Thoughts From Our Gold Star Mom

| August 25, 2021


PFC Andrew Meari, KIA IVO Kandahar, 1 Nov 2011

Denise Williams, our Gold Star Mom, shares her thoughts on the fall of Afghanistan and the effects this debacle has, and will have, on those who served and their families who love them. This is not an easy read, nor should it be. It is a powerful, necessary message. It is my honor to post her letter in it’s entirety, here.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan …
A Gold Star Mother Asks …
Was It Worth It?

By Denise Williams

This is the question on the minds of so many in the wake of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, made all the more poignant by the seeming effortlessness with which the Taliban have retaken the country. For me and too many others, this question is particularly difficult and demands much more than a simple yes or no.
I am a Gold Star mother, a title I never wanted. It is an honorific, bestowed on those who have lost a child in war. In my case, my only child, PFC Andrew Meari, was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Nov. 1, 2010. Watching the news, seeing the Taliban taking over the ground stained with my son’s blood, it is hard not to feel his life was lost for nothing.
Watching the horrific news, my thoughts immediately turned to those who served alongside my son, who literally stood on the ground soaked with his blood, the blood of their brothers. On the day my son died, five young men risked their lives by remaining exposed to enemy fire to protect his body, to be able to bring him home.
My heart is shattered, and tears course down my cheeks even now as I think of them, of what they risked, of the despair they feel today. They literally defended that ground on which my son’s body lay, ground that was back in control of the Taliban who took their buddy’s life. As much as my heart breaks for myself, for my loss, the lion’s share of my pain is that which I carry for them.
What I want to tell them, and all those who left part of themselves literally and figuratively in that faraway land, is the advice my heart has given me and sustained me for the past nearly 11 years since I got that knock on the door and heard the words, “On behalf of a grateful Nation…”
The Grateful Nation referred to in those somber words is not Afghanistan. My son swore an oath on the Constitution of the United States of America. He, and all those who signed that blank check, served, fought and sometimes died for the idea and ideals that are America. My son believed this country was worth the risk, worth the price. For me to say his death was not worth it is to betray what he believed, what he swore to uphold and defend. I cannot dishonor his service, his memory.
Still, that is small compensation to this mother’s heart which is forever torn in two. Part of my heart beats with a slow, steady pride that my son chose to put his life second to America. That thought staggers me still, that the child who ran to me for comfort from things that went bump in the night grew to be a man that willingly made that choice. The awe in which that thought lives offers a measure of comfort and peace, and allows at least that part of my heart to go on.
But there is another part of my heart that is shattered, incapable of beating with the rhythm of life. The shards jerk and stutter, slicing my soul with every breath. This is the mother’s heart that cannot say there is any idea, any purpose, anything, worth the life of their child. This is the mother’s heart that screams at the sight of the Taliban occupying the ground soaked with her child’s blood.
I know there are those in Afghanistan who are grateful for what my son and so many others sacrificed. Several years ago, there was a display at O’Hare airport of the faces of all Illinois sons and daughters who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Space was left next to each lovingly rendered sketch for travelers to share their thoughts. One note was for the family of PFC Andrew Meari written by a man from Afghanistan. It said, “I am from Kandahar. This is the face of a man who died trying to make my home safe for my family. Thank you.” As I watch Afghanistan revert to Taliban control, I wonder how that man would answer this impossible question, was it worth it?
Given these endlessly contradictory feelings that can never be reconciled, how do I respond to that horrible question, was it worth it? Simply put, the still-beating part of my heart says yes.
To say otherwise is to disregard what my son and so many others swore to protect and defend. To say otherwise would mean that I don’t believe service to this country is worthwhile, worth any sacrifice.
My mother’s heart cannot quite bring myself to say the words, the simple affirmative response. The broken, jagged pieces are causing too much pain right now, for myself and for all my son’s brothers and sisters.
The best I can do is say, “You, all of you who have served, I see you. I see your pain. I stand with you. I remember and will never forget. Even as my mother’s shattered heart bleeds, I thank you for the service and sacrifice. On behalf of a grateful Nation.”


Denise Williams

Thank you, Denise.

Note: Denise green-lighted the use of her name. Please use this, and not her nom de blog if you know it.

Category: Afghanistan

17 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
KoB

Got awfully damn dusty all of a sudden here at Firebase Magnolia. And I just changed those air filters.

God’s Blessing on you Denise. May His Peace continue to try and bring His Comfort to you. For who you are, what you do, for what you mean to all of us here, and for the ultimate Sacrifice that you and your Son made, you have our undying appreciation and support. There is nothing that you could ask of us that would not be done.

Be Their witness…Say Their names! Never Forget!

ChipNASA

Wow, Denise Williams, Wow, Photo of Denise, Wow, words, again and as usual from Denise.
I am humbled. I served. I understand. If sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, it’s the price of representing the goodness what is us, this country…as has been said (not mine but, I believe from Barry Farber *edited* for context) ” No Country has accumulated more power and abused it less…(added by Sean Hannity) “And no Country has used that power to advance the human condition to the benefit of all, more than the United States of America.”

ChipNASA

Shared on social media by a young lady I served with from a third party (take at face value but the point is made) Some of you may have seen this but for those of you who have not, I typed it out exactly as I saw it copied in a screen grab. (This is from Social Media as at least a 3rd party from “Bassel Noori” so take it with a grain of salt but I wouldn’t include it if I didn’t think it have a valid point) “Being half Afghan and an OEF veteran, I think it is beneficial to have these conversations. A relative of mine shared this and I’ll paraphrase it here: “Alleviating suffering is never in vain, even if the outcome isn’t permanent. I know a young lady from Afghanistan who recently attended the same boarding school I went to in Europe and is now about to graduate from college here in the States. This is because she was able to get an education while a child in Afghanistan, which she would not have been able to do without the sacrifices of your brothers and sisters. I know of a family of refugees down the road who were able to start a new life here 7 years ago. They also would not have had that opportunity without the work of our service members who served in Afghanistan. These are just two examples out of millions. There are countless success stories of young women getting an… Read more »

Commissar

Thanks for sharing this. Tears in my eyes reading it.

Fyrfighter

Amazing post Denise, and great pass on Chip. It damn sure did get dusty in here, gonna have to talk to the probie about changing air filters again..

SFC D

Thank you, Denise. There are a lot of us struggling with a lot of different emotions right now, but no one struggles more than the mothers and fathers of those we lost. I’ve wondered if what we did in Afghanistan was worth it, and then I recall the faces of the children that would come through Bagram every morning on their way to school. A school not run by the Taliban, a school that girls could attend. We gave those kids a chance, 20 years of something they wouldn’t have had without us. I don’t know what happened to those kids, but for a while, they had hope and they had smiles. And that sustains me.

USAFRetired

The dust from the onion field was strong yesterday when I read this and remains so every time I re-read it. It dredged up memories with their own emotions. In the early 80s “peacetime” Air Force I was in a tenant unit on another MAJCOMs Base. They were predominately civilian organization while we were predominately military. We had been tasked to provide casualty notification officers, my office was levied for a company grade officer and being the junior ILT it rolled down to me for the month. Training/preparation was minuscule. As it turns out we got hit up for an out of town notification. A young single airmen had been killed in a traffic accident in the UK and the town his folks lived in fell in the region our Base was responsible for. Part of the conversation I had with the Chaplain, on the drive, was how do I , only a couple years older than their son tell these folks that he was dead and what do I do depending on how they react. I’m going through the binder trying to read the instructions, and that added to my discomfort as I’m the kind of person who can’t read in a moving car as I get motion sick. I could just picture knocking on the door and throwing up on these people. As it turned out we got to the house and the family had moved, once we tracked down that they had moved to neighboring Arkansas the… Read more »

UpNorth

Wow, thank you, Denise. It really did get dusty in a lot of places while reading that.

Poetrooper

Denise, rather than ask was it worth it, perhaps the better question we should all be asking, as attested by both your examples and those quoted by Chip, should be… was it in vain?

And quite clearly it was not. Much good has come to oppressed members of that benighted culture and country from the service and sacrifice of your son and his fellow warriors, good that will perpetuate perhaps for decades to come.

Nothing, of course, will ever completely end your sorrows, but with every passing day let us hope the content of your tears continues to come less from sadness and more and more from justifiable pride.

In times of retrospect and reflection about the worth of my military service, I always recall this poem which I have posted here multiple times in the past:

Soldier

By George L. Skypeck

I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go,
And did what others failed to do.

I asked nothing from those who gave nothing,
And reluctantly accepted the thought
Of eternal loneliness should I fail.

I have seen the face of terror,
Felt the stinging cold of fear,
And enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment’s love.

I have cried, pained and hoped,
But most of all, I have lived times
Others would say were best forgotten.

At least someday I will be able to say
That I was proud of what I was…

A Soldier.

The Other Whitey

I wish I could come up with something deep and profound to say to you and others who have suffered like you, Denise. I can’t.

All I can say is this: God bless you, your son, and your family.

Hatchet

Denise, any words of comfort that I might offer you, completely fail me. In Canada, mothers who have lost their sons and daughters are referred to as ‘Silver Cross Mothers’ and I know one of them. Her name is Agatha Dyer and her son’s name is/was Ainsworth. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books/silver/2004. Ainsworth and I served in the same Reserve armoury until his transfer from 48th Highlanders to reg-force service with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in 1996. While inter-unit rivalry was always present, there were a few of us that looked past all of that and became close friends – Ainsworth was the very first person I became friends with outside of the QOR of C. I would leave the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada shortly after Ainsworth’s deployment to Afghanistan to become a military contractor. Some months later I would be woken by a phone call from my former platoon sergeant, telling me that Ainsworth had been killed in a ‘Blue on Blue’(friendly fire) incident. The pain of that day has marginally diminished but has never completely left me. A couple of days ago, a former team-mate called me up, unfortunately very angry and very drunk. Some of first words were ‘with Afghanistan just being handed back to the bad-guys, man all of our guys and theirs(American and British) died for nothing’. I quietly said ‘When you get the chance, be sure to tell Ainsworth that’ and announced that I was ending the call as I will not engage in… Read more »

Roh-Dog

Grateful for all my Brothers and Sisters.
Never Forget.
May history be set on a path of peace as reward for our sacrifices.
Until the Highest Ground, Requiescat In Pace.

Hatchet

Beautiful words, Roh. Think this thought may be the only one that may give me some rest tonight..

Hatchet

A good night’s sleep, is another story… Thanks Bruv.

OWB

Denise,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us. Unfortunately, I am so angry right now that further emotional rage is not healthy. I will read your missive later.

As always, you are in my prayers. You represent all that is good about this once great country and the core of our greatness that remains. Thank you.

3/10/MED/b

Been living in a hole for a long time.
Maybe hurt will help.

3/10/MEDb out

OWB

Well done, Denise! You continue to write beautifully and manage to capture just what needs to be said.

Yes, my rage has subsided a bit. For now. Your words were actually comforting, as strange as that may sound.