Have you ever experienced the moment where two totally separate segments of your life collide?
Sept. 20 provided one of those moments, when U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) presented my husband Matt his Army Combat Action Badge (C.A.B.).
In early 2003, my now-husband and I were mobilized as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Our year in Iraq was otherworldly and life-altering, possibly best described as a tragic comedy. We experienced incredible highs and heart-wrenching lows, the thrill of adventure, incredible exhaustion, intense beauty, endless irony and the inescapable gruesomeness and brutality of war.
During our year, we arguably had a few “C.A.B.-worthy” experiences. However, Matt received his badge as a result of a particularly close tangle with a rocket-propelled grenade while working in Fallujah.
As most folks who have served in the armed forces can attest, personnel record keeping isn’t a strength of the Department of Defense. I still remember my drill sergeants stressing the need to maintain your own records—so that you could go back and augment as necessary. Almost a decade later, after numerous unproductive interactions with the Army and the Veteran’s Administration, Moran’s office intervened to facilitate the correcting of Matt’s service record and the pinning of his C.A.B.
The day was fun!
Our three girls and I got dressed up and proudly escorted “daddy” to the Rayburn House Office Building, where Moran has his office. The staff were incredible, especially Gayle Reuter, who we instantly recognized from the neighborhood.
Thankfully, Congressman Moran is incredibly child friendly.
My kids did everything in their power to be good, but let’s be real: With books and knickknacks and stacks of important paperwork, they were itching to climb and explore. We finally did snap one photo of everyone looking at the camera with no fingers in noses or chattering in progress. However, at one point Moran suggested that we (including himself) might each hold a kid.
What a picture that would have been. I kind of wish I had taken him up on the offer.
Upon exit, Moran asked if there was any candy to give the girls. The response: no sir, only peanuts and tomatoes. Although we initially declined the offer, we joked that our 2-year-old adored tomatoes. Moments later, Gayle came around the corner with a big bowl of juicy little tomatoes from the Del Ray Farmers' Market. My 2-year-old gleefully grabbed two and shoved them in her mouth, squirting a few seeds out as she smiled.
Although they are young, it was important to us that the girls were a part of the ceremony. In that moment, they became a part of a story that started long before they were born. It's a story that greatly shaped their parents, and therefore them.
As I reflect on Matt’s C.A.B. and the events that led to it, I feel incredibly lucky. If that day had gone differently, there would have been no beautiful wedding four years later or three adorable little girls now clamoring for our attention. I look at the memorial bracelet that I wear to remember our fallen colleague SPC Lunsford Brown, a dear friend. The date strikes me, as I realize that Matt was pinned on the anniversary of Lunsford’s death.
To Lunsford and the family he never returned home to, you will never be forgotten.
For Matt and the family we have created, I will forever be thankful.