One year ago today one of God's most treasured gifts was brought into this world--Liam Christopher Thibodeau. He arrived missing an integral part of his life, his daddy. But little Liam provided the love his mommy, LeeSandra, needed to survive a military wife's greatest fear.
Just one month in to Liam's life inside his mother's womb, tragedy struck. His father, Chris, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. I remember talking to Tim on the on the phone the night of the accident and I knew something had gone wrong. All he could say was that "something unfortunate happened." Then, 24 hours later I received a call from our unit with the news that the CARE Team was in effect. As a family readiness group leader we receive training before a deployment to support our families in the event of a soldier's death, CARE Team training. My mom and I were in D.C. getting out of a cab at a popular riverside shopping area when I took the phone call. I asked who the soldier was and our battalion FRG leader said that it was Chris Thibodeau. The first thought that entered my mind was the memory of standing with his wife a few weeks earlier as she patted a child on the head for good luck in hopes that she would get pregnant when Chris came home for R & R. I cried for the loss of this sweet man, the heartbreak his wife would endure, and the child they would never have together.
If I had been in town, it would have been my responsibility to arrive with the chaplain and rear detachment commander when LeeSandra received the news. Before deployment, families are briefed on the procedure for notification in the event of the death of their soldier. It is never done by phone, but by the ring of your doorbell and the presence of the chaplain and commander, followed by the CARE team. I'm sure any military family member would tell you that they hold their breath and say a quick prayer each time the doorbell rings while their soldier is at war.
The night I learned of Chris' death all I could think of was how desperately his wife wanted a child with this man she loved. Later that night I received a call from the battalion commander's wife that LeeSandra had been notified and now our concern was her ability to keep the baby under this circumstance. She was pregnant! Four weeks earlier Chris and LeeSandra met up in Mexico for his two weeks of R & R, and conceived Liam. She told Chris that he was going to be a father just days before his passing--both were overcome with happiness. LeeSandra carried Chris' baby through the notification of his death, his memorial service at Fort Hood, and funeral in Ohio. The strength of this woman is unbelievable.
Every holiday LeeSandra and Liam release themed balloons up to Heaven for Chris. She has been faithful in including Chris in every celebration and milestone in Liam's life. Today she posted this picture of Liam on his first birthday. One cannot help but be overcome with emotion at the juxtaposition of this image.
As this war has been going on for ten years now, its presence can slip away from us amidst our daily lives. Please remember the gold star families (families who have lost a soldier) as you say your prayers. And until the day Liam is able to meet his daddy in Heaven, our prayers will help him and LeeSandra overcome the loss of their beloved.