My Father’s Flag Connects Me

Follow my Blog Tour November 11-19, 2012

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( November 11-25 ) of eBook copies of

Love You More Than You Know

The attack on 9/11 prompted my son to enlist in the Ohio Army National Guard. He said, “There is even more reason now than before.” Weeks before my son was to leave in December of 2003 for deployment to Iraq, my father, a WWII veteran, passed away.

My son was part of the honor guard and handed my father’s flag to my mother. When my son returned from Iraq, my mother returned the favor and handed my son, my father’s flag. Whenever I see our country’s flag, my heart beats faster and my eyes fill with tears. My father’s flag connects me to my two veterans in my family.

U. S. Veteran’s Day honors all of our veterans, who served past and present. God bless our troops and the country that we love. Take time to do something for a veteran for their faithful service. I will be saying thank you to my son by bringing him lunch at work.

Excerpt from my story, “Boots To Ground” in Love You More Than You Know Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War:

The sweet mournful sound of taps honored my father’s leaving, echoing in the cold December morning. The silence was shattered by a color guard firing a twenty-one-gun salute. Our country’s flag fluttered, as it lay draped over the casket of a hero, Joseph Vayo, a Navy veteran of WWII.

Reverently, the color guard folded this bright symbol of freedom into a triangle. My son, Specialist Joseph Reinart, Ohio Army National Guard, stepped briskly forward to receive the flag. Turning to my mother, Joe said, “ On behalf of the President of the United States of America, I present you with this flag for your husband’s faithful service to our country. May God bless you, and I love you, Grandma.”

Just weeks later, Joe was leaving. My son, my father’s namesake, was being deployed to the Middle East to serve his country. . . We made it through his fifteen months of active duty and deployment. Joe’s homecoming was February 11, 2005, a wonderful Valentine’s Day present. In the crowded cafeteria at a school in Youngstown, teary eyed, my Mom presented Joe with my Father’s flag for his faithful service to our country.

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I Will Dance at Your Wedding

When my son, Joe was deployed to Iraq in 2004, he wrote us a heartfelt letter after the loss of one of his fellow soldiers and several of his own brushes with death. A part of the letter said:

I think a lot of nights, restless nights, of the days to come.  I ponder and daydream of the good and the bad and the anxiety weighs on me like a ton of bricks.  Will I make it back?  Will I be so different from when I left?  What will I do with my life?  Will I be successful?  Will I be happy?

I answered him back: I will dance at your wedding and sing lullabies to your children.

Joe made it back in 2005. He is happy and successful. In two weeks my son is getting married. I will dance!

Joe and my new daughter-to-be, Katie. God bless you both on this new journey.

Yes Maddie,There is a Santa!

My grandchildren Sunny and Oscar

When my two year old granddaughter was asked by Santa what she wanted for Christmas, she answered, “Presents.” Little Maddie Hall was much more specific with her wish from Santa. She said she wanted her dad to come home. Maddie’s dad, Seth just finished his second tour in Iraq. The last time he was home was seven months ago when his daughter Juliet was born. This beautiful story is told by the Fox News Insider.

Seth missed his family so much while he was gone serving our country. He said, “…Time (away) can never be made back up.” This devoted dad plans on spending all his time with his children. The presence of our families at holiday celebrations is a gift that is priceless. Remember to pray for all our troops and their families. Merry Christmas and many blessings for a Happy New Year.

Chosen or Inherited-Freedom Isn’t Free

My son said ,” We don’t know how good we have it in the United States”, after he returned from his deployment in Iraq. Seeing other cultures and the struggles people have in their daily lives opened his eyes to what we sometimes take for granted in our daily lives.

Our freedoms are gifts to us paid for by the service and many times the blood of our soldiers. Read Regina Brett’s article about choosing or inheriting our citizenship. God bless our beautiful country and our service men and women. Happy 4h of July!

Talking Points- How Our Book Started a Conversation About War

My friend, Liz Kennedy was in Michigan last week visiting friends and family. Gus, who just returned from Afghanistan was sharing sobering details about his tour with Liz. She had given his mom a copy of Love You More Than You Know while Gus was deployed.

Gus also read our book and Liz said he was on the edge of his seat using details from the book for a way to start a conversation about his experiences at war.

Writing our stories allowed us to make sense of our raw emotions, from our deepest fears to our greatest hopes when our children were deployed. Sharing our stories bonded us to other mothers and we no longer felt alone.

I am grateful that our stories can help start a conversation. We can never understand what our soldiers went through, but we love and deeply care for our veterans. God bless you Gus and thank you for your service.

Giving All for the USA

Mary Jane Kashkoush & Mike

I mailed a letter today at the post office in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  On May 7, 2008, President Bush signed Public Law no-224, naming the Chagrin Falls Post Office in honor of Sergeant Michael Kashkoush. We lost this wonderful man to war. My daughter, Meme went to school with Michael.

Mary Jane Kashkoush is our own gold star mother.  Her story “Perchance to Dream” is in Love You More Than You Know. Her beloved son, Sergeant Michael Kashkoush lost his life in Iraq. Michael was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Mary Jane said, “This process of grieving and reconnecting to life is like trying to tune into a station on a car radio, the dial-in-knob kind, with static coming over the airways. . . My heart aches. . . Home is where the heart is, and my Mike is always with me.”

We remember the sacrifices and pray for the gold star families.

Phone Call From My Son

US Navy SEAL Trident

My son, Joe called me early today and said, “Did you hear bin Laden is dead.”  My son like many other brave sons and daughters signed up for military service right after 9/11.  He said at the time, “Even more reason (to sign up) now.”

The Florida Times Union wrote an article with reactions from families whose children in the military gave the ultimate sacrifice. The article states, “When Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan died after his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, each member of his family was given a trident that represented the Navy SEALs. When Fontan’s father-in-law Mike Fletcher left for work today with the knowledge that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a Navy SEALs operation, he pinned the trident over his heart.”

Love You More Than You Know has our own story, “Ten Years From Now” written by a proud mother of a Navy SEAL. God bless our Navy SEALs and keep them safe.

I Was There: They Don’t Tell Stories

Kourtney and Jon Sladek

My guest columnist is Jon Sladek. He served in the Air Force from 1998-2004 and deployed to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Jon earned a Journalism degree from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama and was a staff writer for 3 years at the Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch, an Air Force newspaper in Alabama. His work has appeared in The American Legion Magazine, Lake Erie LifeStyle Magazine, I Love Cats Magazine and the U.S. Air Force Leader Magazine.

They Don’t Tell Their Stories

By Jon Sladek

It could be a neighbor, a coworker or someone who sits next to you in church. Veterans returning from service often assimilate back into society to lead lives of relative anonymity. It is impossible to know how many people you routinely come into contact with were involved in combat operations in Iraq.

The overwhelming majority of veterans did not serve for the privilege of boasting. They do not view themselves as heroes, but rather just another Soldier, Marine, Seaman or Airman doing the job they signed up for.
When I discovered my good friend Jim was involved in one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War, I couldn’t help but want to know his story. Not in a morbid way, but because I am a journalist and I so appreciate the sacrifice of the American serviceman and staunchly believe their stories are worthy of telling.

While I did serve six years on active-duty in the Air Force, deploying twice; I was never directly involved in combat. To hear the stories of courage and heroism described by Jim when he recounted his battle experience to me, I knew it was time to put my journalism background to use.
For the last two years, I have been compiling and writing the battlefield stories of local veterans for a book I hope to get published. Searching for veterans willing to tell their story to a complete stranger is not the easiest of tasks, but I consider myself blessed for the people I interviewed and connections I’ve made.

Chagrin Falls Fire Prevention Officer Jim Alunni still doesn’t know how he survived a massive truck bomb that left his body permanently scarred and damaged his hearing. Cleveland Clinic doctor Pat Ginley dealt with the stress of working in a battlefield emergency room by building and repairing bicycles for troops on base during his off time. Egyptian-born Albert Fanous used his language skills to boost morale by procuring various perks for his Army brothers, while witnessing some of the most memorable events of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Each interview was a life-changing experience. I gained an understanding of what things were really like on the ground in Iraq, beyond the headlines and 24-hour news cycles. I tried to ask the right questions, while remaining mindful of the sensitive nature of the subject. At some point during several of the interviews, I felt the veteran began to appreciate the opportunity to unload some of the things that too many in our society don’t understand.

It is always a joyous occasion when a veteran returns from Iraq to a hero’s welcome at the airport. Sadly, for so many of them, the war does not end the day they set foot in the United States. Reading of the experiences of servicemen in Iraq can forge some understanding of the emotional trauma endured in battle. It also highlights the unmatched camaraderie between military members who form bonds that often last a lifetime.
This project began because I want to write books for a living and the military is obviously one of my top interests. Now I don’t care if this is the only book I ever get published. By recording the stories entrusted to me by our nation’s heroes, I have assumed a great responsibility.
Frank Herda, one of only two living Medal of Honor recipients in Ohio, told me when he graciously agreed to write the forward to my book that his one regret from his service in Vietnam was his failure to keep a daily journal.

With Love You More Than You Know, Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer provided an awesome and unique opportunity to view the war through the eyes of the local mothers who send their beloved sons and daughters to fight for the country. With I Was There, I hope to accomplish the same for local troops.

Jon is accepting stories from vets in the Iraq War. Send your story to jon.sladek@gmail.com

Vote for the Military Family as 2011 TIME Person of the Year

Contact TIME Magazine. Any time the wars in the Middle East are in the news, so is the American military family. Convince Time Magazine that Military Families should be named – Time Person of the Year. Drop them mail at:

TIME Magazine Letters
Time & Life Building Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020

How Catholic Digest Brought Us Together

Mary Anne Mayer’s story, My Son The Marine is in this month’s Catholic Digest. The article also tells how we reconnected by sharing stories about our sons’ military service.

Click Soldier[1]to read the story.