"Mom, don't cry. I'll be fine." He patted my head as he often did since he was 6'S' and towered over me. "Any-way, we're in peacetime. I'll be safe."

 

I felt like I was sinking in quicksand. Safe? I prayed he was right. When he left for boot camp in Ft. Jack-son, North Carolina in January of 2001, I couldn't stop crying as we said goodbye at the airport in Butte. I was living in Silver Star at the time and I went home to a silent house.

I went to Texas to see him off and we spent three days together. He showed me his "gear"... the bulletproof vest weighed at least 20 pounds? He proudly held up his M16-A2 rifle. I had never held a gun in my hand; guns made me nervous.

In July of 1991, something happened that completely changed my life. I had been tired for a couple of months, constantly feeling nauseous, my glands hurt and although I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. One day, while driving, I almost fell I asleep and I had to pull over to the side of the road. It happened to be time for my 20-year high school reunion in Davenport, Iowa, my hometown. I was determined to go, even though it was an effort to pack.