Somebody Knew Gene

Somebody Knew Gene

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Somebody Knew Gene

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Mother Mary Jones

A bright swath of cloudless blue sky arched over the road that morning. The radio news broadcast reported that an American soldier died in an ambush during a search for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. I felt a sadness, a sort of distant and muted grief. I felt it every time I heard of a death of one of our soldiers.

“What did he say, Mom?” my five-year-old daughter, Lauren, asked from the backseat.

I quickly ran through various explanations in my mind. Although I tried to shelter my kids from as much violence and evil as I could, it seemed the simple truth was the best choice in this situation.

“He said a soldier died fighting the bad people.” I’d tried to make the complex issues of terrorism understandable with simple, clear-cut terms.

“What’s a soldier?”

“A person in the military,” I said.

“Like Dad?”

“Yes, like Dad, but it didn’t have anything to do with Dad.” I tried to reassure her. “We didn’t know the person.”

Since my husband is in the Air Force Reserve we’d talked about Dad doing his job as a pilot to help fight the bad people. I didn’t want Lauren to worry about her dad being hurt or killed.

“What was his name?” she asked.

“Who?”

“The man who died,” she persisted. “What was his name?”

“It was Gene, honey, but we didn’t know him. You don’t need to worry.”

“But somebody knew Gene.” I knew from the tone of her voice, the echo of my own sorrow I heard there, that she understood what had happened. I glanced back and saw her eyes glazed with tears.

The brilliant sky and the tender new leaves misting the trees blurred together with the blackness of the road. I signaled to turn into the school parking lot and fought the tightness in my throat. “I know. Gene had a family and friends,” I managed to say. “Should we say a prayer for them?”

Lauren nodded, and I managed to choke out a simple prayer for comfort.

I deposited Lauren and her brother in their classrooms, and they dove into the day’s activities, the bleak news forgotten. But I didn’t forget. Lauren’s simple statement, “Somebody knew Gene,” has stayed with me. What an eloquent yet straightforward reminder of the sacrifice of military members and their families. Time passes, and the families and friends might think the sacrifice has been forgotten. But it hasn’t been. I still think of Gene.

So, to Gene’s family, to Antonio’s family, to Christopher’s family, to Anissa’s family, to John’s family, to Nathan’s family, to Evander’s family, to Stanley’s family and to so many countless other families who grieve for a loved one, know that we pray for your comfort, we are awed by the sacrifice of your son, daughter, husband, wife or friend— but, above all, know we are grateful.

Sara Rosett

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