The day my life changed forever started like any other.
Six o’clock the alarm goes off and I begin to round up the kids to get ready for school. It is a Friday so everyone is more than willing to hop out of bed and into the shower. Apparently Friday is perpetual fun day at school. The kids are being sweet, saying their goodbyes with a kiss and a hug, which has become somewhat rare since Mom has lost the ability to be “cool”. Everyone is gone and like clockwork I go to the computer. This has been my main form of communication with my husband for some months now. I log into messenger and he has changed his screen name as he does on a regular basis. Today it reads “Out picking a fight”. It is mid afternoon now in Iraq and last night we discussed at length the mission that was to be executed that day. They would be done by three, he assured me. Not to worry. Everything was going to be routine. It is just another in the long line of hurry up and wait missions. Besides, he was in a Bradley. What was there to worry about? Those things are covered in armor. Ok no big deal. He is signed in still, but idle for several hours. Maybe he decided to stop off at the wash rack with his soldiers before he came back to his room. There is nothing to fret over. There is still time to sleep before I have to get up and go to class. An extra hour or so will not hurt. The sound must be turned up though. If he sends me a nudge it has to be loud enough to wake me. I drift off into a restless sleep. I am trying not to miss him when he gets to his cpu. The phone is right beside my head. He might call while he is out and about on the FOB. Hours begin to pass. It is time to get ready for my day and still no word. I call my girlfriend, worried that I had forgotten to pay the bill and my phone was shut off. Usually I hear something by now. The phone is working. Strange. Maybe he is mad at me about something and just does not want to talk. It would not be the first time I unknowingly pissed him off. I will just send a quick message. Something cute that will make him smile when he reads it. “Out picking a fight”, huh? I respond with “I hope you’re winning!”. This is so strange. I always hear something by now. Wait. Is that the doorbell? My roommate yells that she has got it. I door opens and I hear a woman’s voice politely ask for the wife of Staff Sergeant Alan Wayne Shaw. Why would anyone ask for me by that title? I am his wife, but normally I am called Mrs. Shaw. Not uncommon since my mother gave me one of those names that most are scared to attempt to pronounce. I walk from my bedroom toward the front door. Like a record that has been slowed down I hear myself ask who was there for me. Kat steps aside in the doorway to reveal two soldiers, one male and one female, standing on the porch. From across the room I can see that one of them has a cross on his cover. Why is a Chaplain here to see me? I did not ask to speak with the chaplain. I am dealing with this deployment fairly well, besides, they do not make house calls. It hits me as I begin to step into the entry way. This was a formal visit. Two soldiers in Class A’s sent by the Department of the Army to convey bad news. No, I did not ask for a chaplain, but if the Army felt like I needed one this could not be good. I stop, knowing what they are here to tell me. I do not want to hear it. I can read it on their faces. Alan is gone. That is why I have not heard from him all morning. I turn around. I am going back to bed. I will wake up and those two will not be there. Ok so I miss class. I was not feeling well anyway. My roommate stops me and guides me back toward the door. The polite thing to do would be to invite them. I cannot believe I have just let them wait on the stoop like that. How un-southern of me! “Please come in”, I say. “Have a seat; can I get you something to drink?” This is not normal behavior. They did not smile back when I greeted them. I am asked to please sit down. They need to speak with me about my husband. “Are you sure I can’t get you something to drink?” I ask. The answer is no.
“On behalf of the Army and the United States of America we would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences.”