During the Operation Iraqi Freedom II deployment (2004-2005), I had been in country a few days when I had changed my uniform and while putting on a fresh set of tri-colors (what we called the three colored desert tan combat uniforms, since they differed from the seven-color chocolate chip uniforms I wore during Operation Desert Shield and Storm), I felt something different in the pockets of the pants. I turned the pocket inside-out and found about a 2-inch square swatch of satin hand stitched inside the left front pants pocket. I then looked at my remaining uniforms and found each of the trousers had the same satin square hand stitched into the left front pockets. As I looked at this fabric and wondered how it got there, I thought it must have been Mary, as she was the only other person to have access to my uniforms before I deployed. I didn’t think it could have been the alterations shop because all they did was sew on my name tapes, rank and unit patches, they wouldn’t have put something so delicate into the pockets. I had to wait a few days to be able to contact Mary to confirm it was her and to find out why?
When I called home at the next available window to make a call, Mary told me that yes she had hand sewn the satin swatches into the pockets of each of my trousers. She had her sister go to their parents house and ask their mother to get Mary’s wedding dress out of storage. Mary wedding dress had ben professionally cleaned and sealed in 1988 after our wedding for safe keeping. Her was a bit upset that Mary’s sister was asking to open the dress, but when she explained that Mary wanted to remove one of her white satin bows from her dress, so that she could fashion a patch to sew into each if my uniform pockets, her mother approved.
Mary said to me that she wanted me to have a constant reminder of her and our family with me everyday. Each time I placed my hand into my pocket, I could feel the satin in my hand. This became a continual reminder of our faith, our strength and our hope. I still have a set of these, “special” tri-colors, they are a part of our history, our time apart, a memory of how we were able to get through the day to day of a trying year. A year of pain, sorrow, and loss that at times was punctuated with a happy thought and a reminder of home.