Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Survivor: Battle for Fallujah

Notes From Down Range by Karen Fredrickson

I want to extend my gratitude to Cheri Caiella and to Kathy Godwin for sharing their experiences with all of us via the June and July QOV newsletters. As you may recall, Cheri introduced us to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (I hate that word "disorder") and Traumatic Brain Injury through her experiences with her son, a Marine who served in Iraq. Kathy brought us in to her family's life as they learned that their son and brother had been killed in the line of duty in Iraq, and as they continue to live with their devastating loss. This month a Marine wife, Kimberly Ekholm, shares an article that she wrote almost 6 years ago. Kimberly's husband Kristian served with 1st Battalion 8th Marines and was with 1/8 as they fought their way through Fallujah, Iraq as part of Operation Phantom Fury. Kristian is still a Marine today. Kimberly serves as well, with the US State Department. And they have now been married 15 years. Kimberly will be sharing another article with us next month. After you read Kimberly's article I hope that if you pray, you will take a moment and pray a heartfelt prayer for all of those serving in harm's way and for all of the spouses back home who serve as well. I attended a young Marine's funeral this past week and I can tell you that nothing compares to the grief felt by a 20 something widow. God bless her, God bless our troops, and God bless their families who wait anxiously at home.

If you have comments or questions for Kimberly feel free to email them to me: and I will forward them to Kimberly.

Article in Full from September QOVF Newsletter

Survivor: Battle for Fallujah
A Military Spouse's perspective

By Kimberly Ekholm

I have something to say. I know I’m only a spouse/wife, but I’m a survivor too. Unless you are a military spouse who has waited night and day to see if your husband would call after a great battle or if it would be the Chaplain and another soldier coming to your door you can’t possibly know what I survived, what all of us survive as a military spouse.

As far as spouses go, well…military spouses are a different breed, especially if we survive. I’m referring to a military spouse that spends more Holidays and Anniversaries alone or without her husband because he is deployed. I’m talking about a spouse who has sent her husband away for longer than a fortnight and doesn’t expect to speak to him even with our advanced technology. I’m talking about a grunt’s wife and a spouse who made it through the battle for Fallujah!

Have you ever sat at the end of your street because you were too frightened to see if the military was in your driveway?? For a military spouse this is the ultimate scare. And, that’s what happens when a Marine dies. The military sends a Chaplain and another military member to your house to tell you in person that your Marine died. I am sorry for those women and families and admire their strength, their sacrifice and their valor. I can’t imagine their pain. My focus is on us, the ones that survive with their families intact, the ones that live to face it all again while we wait at home.

Anguish, heart-wrenching pain from the bottom of your gut could not explain what it’s like to wait while a battle rages and the world stops. At least, for me, it stopped. While the Marines saw heavy artillery dropped in the building next door and crossed streets as insurgents lobbed bullets and grenades at them….well, we’ve all seen the pictures and watched the news. But, I’ll never forget the battle I fought for 14 days. The battle that crawled in my door and raged right here in my heart and home.

Every morning, during Fallujah, I drove my son to school and returned to the end of my street, to wait. And gather the courage to crest the edge of the hill and peek around the trees, praying all the while that my driveway was clear, with no cars, no immaculately dressed Marines and no abrupt halt to life as I know it.

Every morning, I would surf the newscast to see what the reporters could show me of my husband. I scanned each picture and read each word just to catch a glimpse of him or see his name in quotes. Anything I could find on the web or glean off the newscast was my prey. I know, “if you watch too much you’ll become obsessed and that won’t help you get through this difficult time”. The psychos can babble all they want, but they would be doing the same thing if they had to survive what I did.

As the battle raged, so did my anxiety. Every phone call I received had the potential to be disastrous. Kristian could call and say he was injured or his 1st Sgt could call and say the military needed me to fly somewhere to be with him as his injury was very close to death. Or, and this was the worst, a spouse could call gulping out that she heard about a few deaths and didn’t know who they were.

I had this phone call often. Very often I would pick up the phone and hear a distraught voice at the other end. I knew that a spouse was on the other end trying to be strong and not fall apart. As she gulped out her words, we both thought, “Oh my God, is it me”. Neither of us said it out of sensitivity for the other spouse, but I know we both thought it.

We were all terrified that the next person to have the fatal wound would be ourselves as we watched, in our mind’s view, the military come to our door and pull the trigger. None of us could predict how we’d handle that situation. We’ve all seen the news about how one person torched himself and the DOD vehicle when he was told of his son’s death or how one of our own spouses stopped her car and got out to run down the street away from the notifying Causality Assistance team.

The sad truth is, we spouses that are married to the Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines had to think about what we would do or how we might react to this grief should it be placed in our laps. Oh, I don’t mean a casual thought. I mean a truthful look into your own soul to view how I might handle a loss that was standing at my door waiting to blow it open.

My answer to that question is, and hopefully by God’s grace, will always remain….I don’t know. Let’s face it, I had to ask myself, but thankfully, I didn’t have to answer. I would like to think I’d be calm, cool and collected like other spouses that quietly take their husband’s flag or watch as a Marine drapes a gold dog tag around their children’s neck. Oh, the tears I spill just thinking of the grief for those that have sacrificed all…you and I can’t even fathom.

Today is my husband and my ninth wedding anniversary. We don’t usually exchange gifts because most of the time we are not together to see each other open the gift. But, today was different. Today my husband gave me a gift that was from his heart. The card was well written and the ruby and diamond necklace is beautiful, but that’s not the gift I’m speaking of.

When Kristian was ready to leave this morning I crawled out of bed to give him a kiss goodbye. He mumbled, as he raced into the bathroom, that he could wait no longer and handed me a card and a present. I opened both and was deeply touched by his enthusiasm and heartfelt gratitude for nine wonderful years of marriage. But, the greatest gift came later when I called to thank him. He said that this was a “special anniversary”. When I asked him why, since actually next year is ten years and that would be the world’s view of a ‘special’ anniversary, he casually blew it off and I could see him shrug his shoulders over the phone. What I realized, as we both hung up, was that this is his way of saying, “You survived too.” He fought in “the Battle for Fallujah” and came home unscathed physically and to a hero’s welcome, and, in his eyes, I fought and won my own battle as well.

It may not have been fought with guns, RPG’s, grenades and bullets whizzing past, but, it was fought with the same bravery, courage and valor every Marine needs to defend himself against the enemy. This battle was fought at the home of every military family that has a wife at home waiting, watching and praying. The irony now, is that my life will never be the same. I will always remember the slowness of the battle and the depth of my passion for my husband. He and I will always remember that we both survived a great battle and we both may have to face it again….and survive.


  1. What courage, and how well written.

    I was raised in an Air Force family, in the time of Krushchev, Cold War, Bay of Pigs, and Cuban Missile Crisis. We were in the Canal Zone for the Missile Crisis; my father was in SAC (Strategic Air Command). He would disappear for days or weeks at a time, and all the kids would know was that Dad was "TDY." Temporary usually called "deployed."

    Who knows what was inside my mother? She didn't share with us, but we all knew what seeing "two officers marching up the sidewalk" meant from the time we could walk.

    An honor no one wants. No one asks for. But all are ready to give. That's what being military meant--and means.

    Thank you very much for your writing and your sacrifice, Kimberly Ekholm.


  2. I honor all of our military and their families always. I will never forget 911, ever!
    My son, Allan of the Mountaineers, fought in Desert Storm. I, too, often would not come home for fear of seeing a car waiting for me in the driveway. I irrationally thought that if I didn't go home, then everything would be ok when I heard of a fatality. I was blessed he came home to us. So there are many mothers, sister, brothers who know what it is to wait and pray and hope. Thank you for being so descriptive. Thank you to all of our military. God Bless the USA and all of us.