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September 30, 2006

A Mother's Dreams

“He was a sophomore when those planes hit the towers,” Legere said, “and I can remember him saying to me, ‘We have to be able to do something for this country.’ So, Jared was one of 10 kids out of that (’04) class who went into the military. They made a pact. They were all going to come home, move to Boston and get themselves on the fire and police departments. That was his dream. That . . . and looking for a Chevelle SS he could rebuild.”

Ten days ago and half a world away in a part of Iraq called Taji, I dthose dreams perished when an improvised explosive device went off beneath the tank Army Spc. Jared Raymond was driving for the 66th Armored Regiment.

Yesterday, David Legere stood watch over the sound system. He made sure hundreds of neighbors gathered in the street heard every word of the Rev. Robert Reed’s homily, one that movingly celebrated the life of “a humble kid, a proud kid. . . . a genuine American hero who showed us what it truly means to be fully human by following Christ and being willing to lay down his life for us. . . . his friends.”

This was how my week ended, watching Peter Gelzinis recount, in words and pictures, how an entire town paused in its labors for a moment to honor a fallen hero.

I did not want to read Mr. Gelzinis' piece when Jules Crittenden sent it to me, but I knew I should. Oddly for me, there is nothing I can add to his account. It's a must read. This was a long, and a strange, week. It began with another email I did not want to read:


Timothy E. Foshay returned home last month, eager to reconnect with friends and family after four years in the U.S. Marine Corps that included three tours in Iraq.

He was preparing for English courses at the University of Maine at Augusta, and had just found a new apartment to live in, said Timothy's mother, Ann Foshay.

"He hadn't even gotten a chance to move in yet," she said.

Foshay, 22, died Wednesday night after losing control of his 1995 Acura. Police say he was speeding when his car overturned and rolled into some trees and rocks on Holman Day Road in Vassalboro. Foshay, who was ejected from his car, was dead by the time police arrived, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety

Ann Foshay said that her son -- enrolled at UMA as an English major -- got out of the Marines on early release so he could attend school. At the time of his discharge, he was a corporal serving with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

tim2.jpgWhat you may not know about this young man is that he served with JHD's son. I got this photo of him from JHD:

I was searching back through the archives and ran across this picture of Foshay. I do not remember if this was before or after the 1st Battle of Fallujah but it was definitely during OIF2. Fair Winds and Following Seas Corporal of Marines! - JHD

There was a new presence on the roads near Mahmudiyah recently. Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment to help protect the roads and bridges to keep supply lines open. Here an M-1A1 Abrams tank crew posts security on the supply route.

(Then) Lance Cpl. Timothy E. Foshay, a rifleman with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, provides security for his vehicle during a patrol recently. He wasn't alone this time, though. Close by was a 70-ton, M-1A1 Abrams tank. Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division attached to the task force recently to help provide security to the nearby supply route. The tanks are a welcome sight to the Marines who appreciate the psychological and tactical impact the tanks have on enemy forces

How does one make sense of something like this - surviving three combat tours in Iraq only to have death find you on a lonely road in New England? It seems supremely ironic; an appointment in Samarra moment for the ages. The bitterness was heightened for me by having recently sent a co-worker an article comparing the risks of serving in Iraq versus being in any major US city. Her daughter, a young Marine officer, just went over for her first 7 month hitch and she is enduring the anxiety common to all parents who have childen (though they are not children really) serving over there.

Our office sent a care package of sorts, and in return we got a photo of her daughter, taken over there. She is so very lovely, even in camouflage utilities and no make-up: slender, dark, enormous eyes. Her Dad was a Marine in Viet Nam and so she is following in her father's footsteps, a role that in an earlier age would have been reserved for the son of the family. They must be so tremedously proud of her.

And so very, very frightened.

Today is my son's birthday. My oldest boy. And I can't help thinking of all these mothers, and about their hopes and dreams for their children; because from the moment we feel that first, faint stirring of life within us we do dream of, and for our children. I remember being pregnant with my firstborn, the one born on this day. In my dreams, I saw him always with red hair (which was odd since my husband and I, along with both our parents, have dark brown locks). Sure enough he was born with bright red hair. I knew he would be, just as I knew he would chatter faster than a little squirrel. In my dreams he was always talking or singing, and he began talking at eight months. He hasn't shut up since.

There is an odd connection formed at the moment of conception, an invisible thread that stretches from mother to child. It never does quite manage to break entirely, even when that umbilical cord is severed after delivery.

When my babies were tiny, I always woke just a few minutes before they began fussing to be fed (though they never did manage to be on any set schedule at night). It was uncanny. And they had an unbelievable ability to wake me up just at that moment when I had finally dropping off to sleep at night - it was as though they sensed my guard was down and it was safe to pounce. I still, from time to time, will get odd feelings when either of my sons is under some strong emotion. It's not as strong as it used to be when they were small, but it has never gone away entirely. And I can't explain it. It just "is". Even after all these years, it is hard to step back and say, "They are adults now. Let them be. They will call you if they need to talk." But I am a private person so I try to give them enough space to breathe in.

And so I wonder, what happens when your child goes off to war? Do you sense, from half a world away, when they are frightened? Weary? Homesick?

I try not to worry about my oldest son, a police officer. I can't afford to. But there are times that I do wonder: will I somehow know if the worst ever happens to him? Or will the bad news just come out of clear blue sky, as though it were just another news story about some stranger I had never met, had no connection to?

And what happens when the dream dies? For a mother, a child represents not only love but in many ways her life's work. Children are our ideals made flesh. We pour everything we believe and everything we are into our sons and daughters, and to lose a child is to lose a part of ourselves. Not just a real person whom we loved more than life itself, but our gift to the world, to the future. A chance to make tomorrow better than today.

Gone. Vanished, without a trace.

Lcpl. Foshay and Spc. Raymond died trying to do a great thing. Many years will undoubtedly pass before we see whether it will be successful or not, but the attempt is no less honorable, no less glorious. I do not know what kind of tribute was given Lance Corporal Timothy Foshay; whether it was a fancy one like Spc. Raymond's, or a more quiet one, as would befit his quiet nature.

I am not sure it matters in the end.

I do know that this week, four or five people who never knew Lcpl. Foshay spent several moments in solemn silence, and more than a few tears were shed on his behalf. It was, in its way, a tribute and a sendoff of sorts, no less heartfelt for all that it took place in private and with no fanfare. How often does this sort of thing happen in the Internet age? Connections form between people who never would have known each other, never would have touched, before? Yet now they come together to acknowledge a debt owed, to grieve, and to remember.

So many dreams, for so many children. Jaclyn Raymond's, Ann Foshay's. My co-worker, I know, dreams of her daughter every night and prays for her safe return. Some of those dreams can now never come true, can never have a happy ending, and in the lonely watches of the night the countless tiny fears of childhood - scraped knees, bicycle accidents, the eponymous "stranger danger" we are warned about on TV and in newspapers - has been replaced by a far worse reality than any of us can imagine. The horrible reality of losing a child. But for others - Deb, JHD - three combat tours and innumerable sleepless nights have finally led to another reality: a third blessed touchdown on American soil and a less painful homecoming.

The beginning of a new chapter. For you see, the week ended on a happy note because Shane, Deb Conrad's son, is finally safe home. So that is one silver lining, one mother's dream that did manage to come true after all.

We want so many things for our children. We give them everything we have, and we send them forth into the world to do great things. On my wall there is a verse given to me on the occasion of the birth of my oldest son. It is a reminder that though we may love our offspring, we do not control their destiny:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is strong and secure.

The arc of these young men may not have been long, but they soared high above the places ordinary men inhabit. I pray that will be a comfort, and a source of pride, to the mothers who raised them.

We owe the mothers of America a great debt, for as much as anything else, it is their dreams which fight on our behalf, half a world away.

May it ever be so.

Posted by Cassandra at September 30, 2006 08:43 AM


To this day I remember the look of pained pride and worry on my Mom's face 40 years ago when she took me to the airport for my tour of duty!

Just before I walked out of sight onto the plane I looked back! It was the most sobering moment of my life in the relationship between a Mother and son!

Duty, Honor, Country!

Those three words provided her and my Father a measure of comfort each day until I returned.

The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to behold!

Posted by: vet66 at September 30, 2006 10:45 AM

Beatiful, Cassie! Of course, it could never be less...

In all my involvement with the military recently, I've never had the direct pain of losing someone I had a personal association with. But my heart aches in deepest sympathy.

And now I find there is another layer of understanding for me. At the USO most of the people who come through are exactly the age of men like this Corporal. When they walk into the USO I find I can feel in the air whether they are veterans or not. I feel the difference between the youngster just passing through and the polished and confident 25-year-old who has "been there, done that." I feel their souls... so different than the two civilian punks who tried to talk their way into the USO last week. They almost smell different. Their responses to the people and assistance they encounter at the USO, the boy-next-door ease combined with the purposefulness of people who know what they're doing--with an edge of anxiety and a dollop of fierceness for living. And I feel that razor edge of "the need for speed," as so many of them come back a day early in order to spend a night on the town. And I worry...

I know these men, though we've never met. I feel the life and power in them and mourn that they are what the ones who come back in caskets once were and just as prone to the ravages of bomb and bullet as those currently ensconced in military medical centers and VA hospitals... I know that the difference between them and others is often just luck.

And I know that one of these amazing young men racing his car around a curve and flipping it after 3 tours in Irag is just as much a casualty of war as the brother who fell beside him on the frontlines.

I know what has been lost and I mourn for his family... and for the knowledge that there's a hole in our fabric where once there was a vibrant and powerful life-spark. Just like the ones I see everyday now...

Posted by: FbL at September 30, 2006 11:47 AM

Nice piece; I've told you before that you've got a way with words.

FWIW, I think I've made my mother proud...

Posted by: camojack at September 30, 2006 11:50 AM

I know about that bond...and it is there even after death. I have a relative who is in the military and his mother is so very scared...and
yet, the difference between dying in a wreck and being KIA is one of knowledge.

These young people go and serve, knowing that death is part of the price of service, but they go anyway, because what we stand to lose is the ultimate gift: Freedom, and they are the guardians of it now.

Sorry...I have some wetness issues right now.

Posted by: Cricket at September 30, 2006 07:41 PM

It's certainly more than I can understand. Indeed, it's more than I want to.

I don't know why these things happen. I know something about what it's like to take the risks that lead to tragedies like these. There's all sorts of things to say about it, and I really do think that a lot of what goes into making a good man is a youth that takes risks. Those risks end up costing nothing to most, but to some they break the bank.

I can't explain it or excuse it. I just know it's how it is. What a sorrow.

I remember, though, being young and standing over the grave of my grandfather, and being filled with this absolute certainty: that, whatever lies in the next world, it would be better because he went there first. I trust in the truth of that, for all such men. Whatever the next world holds for us, it will be better for them. Nothing is wasted. I believe that.

Posted by: Grim at September 30, 2006 10:29 PM

My mom wated all girls she got four boys counting myself and one girl

Posted by: Dirty Bird at October 1, 2006 05:27 PM

I wanted one girl and one boy and got two boys. And I always knew I would have only two chances.

But in the real world, I found that it didn't make a bit of difference to me whether I got a boy or a girl. How can you not love a baby, whether it is a boy or a girl, when they put one in your arms?

The first time they lay that child into your arms and you look down into its eyes, you are hooked beyond any chance of recall. It doesn't matter that he looks like ET - to you he is the most beautiful thing on the face of the earth and you would kill anyone who tried to harm a hair on his fuzzy little head. I don't think there is a feeling on earth like that.

It changes you forever. You can never be the same, after. You just feel a fierce protectiveness and love that isn't like anything else on earth and there is nothing you wouldn't do for that tiny little life.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 1, 2006 05:35 PM

Beautiful post Cassie. I know how much it hurt you to write it but, in a way, it also helps does it not? Your beautiful tribute to two great young men lets the world know you care. Let's the world know about what special young folks we have in this country.

And they mattered!

Those are the most important things in the grand scheme of things, caring and knowing that what you do matters. Even if you do not directly realize it.

Timothy Foshay was so much like my son it almost borders on strange. Of course they are totally different body types and Foshay was a brain but their quietness and ability to stand under pressure are identical. Under fire everyone wanted to be where those two were. From so absolutely different backgrounds yet the same when it really matters. So quiet, reserved, confident, and dangerous. Sorry, I'm just waxing poetic I guess but we're gonna' miss him. Timothy Foshay was one hellova' Corporal of Marines!

Tough, beautiful, lovely post Cass! :-)

Posted by: JHD at October 1, 2006 09:10 PM

It isn't much.
I wish it could be more.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 1, 2006 09:16 PM

This was such a touching piece especially since the first soldier that you talked about is from my fiancee's unit, 1-66. Both of us are in Iraq. I sent a link to my mother because she worries everyday about both of us. I am the only one of her children serving in the Army, and she has told me time and again how proud she is. Thanks for putting in words what she feels everyday.

Posted by: Daina at October 2, 2006 04:05 AM

I am your son's Sergeant. I am his team leader, his squad leader, his platoon sergeant, his sergeant major.

You raised a fine young man, and fate saw fit to stir in him the desire to become more than he is. You birthed him, suckled him, and lavished your maternal love upon him. You taught him, worried for him, and, when he became a man, you shed a mother's tears as he stepped out into a dangerous world...

...And he found himself beneath my wing...

I have trained him in the arts of war. I have imparted the wisdom of my years of military experience. I have celebrated with him those times when duty required that he could not be back home with you. I have celebrated his birthday during a frigid patrol in West Berlin. I have admired pictures of his family in a fighting hole in a jungle on a Pacific Island. I have shared the bounty of the care package that you sent to him, munching on cookies on the hood of a jeep beside a rice paddy in Viet Nam.

I have yelled at him during a firefight, telling him that I was not willing to explain to you why I got him killed in some far away land. Once the battle was over, we laughed about that, and then I told him to sit down in a quiet place, and write to you.

In this place that is the Service, I am his father, his mother, his elder brother, and, sometimes, his Salvation.

I promise you that I will look after your son, your soldier, your sailor, your airman, your Marine, as if he were my own blood.

Should he fall, I will hold him, comfort him, and, should he pass on, I will kiss his brow, as a mother would, and weep for his loss.

He will not fall, however... He will listen to me, just like he listened to you, and the happiest day of my life will be when I dismiss him and his mates, and see him seek you out, and return to your arms after a job well done.


Your Son's Sergeant

Found in the Firebase Archives... Thought you'd like it.

Posted by: Sgt. B. at October 3, 2006 03:57 PM

Cass, fix the italics for the above post (it should all be italicized), would ya? I found it in the archives (I didn't write it)... But I'm gonna try to emulate it...

Posted by: Sgt. B. at October 3, 2006 04:07 PM

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