Remembering Jason

Jun 2, 2009

Today, I just can’t bring myself to write a post regarding money-saving tips or even a cute or humorous story about my children. Today is a day of mourning, because, even as you read this, our dear, dear friend, Major Jason George, is being laid to rest.

My husband, Rob, and I first met Jason during our duty station at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Jason. Rob and Jason were workout partners and belonged to some little dive of a gym in the town of Manhattan. Rob and I were only engaged at the time and so, on one of my visits to see him in Kansas, I tagged along with him to a workout. It was there he introduced me to JG. What a gorgeous man, I thought, when he first said hi and shook my hand. But, it was his personality, his openness and that sparkle in his eyes that truly won me over.
Rob and I were married in November 1996 and almost exactly a year later we were about to celebrate our first “married” Thanksgiving. My fellow Army wife, and now best friend, Renee Lindberg, and her husband were also newly married and so she and I got the “great idea” to cook our first Thanksgiving meal together –not only for our husbands but also a few single officers – Jason included. When you’re in the military, going home for holidays is often just not an option. Renee and I spent weeks preparing, collecting all of our moms’ and grandmothers’ recipes. The soldiers and we attended church together that morning and then, while our “guys” went to serve Thanksgiving meal to the troops, we prepared the meal at her house. The dinner was, to put it mildly, memorable. My stuffing was so dry it wouldn’t stick together and Renee’s gravy was so “clumpy” that when one of the guys tried to pour it on his turkey, the entire boat of gravy dropped onto his plate with a thud. Everyone, though, was a good sport about it – especially Jason. He sat next to Renee and across from me at dinner and kept us laughing all evening long - helping me forget that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. To this day, despite our less –than-perfect meal, that Thanksgiving still stands out in my mind as one of the best.

At some point around that time, all of us in the 70th Engineers were startled to learn that only one officer from the unit was being sent to Bosnia (a hot spot at that time) and it was to be Jason. I remember thinking how unfair that seemed. Not that I wanted my husband to go, but it didn’t seem right that Jason had to go on his own, either. When he returned, perhaps 6 months later, I realized that his family would not be there to welcome him home at the airplane hangar. I “informed” my husband that we were going to be there to greet him. “But, he’s coming in at something like 3 am,” Rob said. “Too bad,” I told him. “Set the alarm.” The alarm was set for 2 am and we drove to Ft Riley to welcome Jason home. I remember holding the fluorescent-green Welcome Home poster I had made for him and screaming his name from the bleachers as he walked through the door. He seemed a little embarrassed by me, but I like to think, maybe because of the shy smile he gave me, that my enthusiasm for him was appreciated. I had put a small heart on the poster, with the words, “We missed you” in it. Jason’s roommate and his Company Commander were also with us that night and they, and my husband, were quick to inform Jason that the heart on the poster was in no way from them – but purely from me!

Our friendship with Jason did not, by any means, die or even really lesson once we left Ft Riley. If I have learned anything in my years as an Army wife, it is that our military friends will always be some of our closet ones. There is a bond between us that can never be broken and we view them, literally, as our family. Now, Rob is terrible at keeping in touch. Staying in contact with people, though, is actually one of my strengths – as it was for Jason. Thus, even though he started out as Rob’s workout partner and friend, Jason quickly became almost more “mine. “ His emails were funny and thoughtful – full of teasing and full of happiness for our family as it grew. He was always asking, “Now, how many kids are you up to these days?” If I told him that I was going to be an “extra” on a TV show, he made sure to record the episode, watch it and then email me the next day to tell me that he thought he “found” me in the show. He never forgot to email me happy birthday. He wrote the longest Christmas letters I have ever seen. Renee and I used to joke with each other, and tease him, that he was worse than a woman when it came to his 4-page, single-spaced, size- 8-font-Holiday Greetings.

Once he moved to Chicago, I was all over him to get me tickets to the Oprah show. I promised him that I’d leave Rob and marry him if he could just pull through for me . . . alas, he never did (perhaps to Rob’s relief – or maybe not . . .) . . . and was always quick to inform me, whenever I begged, that a.) No, he had never run into Oprah on the street and b.) He had never, ever watched a single Oprah episode and never, ever would.

When Jason found out he was being called back to Active Duty, pretty much out of the blue, my husband was one of the first people he contacted. Rob was deployed to Iraq a few years ago and Jason wanted advice on what to expect. I remember unexpectedly coming across Jason’s email to Rob and writing him just a short note that said, “All I have to say is . . . sorry . . . and it sucks to be you.” And, the thing is, I meant it. I wasn’t being flippant. Having lived through a deployment with my husband, I knew the pain and fear involved, for both him and his family. Jason, though, handled the unexpected deployment with dignity and class.

It literally seems like just yesterday Jason was getting ready to deploy - and sadly, in ways it was. He enlisted my help to sell a few of his things on Craigslist before he left, joking about the “scam” emails he was getting, offering to send him “money orders” from 3rd world countries for his items. He questioned Rob on whether or not he should sell his car. He put all his stuff in storage. And then he left for Kuwait and ultimately, Iraq.

He was barely there, literally less than 3 weeks, when on May 21, a suicide bomber targeted Jason and two other soldiers, who were on foot patrol near Baghdad. In a matter of moments, our Jason was gone. Even now, nearly two weeks later, I struggle with the knowledge that this is real. Every time I log onto Facebook, I expect to see him “pop up” to “chat” – just one more time – always beginning with a good-natured wisecrack about my husband (usually revolving around his ever-increasing hair loss). I keep checking to see if he might happen to be “online” at the same time as me. I want to tell him about all this craziness. I want to tell him that for some reason, they keep saying he’s gone.

About 2 months ago, I got a weird email from Jason trying to sell me electronic equipment. I emailed back and said, “Is this really from you?” I thought well, he is trying to sell his stuff before he deploys . . . He replied immediately with, “No, it’s a hoax! Someone hacked into my email.” For days after the news of Jason’s death, I kept checking my inbox, praying to find a similar email from Jason this time, telling me this was all a big, horrible joke. That someone had gotten it wrong or was committing a terrible hoax, but none ever came.

Jason’s funeral is today, but his military burial will be in the new Bakersfield (CA) National Cemetery in July when it opens. We, and many members of his military family, plan to be there when he reaches his final resting place. I ask that any of you who read this post please pray for his parents and family. If this loss is heartbreaking to us, I can only imagine how painful it is for them.

Jason . . . what can I say? I can tell you that we love you . . . that we miss you . . . but none of those words convey the depth of our feelings for you or the pain of our loss. Thank you for being the wonderful, happy, sarcastic, teasing, long-winded-at-Christmas-time, one-of-a –kind man that you were. You will never be replaced in our hearts.


riceme said...

Thank you. I was not able to make it home for today's services, and it was nice to read this today. I hope to meet you at the services in July. -Melinda Rice

ScrappinMichele said...

My thoughts are with you and his family. Saddens me that so many have to die. My BIL is in the army and we worry about him whenever he is overseas. Sounds like he was a great man and I'm sure will be missed by many!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Beautifully said. I believe we will make the memorial in Bakersfield. Please let me know if you are going to make it. staci

Ann said...

Kelly this is such a beautiful post. I found you on Mom Bloggers Club and I'm so glad I made my way to your site.

What honorable words.

Kelly Seiler said...

Thanks, Ann! I just joined Mom Bloggers Club yesterday and haven't had time to really figure it all out yet! Glad you found me!

Anonymous said...

Kelly, we met briefly in July in Tehachapi. I wanted to thank you for writing about Jason. He and I met so long after he'd been on active duty that I knew very little about his life in the army. I'm so glad to know that even though he was single, he had someone like you to welcome him home from Bosnia and to make him Thanksgiving dinner away from home. I also read your post about Rob coming home to you and his baby girl. I hope that all those still overseas have the same happy ending as you and your family. -Sue Chern

Kelly Seiler said...

Hi, Sue. Yes, I remember you. I'm glad you were able to read my post about Jason. It's still hard to believe he's not here. Sometimes, I'll be driving and the thought of it will take my breath away and I'll just start to cry. We have all lost an incredible man. Hope you are holding up okay.

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