Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Extremely Sad

A friend lost her loving huband serving in Iraq. I wanna go home!! This has hit CLOSE to home. I wish I could be there for her and the family.

This is 8 deaths from the National Guard from GA...less than a week in time. Absolutely Horrible.

Valdosta Daily Times

Soldier not forgotten
Author: Kenna Walsh Publication Date: 2005-08-03

VALDOSTA — A black ribbon hangs on the mailbox at the Shelley residence in stark contrast to the patriotic red-white-and-blue flowers and hand-painted-sign on the front porch.
Heidi Shelley hung up the phone Saturday afternoon after talking excitedly with her husband, Spc. Ronnie “Rod” Shelley, about his upcoming return from the dusty battlefields of Iraq and the celebration of their son’s birthday, a big concern for Rod, who wanted to build a fort in the family’s back yard for 3-year-old Lee.

Rod was getting ready to head out on a mission and said good-bye, a final conversation between husband and wife.

Hours later, a roadside bomb exploded near Rod’s Humvee in southwestern Baghdad, killing him and three other soldiers who were on a routine patrol — an eerily similar situation to the July 24 explosion that killed four soldiers from Rod’s brigade including his best friend, 33-year-old Sgt. John Frank Thomas of Valdosta.

The 2nd Battalion’s Alpha Company, attached to Valdosta, has lost eight soldiers in the past week, requiring more reservists to deploy and casting a gloomy shadow over the platoon’s humble barracks at Camp Striker in Iraq.

The Georgia Guard’s combat casualties are the first since World War II.
Rod, 34, was supposed to be on Thomas’ Humvee that night but trailed behind only to witness the horrific events unfold.

He told Heidi of the accident and said he needed to tell Thomas’ wife and Heidi’s friend, Tammy, private words Thomas shared in case he didn’t come home.

Heidi cries today partly for her own loss and partly for the message her friend will never hear.

“Now she’ll never know what it was John wanted her to know,” Heidi said.

Three picture poster boards sit on the Shelley’s couch, plastered with photos of Rod in a room filled with framed pictures depicting a happier time before the war and before a family was torn apart.

Heidi set boxes filled with photos in front of her kids Sunday and told them to pick out their favorite pictures of Rod.

She fears her youngest will not remember the family all together.
“How is a 3-year-old going to have living memories of his father?” Heidi said.
Not a week ago Heidi gave solace to Tammy, who fell victim to the fateful knock at the door and uniformed officers delivering somber news.

Heidi knew the danger but believed her husband would come home.

“He was too trained to get killed over in combat,” she said.
Nearly three months ago, Heidi gazed into Rod’s bluish-yellow eyes one last time before bidding a sad farewell for the one-year deployment.

Heidi remembers Rod was excited to operate new machinery and eager to continue fighting for freedom.

Rod enlisted in the Army National Guard nearly three years ago, having worked for the Winn-Dixie-owned Crackin Good Bakery in Valdosta and served eight years in the Marine Corps in the 1990s.
Heidi said Rod wanted to retire from the Guard and believed in freeing the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein’s evil grip.

Rod almost didn’t deploy with the 48th Brigade after a dental condition required all of his upper teeth be pulled and dentures be used.

“I so begged him not do it, saying ‘Please, please don’t do it,’” Heidi said. “But Rod said, ‘Pull them all so I can go.’”

Heidi said Rod felt 90 percent of the Iraqi people were good and he would often say, “We need to be there and help people out.”

Saturday evening Heidi heard her black Labrador pound against the window and looked out to see two Army officers putting on their jackets.
She didn’t want to open the door — “If I could keep them out, he’d still be alive.”
Heidi said they wanted to one day sell the house and buy a Winnebego, sending postcards to kids and grandchildren while enjoying their retirement.

Now, Heidi and children, 13-year-old Logan Shelley, 8-year-old Allison Sutton and “Little Man” Lee, a nickname earned because Heidi said he is a miniature Rod, make plans to bury a father and husband who enjoyed barbecuing on Sundays, working on the lawn and taking yearly Memorial Day camping trips in celebration of his May birthday.

Music Funeral Home will arrange Rod’s funeral, and Heidi said a memorial service will be held at the local armory before Rod is laid to rest in Sunset Hill Cemetery.