9/11: A Soldier’s Story

In honor of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

If you’re reading this, and my mamma’s sitting there,
looks like I only got a one-way ticket over here.
I sure wish I could give you one more kiss—
and War
was just a game we played when we were kids.

Well I’m laying down my gun. I’m hanging up my boots.
I’m up here with God and we’re both watching over you.
Just remember this: I’m in a better place where soldiers live in peace
and angels sing “Amazing Grace.”

So lay me down in that open field out on the edge of town;
and know my soul is where my momma always prayed that it would go.
And if you’re reading this, if you’re reading this: I’m already home.

The above excerpt from the song, If You’re Reading This, by Tim McGraw, spotlights the sentiment echoed by the many loved ones who received letters like these from soldiers who didn’t make it home. Or received the knock on the door telling them their son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father made the ultimate sacrifice and died in combat.

In the Korean War, there were 33,686 casualties. In Vietnam, 58,209. Think about four of your friends. Each one represents over 1,000 families. Since in Iraq, over 4,000 brave men and women have died so that we may sit here and enjoy our freedom. Even though these most recent numbers are considerably less than those of previous wars, it by no means diminishes the pain and suffering of every family it touches. Families, friends, loved ones.

While there are literally thousands of stories to share, today I’m going to tell you a soldier’s story—the story of Staff Sergeant Timothy Vichko. This soldier, like so many of them, saw the Army as a way to clean up his act. He dropped out of high school, and later got his diploma. He really didn’t like having people tell him what to do, and certainly didn’t like taking orders, so what better place to go? The Army, of course! He enlisted in the Army, where, over the course of ten years, he quickly rose through the ranks to Staff Sergeant.

In late August of 2001, he flew out of Boston’s Logan Airport heading toward the West Coast on his way to a one-year tour in Korea. Two weeks later, another plane left that very same airport, and we all know their final destination: New York City. I mention 9/11 to set the scene and give context, because when Staff Sergeant Vichko left the States, he left behind his wife, who was six months pregnant with their first child.

Have you ever accepted a job where you would have to travel? Would you take that job knowing you’d be away from home for 15 months or more at a time? Away from your family! Our soldiers do . . . Staff Sergeant Vichko did. And continues to do it.

He missed the birth of his daughter, because he was serving a year-long tour in Korea. Two years later, he missed the birth of his son because of his eight-month tour in Afghanistan. He knew when he signed up there was a possibility of separation from family—all military folks do.

His daughter is seven-years-old and his son is now five. They’ve only known him a total of three years due to his tours. They’ve sacrificed spending precious time with their father, and he’s sacrificed seeing them grow up. The Army doesn’t let you come home for little things like the birth of your children, or anniversaries, or Christmas.

As we sit here comfortably, reading our Harry Potter novels and watching American Idol, my brother, Staff Sergeant Timothy Vichko, is sitting in Iraq defending our freedom, as one of fourteen American soldiers on a base training 600 Iraqi soldiers. I’m one of the lucky ones because he’s still with
us, alive and well. We haven’t received one of those letters. Every day, I think of him. I feel him in my heart, and more so when I hear this Lonestar song on the radio.

He called her from Iraq, from a lonely tent in Baghdad:
Just to hear her say I love you one more time.
But when he heard the sound of the kids laughing in the background,
he had to wipe away a tear from his eye.
A little voice came on the phone, said, “Daddy, when you coming home?”
He said the first thing that came to his mind: I’m already there.
Take a look around. I’m the sunshine in your hair. I’m the shadow on the ground.
I’m the whisper in the wind, and I’ll be there until the end.
And I know I’m
in your prayers . . . I’m already there.
(Excerpt from I’m Already There by Lonestar)

~ Kara Vichko DeFrias, M.Ed.
Kara’s younger brother is a career soldier. Both of her grandfathers served in the Army, and her father and his brothers served in the Navy.

Full story submission in the Heart of a Military Woman book,
by Sheryl Roush and Eldonna Lewis Fernandez.
Reprinted with permission.

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