone else is with me I tuck it back inside by my heart.
The proper time for me to display my dog tag has passed. It is no longer socially acceptable and possibly politically incorrect as well. For me to show it to you says, “I think you are a very special person in my life”. It means that I know I can trust you. My world has been turned upside down. Circumstances in my life have hardened me up a bit. I no longer immediately trust people. They have to earn my trust.
The storage box where I found the dog tag had been on a long journey. The box left California, then traveled to North Carolina, then back to California, and then to Iraq, where it picked up some sand, then back to California, over to Illinois and then to Wisconsin where it remains forever in my possession.
The true owner of the dog tag was a Marine; a very brave young man, who at the age of twenty, left home to serve his country. His name is Joey. He is my son. The reason I have the storage box is because the Marines sent it to me.
The Marines could send the box all over this country and see to it that it arrived safely to me, but they could not do the same for my son. They were unable to give me back my son. He would travel too, but arrive to me in a flag-draped coffin.
My Joey, who had a sweet, lovable, endearing spirit when he left home, died because he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by the trauma of war. My youngest, my baby, died by suicide because he could no longer live with the pain. And the powerful fighting-machine Marines were powerless to help him. My handsome Marine died October 10, 2009. That day, forever etched in my mind, we got the news that our son would never be coming home again. I would never again see his ear-to-ear smile, hear his musical laughter as he picked me up off the floor, squeezing me in a giant bear hug.
Now you understand why I wear the dog tag around my neck. I did not earn it in the usual fashion, but I’ve earned it as no mother should ever have to. As I said in the beginning . . . I believe I have paid my dues . . .
Love you Buddy Boy!
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4