Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Memory of Melissa Valles

I've hesitated for many months to write this post. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I did not want to write something about someone with whom I'd never met or nor have a connection. I can't even remember how I first learned about The Mother's Day Project almost a year ago. Participants agreed to embroider the name of a woman who had lost her life in the war in Iraq and return them to the designer who would stitch them into a fitting memorial. The concept seemed simple enough. A few weeks after registering, I received a little piece of mostly naked fabric save for the name "Melissa Valles".


What was I thinking? I hadn't embroidered since college and wondered if I could do her memory justice. I meditated long and hard on that fabric before, during and after I finished the simple stitches in a lovely variegated metallic thread. And then I mailed it off, thinking that her name would become a faded memory. But here as another Mother's Day has passed and Memorial Day fast approaches, the name Melissa Valles still floats around in my head and weighs heavy on my heart.

On July 9, 2003, Army Sargeant Melissa Valles was the second woman to die in the Iraq war. She was only 26 years old. At 26, I had just given birth to Thing 2 and our family was finally complete. It saddens me that Melissa never had that opportunity. One of the hardest things to read about her was that her family was stunned to get the news about her death because they believed that "the war was over". Though her death was ruled accidental, her family is still trying to get more information on exactly what happened. I am eternally grateful and humbled by her sacrifice for our country.

I'm no stranger to military life. My dad was career Navy and was at sea on 3, 6, 9 and even 12 month cruises most of my childhood. Memorial Day on a military base and in a military church is a very different observance than in the civilian world. Most in attendance have either lost friends and family to war, are serving in the military, are retired from the military or are military families or friends. But growing up with the military doesn't make it any easier to accept or even begin to comprehend the concept of war. My brother's army reserve unit was activated over two years ago and I pray regularly they they won't be stationed in the Middle East. I'm a nervous wreck that in a few months Thing 1 will have to register with selective service. What if he's called into service? How does a mother prepare for something like that? How did Melissa's mother handle the news when her daughter enlisted in the army? From what I've read, she's still devastated by her death.

During the oddest times, I find myself saying her name out loud. I think its because I don't want to forget it. Ever. I can't help but look into her eyes and see pride. I don't know why, they just speak to me. I will be personally thanking Melissa, her family and the many thousands of military men and women who have died for this country this Memorial Day. And no matter how I feel about war, I will remember that freedom truly isn't free.


Pam! said...

All I can say is "Amen!" ... a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

you do her great honor. what a heart you have...

KnitNana said...

I'm humbled by your words - and will keep ALL the Melissa Valles in my heart this weekend (male & female!).

saha said...

No, one never really can emotionally prepare for the registration of their child for the service. Because of the draft, lost most of my male relatives in Vietnam, and it fell anyway; such folly.

Worse now, is the STOP/LOSS part of the enlistment contract. This is why we must support an anti-war candidate.

And yes, freedom isn't free. Free to do what? Our willingness to give up our rights, over the illusion of terrorism has made it possible to turn the clock back.

sahara said...

Whoops, it's me, sahara. War is not necessary––look at countries in The Netherlands––especially an economic one over oil. It's drained our budget, killed thousands, and where are we? History has proven TIME and AGAIN, from Sparta to Vietnam, that the fall of a society starts with bankruptcy due to protracted wars.

Leslie Shelor said...

This is a beautiful tribute, in honor of a fine soul, from a beautiful heart!