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thedrifter
02-04-07, 08:35 AM
Fathers of Fallen Soldiers Coping

By Josh Premako
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday February 4, 2007

It was a morning Bob Slocum will remember forever.

At 5:50 a.m. on a Sunday in late October 2004, he woke up to the sound of a knock on the door.

He went downstairs, and through the beveled glass of the front door made out the red, white and blue of three Marines in uniform.

"They just said, 'Mr. Slocum, may we come in?'" Bob recalled.

They had come to the Slocums' Saugus home to break the news to Bob and his wife Kay that their son had been killed.

A Saugus High School graduate, 19-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard Slocum - not even a month into his deployment to Iraq - was manning the roof turret of a Humvee when it swerved to avoid a road barricade and flipped.

"You just feel like you're going to go crazy," Bob, 52, said of the devastating news. "I've cried more in the last two years than I have in my whole life."

In the garage hangs a large, framed picture of Richard in his dress uniform, the photo mat signed by friends and family. Bob said he'll go into the garage sometimes and shed tears.

After the news of Richard's death, Bob's son moved back into his parent's house, and their daughter eventually moved back to the Santa Clarita Valley.

"I believe we're closer," he said. "We talk a lot."

In addition to the support of family and friends, Bob said his faith in God has been of countless strength.

"Without faith, I don't know how we would have managed to get through this," he said.

Is "closure" really possible? How does one come to grips with the death of their youngest son?

"You need to continue with your life. He would want us to continue on," Bob said. "The hurt lessens as time goes by (but) it never, ever goes away."

Bob painted a picture of "Ricky" as an athletic young man, popular with the girls at school, who was also a good friend.

He was lively, a strong arguer and even a bit stubborn, Bob said, and added that "we always thought he'd be a good attorney."

Richard decided in high school to join the Marines, a decision Bob said he and his wife allowed their son to make, and did not attempt to discourage him.

"The decision was his," he said. "He was a great Marine ... He was very proud (and) I was proud of him."

The Associated Press reported Friday that 3,092 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003. At least 2,480 have died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

Despite the losses, Bob said his feelings haven't changed.

"I believe today ... that our president did the right thing. And so did Ricky," he said. "I would not change my position whatsoever. We need to finish the job."

Of those who have stood in opposition to the war after losing loved ones, he said that "everybody grieves in their own way."

In the time since their son's death, Bob and Kay have become active with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, and have sent numerous care packages to other deployed sons and daughters.

U.S. Army Pfc. Cole Larsen is several years gone, but not forgotten.

In his parents' living room, in the corner above the couch, is a large, color photo of a smiling, fresh-faced young man with red hair.

Red, white and blue is a predominant theme in the house.

His father remembers his son as just a normal kid, who liked motorcycles and hunting.

He was one of thousands who were probably "just normal."

In Nov. 2004, 19-year-old Cole was killed in Iraq when his Humvee collided with a civilian car and flipped over.

Having recently returned from an R-and-R visit to his family, he had been in Iraq for seven months and was helping transport people from Baghdad to Fallujah.

"I think about him all the time," said his father, Ballard Larsen. "He was on his way to becoming my best friend."

Himself a veteran of the Navy, Ballard, 50, said Cole decided in high school to enlist and said "I was proud that he was in the service."

It was a Saturday morning when a representative from the National Guard visited the Larsen's Canyon Country home, to tell Ballard his son had been killed.

Ballard recalled that he had recently come home from hunting, and the living room was full of guns.

"I know he must have felt uncomfortable," he said of the message-bearer.

In the time since, Ballard said he has found comfort in knowing Cole "was doing something for his country ... It was his time to go."

Of the war, he said his son's death has not changed his mind.

At one point, Ballard referenced President John F. Kennedy's famous statement of "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

"I think there's too much of 'what can my country do for me?'" he said. "The president can't be as cautious as anybody else."

Like the Slocums, Ballard and his wife Christi are involved with TAPS and the Blue Star Mothers. Last spring, Christi organized a memorial garden tour which raised money for the two groups.

At least one positive outcome of life in the aftermath of loss has been a closer relationship with his daughter, Ballard said.

"My daughter tries to do more things with me," he said of Hayley, now a student at the University of Idaho.

The pain of loss is a reality, but Ballard said there are steps to take.

"Coping is just going back to work," he said.

Ellie

Mikewebe
08-28-08, 12:50 AM
Moms and Dads thank you for your time here. We love you all. At 38 I'm lookin to hit it again, But I don't have a Mom so I love the ones that are here and you are backing the right group of people who need and want your support. Again thank you


Mike

Wardey
09-03-08, 11:46 AM
God Bless. This is not something we as parents like to think about, but we all know it can happen. This is the only fear I have in life. Losing my children and the people I love. May God help all the parents and loved ones of our fallen men and women of our armed forces. God Bless. Dave