Last Friday I came out of the closet, so to speak. I have been writing under the name Denise Williams for more than 30 years, so when the opportunity came up to blog for the Patch, I decided to continue using the name I’ve always written under.
But that is only part of the reason. Actually, there are many parts to the decision to write locally as Denise Williams.
Initially, I didn’t want to write as the Gold Star Mother, both because I don’t pretend to speak for all or even any Gold Stars other than myself. We, as a group, are as socially, politically and ideologically diverse as any other. Some are understandably very pro-military, and I count myself in that group. Others, just as understandably, want nothing to do with the military, don’t want to hear about it, think about it and actively avoid any connection with that which in their view killed their child. So, to presume to write as a Gold Star Mother would offend some, anger others, further disenfranchise a few and represent only those who see things as I do. The only thing that can be said of nearly every Gold Star family is none of us wish to bring more pain to each other. We’ve been through enough, we get it and will not knowingly, intentionally add to it for another family that has experienced our loss.
As time went by, I came to understand there were deeper, more personal reasons for my hesitance to publicly identify as a Gold Star. On Memorial Day 2011, I allowed a camera crew into my home, into my life to tell my son’s story. I wanted the world to see who he was, how the world is a darker place without his light, and I got my wish. Of course when the producers first approached me I said no way, no how, there is nothing more obscene than sticking a camera in the face of a grieving mother and asking her how it feels to lose her only child. After many conversations and reassurances of their motives, explaining the kind of show they wanted to do, I relented. In the end, I even went on live TV on Memorial Day on Windy City Live for the show. When I walked out the studio door, I was completely done. I had stood for my son. I had shown the world who he was, I even shared precious family pictures. But, from that moment on, I decided to keep close to my heart the rest of my memories, as they were all of him I had left. I shared, but didn’t want to share anymore.
There are other levels to all this too, which at the time seemed very important but have come to be less so now. I was concerned if I wrote a piece critical of a politician, the way the war is being conducted or held forth an other than PC opinion, my thoughts would be dismissed as the ravings of a grieving mother. The other side of that coin is just as bad, though. Just because I am a Gold Star mother does not mean that my opinions are somehow more right than others. In short, I wanted the words I had to say to either stand or fall on their own merit and not be unduly weighted in either direction because of this fact of my existence, this Gold Star Mother status.
Long before I began the “Red Fridays” series three months ago, I wrote more than a dozen times on military and veterans issues. I did this because before my son was killed in action, even before he was deployed, I was dismayed at how little the general population knows about what is important to and for our servicemen and women, past and present. This disconnect was even more obvious to me after I spent time at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky, visiting my son. Because of the response, the way this community came out for my son’s wake and funeral, I knew the feeling was here, just not the awareness. I wanted to tell people about what was important to our military, what they could do, how they could help, what they needed to know to make a difference in the lives of our heroes, and I’m told by those that track these things, though there aren’t a lot of comments on these articles, they are very widely read and shared.
So, now you know why I have written as much as I have on the military and military related issues. Now you know (sort of) where some of my information may have came from when what I wrote was in contradiction to what was being reported on the news. I am Denise Williams, but I am also Denise Meehan, Gold Star Mother of PFC Andrew Meari, KIA November 1st, 2010, the only soldier from Plainfield killed in the War on Terror.
The remainder of this week, leading up to Veteran’s Day, I will tell the story of those days that followed the worst day of my life.
Tomorrow – It’s A Mistake