Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Post-9/11: Mom of slain soldier writes President Bush....

How do military families who have lost a loved one feel about the War? Most will tell you they believe the President should stay the course because their loved ones would have died in vain if we pull out of Iraq without finishing the job.

Our troops are special - they get it. They are fighting Muslim terrorists over there instead of encountering them over here.

Rhonda Winfield's son, Lance Cpl. Jason Redifer, 19, USMC, was killed in Iraq on 31 Janurary 2005. She has written a book about her son, "When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home: A Mother's Story of the Price of Freedom" that details her journey beginning with Jason's enlistment and going through the one-year anniversary of his death.

Here is a letter Rhonda wrote to President George W. Bush just one day after burying her son in Arlington Cemetery ... a letter written while watching the 2005 State of the Union Address.

February 09, 2005

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am sending you this letter as a card of thanks. You were my son's Commander In Chief as well as his President. I am the mother of Lance Corporal Jason C. Redifer, USMC, who died on January 31, 2005 in the Babil Province of Iraq as a result of an IED explosion that ripped through the Humvee that he was in.

Jason was scheduled to return from his tour of duty in Iraq just nine days after the accident that claimed his life. He had just departed on his final mission and was killed only two hours after speaking with me on the phone. He was but a new nineteen years old, yet an old soul in many ways.

Like so many of those serving their country, Jason was the embodiment of patriotism and honor. The horrific attack on our country on Septembver 11, 2001 cast his future and he left for Parris Island just three days after graduation from high school at only seventeen years of age. He believed, as you do, that this is a war of necessity and absolutely needs to be addressed on their soil, not ours.

Jason went to Iraq with the ideal of defending our freedoms even though many of his fellow countrymen exercised theirs by condemning what he did. Once there, he immediately grasped the importance of being part of the vast effort to liberate the Iraqi people and bring them a semblance of the democracy we enjoy. This filled him with as much purpose and importance as what he had originally viewed as his mission to keep terrorism from the doorstep of his brothers.

Jason lived only long enough to know that the elections were deemed a success and to feel the relief that the numbers of voters were greater than anticipated and the number of casualties far less. He had many concerns that the battles waged and the lives given may not be enough to insure the liberation that we have all prayed for. He knew that the final verdict of success would rest as a tally in a record of history. He knew for the meantime, however, that to fight the battle against tyranny and to march ahead under the banner of freedom was work that God himself had commissioned.

While I was lost in my grief and struggling to continue forth with the mundane details that these times require of the surviving loved ones, I heard your voice call to me. You had come into my living room and were standing among my family. You were delivering The State of the Union Address, but that was only the venue you used to chat with me. You reminded me of the pride of country and love of life that filled my son. I was able to look into the eyes of the man he so deeply respected and I knew exactly why he was so proud to deploy and fight on your orders. I knew, as he did, that the loss of but one life was too many and that your decision was not one that you made without the heavy weight of human cost.

You steadied my trembling being and cradled my breaking heart delicately in your mightly hands. You lifted my chin and my gave was held by someone who felt the loss of our troops and the grief of their families. You implored us, even without words, not to break ranks but to continue to hold strong our bond of determination to end terrorism so our children, and their children, may someday sleep in peace throughout the world.

You brought with you friends. I swelled with pride at the young Iraqi woman who was born into a life of oppression as were those born before her. She told me that on Monday, she opened her eyes to see the faint light of hope for the first time in her life. She showed me her fingers that were stained with the blood of my son. That vote reminds us all that my child did not die in vain! [my emphasis]

You also introduced me to another family who, like us, had let go of their son's hand to send him away to pay the ultimate price for our beliefs. Their tears mingled with mine and their warmth filled my very soul. Their pride, their anguish, was mine and ultimately, their unwavering support of their President shone like mine all around us.

When that chamber filled with people erupting in applause time and time again, I felt a peace engulf me that has sustained me throughout the days since.

We laid my son, America's son, to rest in Arlington National Cemetery yesterday and committed him to a piece of hallowed ground reserved for the celebration of the values and beliefs that the rest of us could only aspire to hold so dearly. He shared your vision, honored your courage, and proudly fought on your command. He also prayed every night that God would grant you the strength and wisdom to make the decisions that only you can make.

We share your vision, honor your courage and offer the same prayers for you, your family and all those who advise you. You reminded me of all of those things during your visit to my home. It is with that great gift that I humbly say thank you and may God Bless the United States of America.


Rhonda L. Winfield

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