This has been a hard week. We started off with the 8th month anniversary of Joe’s death….then I had treatment at the cancer center here yesterday….today is Veterans Day and I am missing Joe something fierce today….then Sunday is his birthday. He would have been 28. So a hard week and I haven’t really done a stellar job of keeping it together. I did do one really on-the-fly photoshoot with my favorite daughter…but that is for a later post. That is the one thing that kept me sane this week.
For those of you who know me well, you know I come from a family of military service members. Rich’s family, too, has quite a lot of service members. In fact, all of our siblings on Rich’s side of the family and their significant others have served in the military. Many of our uncles served as well, either in Vietnam or as a career. Both my grandma and grandpa Neitzke served during WWII in the Navy and WAVS. Let’s just say there are a LOT of military in our family. Today, Joe would have called me and told his dad and me Happy Veterans Day. We would have said the same to him. Every year on this date, I would tell him how incredibly proud I was of him….that he decided to serve his country. He loved the guys he served with. Whether they were in Ft. Chaffee, Ft. Polk, deployed to Qatar, or assigned to St. Louis, MO during the riots (the most scared this mom has been for her soldier son…and it was right in our own country)….he loved the guys he was serving with and always made friends wherever he went. He was the one who would sit next to the O6 in the chow hall because “he puts on his pants just like me…one leg at a time, and I might learn something.” He would do crazy things while he was deployed like order this nasty fermented fish in a can and have a betting pool on who could stomach the smell and eat it. (he split the winnings by the way). The video of that whole incident is hysterical to watch. So many of his soldier friends have reached out to me over the past 8 months…and I appreciate it so much. I love to hear stories about Joe. He loved to push the envelope with military hair regulations. His hair was short on the sides and the back, but he used some kind of hair product to take that huge mop of curly ginger hair to flatten it down so it looked short. In reality, he looked like an alpaca and his bangs went down past his nose. Then there was that moustache. I hated that moustache and so did his CO. However, that added fuel to the fire to keep said moustache. So many of his buddies wore a Messina ‘stache for the first weekend drill after Joe’s death and for Joe’s Celebration of Life…including his dad. Through it all…through “all the suck” of the military, he still had that smile on his face. Through cold, wet nights and no showers for days,…when he decided to hunker down and sleep in a hole that was lined with poison ivy one night at drill….he was still smiling. When he got to shoot the biggest gun…and therefore had to carry it around everywhere…he still smiled,and told me it made the coolest sound. All fo this pride I have for Joe didn’t die with him; it is still here. I am still so very proud of him and I am missing him so very much. Here are a few Veterans Day photos for my Joe.