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Love, Honor and Courage

-- Michael's Story

 

It was Christmas 2002. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see my son Michael. We were so caught up in the drama of fighting with Theresa (Michael’s 1st wife) so Michael could get custody of Christian that we didn’t really get to enjoy each other. Although on Christmas Day Michael had asked me if I was proud of him. I exclaimed that I was…and he replied, “No, Mom…are you REALLY proud of me?” I walked up to where he was sitting, put my arms around him and said, “I AM VERY proud of you, I always have been. I may not have always agreed with some of the choices you have made, but I have always loved you and have always been proud and thankful that you are my son”. Tears swelled up in his beautiful blue eyes as he stood up, gave me one of his big bear hugs and walked outside. Later that day taking pictures of everyone I got a great picture of Michael and Christian together…it would be their last. To this day I am so Thankful and Grateful for the opportunity to express how much I loved him and for him to really know it.

Two weeks after Christmas Michael called to inform me he had received his orders to leave for Iraq on January 12, 2003. My heart sank, I had a horrible feeling that started to well up inside me and I couldn’t shake it. I pleaded with him to see if he could get out of going at this time. He was in the process of a custody battle for Christian, his second wife Janina, was about to have twins and with their 2-year old son, she really had her hands full. I even asked him for his Commanding Officer’s name and number so I could call and talk to him. I felt desperate this time. Michael had gone on several deployments before and I didn’t worry about him, but this time was different. Then Michael’s voice became very soft and low, “Mom…I have to do this, I have to go”. “You will have to try to get custody of Christian”. “Mom…I don’t think I’ll make it back this time”. I knew then it was his choice to go, I also knew that he really believed he would not be returning. After getting off the phone with Michael I immediately called my oldest son Robert. Michael had already called him and made him executor to his will. I expressed my concerns about Michael and Rob expressed the same, tears were really flowing by now, I couldn’t talk anymore so I told Rob I’d call him later. Michael started calling family and friends, everyone he could get in touch with to say good-bye and to mend any hard feelings that may have not yet been mended. Since he couldn’t get a hold of Theresa he wrote to her and Christian sending his love and still trying to make peace with her, but telling Christian that he didn’t think he would be returning and how sorry he was and how much he loved him.

Michael e-mailed as much as he could while aboard ship on the way to Iraq, but that all stopped once they landed. I sent him a birthday card hoping he would receive it for his 31st birthday on 2/14/03. I later found out he never received it and it was returned to me by Janina a year or so later as everything that was sent to him was given to her. The twins were born on 2/21/03, a boy and a girl, just as Michael had hoped for and they both have the most beautiful blue eyes, again just as he hoped for. Michael was able to call Janina when the twins were born as he was chosen to do a supply run and whenever he was at the command post he made a call to his wife, but he was never to see his new babies. Michael had really come into his own the last couple of years and he really loved Janina and his children with all his heart and soul. I have to attribute a lot of that to him getting back into church and receiving God in his heart and his life. The last letter I received from Michael showed concerns again about Christian and he expressed that he hoped I could get custody of Christian.

As time passed the terrible feeling I was having only grew. About mid March these feelings where so strong I couldn’t hardly concentrate on anything, at one point I was driving home from work one night and I suddenly yelled out “MICHAEL, SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE WHITE LIGHT!” This outburst really surprised me. I didn’t know where it came from, but It left me feeling so helpless, I wanted to protect my son and I had no way of doing that, I didn’t even know where he was, all I felt was that he was in danger.

When President Bush declared war on Thursday March 20, 2003 I knew the time was drawing near. On Friday March 21st I was a total wreck at work and trying to get a hold of Janina to make sure Michael had all his affairs in order, but I couldn’t get a hold of her on the phone. June kept telling me I was blowing this all out of proportion and that Michael probably wasn’t anywhere near the fighting. The anxiety building up inside me told me otherwise. I couldn’t eat nor sleep. Saturday was pretty much the same. Finally about 3 to 4 am Sunday morning March 23rd, the tension left I was able to sleep. When I awoke the plastic flowers that had been entwined in the curtains above my head were neatly laying next to me on the pillow. I thought it was strange and wondered how on earth would they have ever fallen. There was no way, I shrugged it off, got up and replace them in the curtain and prepared for church. That evening the news was recapping the events of the war that was going on in Iraq. They showed a track being hit by an RPG raising it way off the ground and when it came back down it was on fire and black smoke was pouring from it. I couldn’t watch anymore and I walked out of the living room.

Monday morning March 24th, I hadn’t been at work long when James called me into his office. When I walked in June was sitting on a chair, her hands covering her face, trying to hide her tears as James was telling me I had to go home, that there were some men waiting to talk to me. I kept asking him why and what men. He finally said it was some military people to talk to me about my son Michael. That’s when I knew Michael was gone. I just started backing up in his office and kept saying, “But he’s my son; he’s my son”. James left the room stating that he would take me home. June got up to hug me. She kept repeating, “You knew, how did you know?” I just said, “I kept telling you I felt it”. Then June left the office as well. I walked out holding onto the walls as I walked through the conference room. At one point my knees started to buckle from under me and someone lifted me back up. I looked around expecting to see James or June, but no one was there. I managed to get out to James car and on the way home I just kept holding my hand over my mouth holding in my cries and whimpers. James kept telling me it was okay to scream or yell or cry out loud, but I couldn’t.

When I got home I jotted into the house, seeing out of the corner of my eye four military personnel getting out of the car that was parked in front of the house. All too soon there was a knock on the door. As I answered the door, tears were streaming down my face. I invited them in; a Chaplin, a Captain and a 1st Sgt., the forth person stood outside the door at attention. One of them handed me an envelope, which I immediately opened. It was a sympathy card for the loss of my son Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, Killed in Action on March 23, 2003. I paced back and forth holding my hand over my mouth, holding in my cries, holding in the screams that wanted to bellow out, trying to hear what the Military Chaplin was saying, yet I couldn’t seem to focus on anything, but Michael. At one point I heard one of the men say how sorry they were and they loved him too. I asked him if he knew Michael. He replied that he didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Michael, then, I snapped at him asking him how could he love Michael if he didn’t know him and that nobody could ever love Michael as much as I did for I was his mother, I gave birth to him and raised him. “Yes ma’m”, was all that he replied with. I immediately felt bad for snapping at this gentleman, he was only trying to console me. They were all very nice, gentle, kind and were very respectful. The Military couldn’t get a hold of Janina yet and had asked that I not call her until they had a chance to talk to her. I agreed. I had asked if they knew what had happened to him and they didn’t have any details of his passing.

When the military men had left and after I pulled my self together I started calling family and friends. First was Rob, then others. A little later James and June came by to bring my car and purse. I tried to talk to them, but words failed to make any sound. James said he’d come back another time and that if I needed anything I was to call him. When I found myself alone, the emotional pain of losing Michael finally hit me ripping through my soul; a Universal pain, as though I was experiencing the pain of every woman who had ever lost a child and those who ever will was tearing through me ripping me apart.

I so needed to talk to Michael that I started writing to him, expressing all my feelings and remembering his birth, his growing up years and the man he had become. I was so proud of him; yet I already missed seeing his mischievous smile, his blue eyes and feeling his big bear hugs. I wrote a poem to him entitled “Message to Michael”.

The next few weeks were hard and really tried my patience. Going back east to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was hard. I took Christian with me for the memorial and funeral services. Sadly enough the day we got there happened to be Christian’s 7th birthday. Not a very pleasant time for a little boy having a birthday and going to his father’s memorial service a couple of days later. Little did I know at the time that even though Michael and Janina were only married a couple of years she had the say about everything. I was hurt that I was not consulted about any of the arrangements that were being made after all…he was my son!

The day before the memorial service we met with President and Mrs. Bush, had pictures taken with them and talked to them a few moments. I was surprised at President Bush’s sincerity regarding the loss of my son, even though my 2-year old grandson hauled off and hit President Bush in the face as he walked in the door, just after Janina had picked up Joshua. Joshua tried to hit him again, but President Bush ducked and laughed while Mrs. Bush bee lined it to the twins. I had never met a woman so refined, gracious and elegant as Mrs. Bush. It was a pleasure meeting them.

After lunch we found out that they couldn’t release Michael’s body from Dover Air Force Base, as it hadn’t had the DNA testing done it. I felt hurt once again that I would not be able to attend a funeral for Michael. Since we had a lot of family that had flown in from all over the country it was decided just to have a memorial service. The military hadn’t started on anything and the service was to be the next morning. I didn’t even know what the brochure for the service was going to say. Janina kept her distance through most of all of this and I didn’t understand why or what was going on with her. When Michael was alive she was a different person. Now she was distance, cold and acted as though Michael had no family but her and their children. I was bewildered!

The next day at the memorial service I almost came unglued and walked out of the service. The photograph used for the service was tacky. On the back of the memorial service brochure was a list of survivors. Michael’s dad’s name and his two children from another marriage were listed as survivors. Michael’s dad never had anything to do with the boys and wanted to have us killed so he wouldn’t have to pay for child support and threatened to do so several times since Michael’s birth until our divorce. I never pressed for child support, I just wanted him out of our lives. I never wanted him to know where we were for fear of our safety. I paid for our divorce going through a lawyer who did not divulge our location. He hadn’t even seen Michael since Michael was 1 -years old. Their dad had never seen Steven, because I was 3 months pregnant with him at the time of our separation. I was finally able to get a divorce just before Steven turned a year old after I found out that their father had gotten out of prison after serving several months time – why he went to prison I don’t know nor did I care. I was furious that they would even mention people who were never in Michael’s life. Janina did not know what she had done or did she? She could have asked me about his father and if it would be appropriate to list them. However, out of respect for Michael I bit my tongue. But they might as well have just stabbed me in the heart then and gotten it over with, instead they just kept turning the knife with all the events that followed for several months. I later found out that their dad had divorced again, but hadn’t seen or contacted his other two children in over 6 years even though he lives 5 miles from them, nor had he ever paid child support to his second wife – go figure!

I was so hurt that I didn’t get to have a funeral for Michael and having to go back to California, I wouldn’t even be able to attend it when they finally did receive his body. Sunday was our flight home, but our fight was cancelled in Charlotte and Christian and I were put up in a hotel. Little did I know at the time the military flew Michael’s body over Charlotte between 10 and 11pm that night!

Back in California I was checking into proceedings to get custody of Christian. Then in June an opportunity presented itself and I took it. I was able to get temporary custody with a hearing for permanent custody scheduled in September and a restraining order against Theresa in place until the September hearing. I had a short time to get everything ready. I was thankful for this busy time as it kept me from dealing with Michael’s passing…at least during the day when I was taking care of Christian. My nights were spent soaking my pillow trying desperately to understand it all. In September at the hearing I was granted permanent guardian of Christian.

Christian needed a lot of help. He was a physical, mental and emotional wreck. He had just ended the 1st grade and he couldn’t read, write or do much math. At the beginning of 2nd grade he tested a year and a half below grade level. I needed to get him up to speed so we really worked and by the end of the second grade he was A’s and B’s and had received several awards; 3rd and 4th grade the same with awards being presented to him at each quarter. At the end of his 5th year and at graduation from grade school he was awarded a Presidential Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement and Leadership Abilities signed by President Bush. He is a completely different person then when I first took custody of him. Everybody remarked how, they couldn’t get over the change in him. He has confidence and assurance about himself now. I’m so proud of him, he has worked very hard to get where he is now. He has also been accepted into a Magnet school for 6th through 8th grade. It is such a joy to be a big part of his life and to watch him grow up. He looks, acts and has much of his father’s personality that many times I watch him and it’s De ja vu. Yet at times it’s sad because I see him growing up too fast and I will miss him dearly when it’s time for him to make his own way living his own life.

By the end of the summer in 2003 I tried feverously to find out what happened to Michael that day. Nobody would tell me anything and Janina kept telling me she knew but she wasn’t ready to talk about it. A couple of years later it was revealed that she didn’t know anymore than I did. I couldn’t leave it alone, finally I was given the name and number to Marine Headquarters in Washington DC. I called and talked to a General (the name escapes me) who got me in touch with Captain Blanchard (now Major Blanchard), who just happened to be there, but in a different company when Michael was killed. Captain Blanchard set up a meeting for Rob, Christian and I to talk to some of the marines that were with Michael when he was killed. The meeting was set up to take place the day before Thanksgiving. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was finally going to find out what happened that day. Several months later I received a 900 page investigative report from Captain Blanchard done by the military that confirmed what was said at the meeting, which I will discuss momentarily.

After Michael’s passing, I received numerous letters cards gifts and one of the packages I received was from Rosemary Smith. I read her book and called her to thank her for her kindness. I felt she understood what I was going through. During the course of a few months I had been talking with her when one day she called to discuss with me about a documentary they were talking about putting together regarding parents who have lost children and asked me if I would do an interview for it. I agreed. I told her I would be in North Carolina on base to have a meeting with some of the Marines who were with Michael in Iraq during Thanksgiving week. They set it up and got permission from Camp Lejeune to film an interview with me and to film Christian receiving a shadow box of Michael’s medals from Captain Blanchard. We were the first one’s filmed for the documentary. I didn’t know how it would go especially being filmed just after the meeting with the marines. It was a very intense time. I was still very much in my grief and had been crying a lot during the meeting. But I got through it.

Christian and I flew out to Florida on Saturday then Rob, Christian and I drove up to North Carolina on Tuesday November 25, 2003 to meet Captain Blanchard at the gate so we could get a pass to get on and off base during our stay. Captain Blanchard fixed us up at the Officer’s quarters, which were very nice accommodations. Captain Blanchard expressed that he wasn’t sure how many men would show up to talk to us as most of the men Michael was with have been transferred or are gone for the holidays and none would show up if Janina was going to be there. I assured him that Janina wouldn’t be there, that this meeting was for us and told him it didn’t matter how many guys were there, just so we could find out what happened that day. After Captain Blanchard left we went to see Janina and the children briefly. We didn’t understand why no one wanted Janina there and we weren’t told anything at that time. But after spending a few minutes with Janina, Rob and I both felt something was going on that Janina didn’t want us to know about. It was good to see the children, my how much they have grown. We didn’t stay long and headed back to the base to get a good night’s sleep before the meeting the next morning.

Wednesday November 26, 2003. By the time we dressed and ate breakfast, Captain Blanchard was there to escort us over to the meeting. When we drove up…my first thought was “How ironic…this is the same building where we had Michael’s reception after the memorial service”. As Christian and I walked up to the building, I became very nervous. We couldn’t see into the windows from the outside, but it looked like nobody was around. I started to panic thinking that maybe nobody showed up and this was a wasted trip. I paused at the door waiting for Rob and Captain Blanchard to get closer before I opened it to walk in. Stepping into the building I was struck in awe at the number of marines standing at attention waiting for us – there were 30 to 40 men. I felt honored to be among these wonderful men. The energy of the room catches your breath and moments seem like an eternity. When Captain Blanchard and Rob walked in, greetings were exchanged and we all filed into a bigger conference area.

When everyone was seated, each person in turn going around the room stated their name and rank. I had asked first what was Michael doing and how was he feeling, what was his mental status on the way over and before that day. There were several men who exclaimed that Michael had saved their lives and others he had saved either were still in the hospital or had transferred to another base. Several men talked about how Michael was a hand on type of Sgt. He would never demand anything of his men that he wouldn’t do himself. They said unlike other Sergeants Michael would get right in and help his men get the job done that needed to be done and that he was always looking out after other fellow Marines. They said before the war started he would hold talks and bible discussions in the back of tracks, doing whatever he could to keep up morale. If Michael saw someone off by himself, he would go sit down beside him, talking to them and bringing him back into the group. They said Michael always had a smile on, kidding around with everyone and laughing. They were saying that Michael was always upbeat and always wanting to learn more and working very hard and of course Michael loved to eat…boy did he eat! But he was very muscular and very fit…no fat on him!

There was some resistance to talk about what happened and I understood that because I knew the events of that day were still under investigation. Jumping ahead a little bit but between this meeting; a book called “An Nasiriyah The Fight for the Bridges” and a 900 page Military report of the events that day that Captain Blanchard brought to me in California a few months later, this is basically what happened:

March 23, 2003. The order was received to take the two bridges in An Nasiriyah. There were 3 companies of men - Alpha, Bravo and Charlie and were preparing the gear and weapons for war. Michael was assigned to Charlie Company. The tanks were fueled up to go in front of the companies and clear the way of Saddam’s regime. However, the call came through that a supply convoy had made a wrong turn and were under attack. This turned out to be the Jessica Lynch group. The tanks were ordered to go help them. By the time the tanks returned it was getting late and the tanks had to go back to the end of the convoy to refuel. They received the order to proceed without the tanks. With fighting all around them Alpha Company moved ahead taking the southern bridge on the Euphrates River and securing both sides of the bridge. Companies Bravo and Charlie proceeded to the second bridge. Charlie Company bringing up the rear but was to stay close enough behind to follow Bravo either through the city or around it, depending on the amount of civilians in the area. Bravo got too far ahead and decided to detour around the city and then got stuck in sand between buildings and lost radio contact with Charlie and Alpha Company, but doing everything they could to get their vehicles out of the mud to help Charlie Company when they heard them being attacked. Charlie Company not seeing Bravo detour to the east to go around the city assumed Bravo continued straight ahead through the city to the northern bridge – Saddam Canal Bridge and followed suit. With some of the tracks breaking down the men took their equipment doubled up in the some of the other tracks. The track Michael was driving had packed in 25-26 men on top of each other. They crossed the Euphrates River Bridges noticing Alpha Company still under heavy fire. Charlie Company continued heading into the city through Ambush Alley heading toward the Saddam Canal Bridge. The Iraqis were waiving white flags as if to surrender then all hell broke loose. Their convoy came under attack from rooftops, street corners and hidden posts. Continuing on through the city Charlie Company was being hit with intense arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. Since the Iraqi’s weren’t wearing military uniforms it was hard for the Marines to tell who were the enemy and who were civilians, especially when the enemy were using women and children as shields. Sgt. Michael E. Bitz was driving the sixth track in line under 2nd Lt. Michael Seely’s command. Charlie Company was almost through Ambush Alley and to the Saddam Canal Bridge without any one getting hurt until Michael’s track was hit with an RPG. Several marines were wounded and one of the anti-tank rockets inside the vehicle ignited lifting the track in the air (this was what was showing on the news that I saw and walked away from; I didn’t know it was Michael’s track I just knew I couldn’t watch it anymore). They described a white flash and the track was on fire filling the inside with black smoke. Among the dark smoke filled track the marines checked for wounds on themselves and then on others, quickly attending to the wounded. One marine was blown out of the track from the explosion and lying on top wounded. Another marine pulled him back into the track to get him away from the attacks they were still under. Another marine’s foot had been blown apart by the explosion and hanging by pieces of skin and tendons. Another marine lost his sight. Michael was wounded from the explosion, but was still going strong. Michael was ordered to keep the track moving north with the rest of the convoy. The outside of the track was on fire as well. As he coaxed the track forward flames were bursting from the rear hatch of the track. Some of the marines would stand up through the hatch just to get some air to breathe returning fire at the same time. Michael finally got his crippled track across to the north side of the bridge and to a stop. The latch was stuck on the back ramp of the track and wouldn’t open. Michael crawled out through the top under gun fire went around the back and opened the back ramp and started pulling the marines out of the track to safety. Michael was carrying an injured Marine to cover when a shell exploded near them and sprayed Michael with shrapnel all over the back of his head, back and legs. Blood started streaming from his face and back as he continued carrying the wounded Marine to safety. I was told that Michael must have been running on pure adrenalin, because he acted as if nothing was wrong. While medics were attending to the wounds of others, Iraqi’s were honing in on the damaged track blowing it up, setting off the spare ammunition left inside. Michael picked up a firearm and starting running around helping where he could and taking amino to those who needed it.

Then someone called in the A-10 fighters and all of a sudden Charlie Company was taking hits from both the Iraqis and our own Air Force. The fighter pilot did not know Charlie Company was in the middle of the fighting. After over three hours of fighting Charlie Company was getting too many casualties and Sgt. Schaefer decided to try to get the wounded back through Ambush Alley and head back to Alpha Company. More men were being killed as they were loading the wounded into the remaining tracks. Michael helped load up some of the wounded then walked into one of the tracks himself. By this time I was told that Michael was losing it. He had lost a lot of blood and was beginning to babble. As the convoy started back through Ambush Alley with approximately 80-90 marines, leaving over a hundred left to hold the bridge on the north side, one of the tracks loaded with wounded was hit killing everyone inside. Now, Charlie Company was down to 5 tracks and Michael was in one of them. Then another track was hit ripping the track in half. A third track from the back of the convoy was hit killing Michael. The driver of this track managed to keep the track moving with the other three going south. The fighting continued and still continues today. But I now knew what happened to my son that day.

The meeting that day with those Marines was very intense. There was a lot of crying on my part, but so thankful for the information. Everyone was so nice. I told some stories about Michael’s growing up years and passed around a senior picture I’ve always carried around with me. I had been asked how I was informed of his death and I told them. Three-four hours had passed by now and we were closing the meeting. Captain Blanchard had presented Christian with a shadow box of the medals Michael had received thus far. The meeting broke up and then I did the interview with Chip and Ann. I had been crying so much I was worried how I did on the interview, but was reassured that everything was all right.

After lunch we drove back over to Janina’s house to visit a little before we headed back to Florida. She expressed being hurt because she wasn’t invited to attend the meeting. We told her what we found out about Michael and left it at that, we didn’t let her know that Michael’s comrades refused to talk to us if she was there. She took us to see the house she was having built. It was going to be really nice for them. We said our good-byes and we headed back to Florida. The drive back seemed so much longer then the drive up. I guess I was just really tired. Rob and I discussed the events of the day and how intense it was…and wondered what Janina was hiding. Thanksgiving was pleasant and quite, it was also my birthday. I was so thankful to now know what happened and to hear the men speak so highly of Michael. A few days later I received e-mail from the mother of a good marine friend of Michael’s telling me why fellow marines wouldn’t have anything to do with Janina. Then a couple weeks later I received information from Janina that she was getting married on her birthday - January 28, 2004. It was pretty ironic that Janina met her new husband the same way she met Michael and that he is in the Marines and…his name is Michael! Since her marriage to her new husband, Janina has been more understanding, helpful and caring…she became a different person, a much happier person, which meant the children would be happier and well taken care of.

In September 2004 the church (my) Michael and Janina were members of flew Christian and I back to North Carolina to attend a Silver Star Award being presented for (my) Michael. This church was building a new church and the hall was being named after Michael. I met Janina’s new husband for the first time and was very impressed with him. I knew that he would love, honor and take good care of Janina and the children. It was also a time when Janina just found out she was pregnant. The Silver Star Award ceremony was wonderful and I am very thankful that Janina allowed me to be a part of it. I received the Silver Star and Janina received the Citation for it. But we all have copies of both. Christian was once again presented with an updated shadow box of several more medals Michael had received.

This is what the Silver Star Citation says:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Crew Chief and Assistant Section Leader, 3d Assault Amphibian Vehicle Section, Company C, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, Task Force TARAWA, I Marine Expeditionary Force during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 23 March 2003. During the attack on An Nasiriyah, Iraq, Sergeant Bitz’ vehicle sustained a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade, setting it on fire. Aware that there were several casualties on board, he maneuvered his vehicle to the Company’s defensive perimeter. He immediately assisted in moving the wounded to the casualty collection point. Without an amphibious assault vehicle to command and under unrelenting enemy small arms and artillery fire, he picked up his rifle and joined a squad of 3d Platoon and after the squad sustained several casualties, Sergeant Bitz ignored his own wounds and helped in loading the others onto an evacuation vehicle. Despite receiving unrelenting fire, Sergeant Bitz mounted a different vehicle to provide security for the casualties. While escorting the wounded during movement, Sergeant Bitz was mortally wounded by enemy fire when his vehicle sustained a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Sergeant Bitz reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Crops and the United States Naval Service.

In October 2006 the military flew us back to North Carolina for a dedication ceremony because Camp Lejeune built a middle school and named it after Michael. That was truly an awesome ceremony and the school is huge, much bigger than I ever imagined it to be. We were given a private tour of the school after the ceremony. It’s pretty incredible. It’s like no school I’ve ever been in. All the sidewalks leading up to the school has alligators painted on them (the alligator was the symbol for Michael’s unit). At the front door are two huge mats that have a big alligator with children climbing on it entitled Bitz Gators. There are three wings going off the main building one each for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades and on each hallway is a name such as a street name i.e. Alligator Zing, Alligator Alley. There are big stuffed alligators in the halls and a huge display in the front about Michael. They have a big computer room, big library, and a huge art room with a kiln room off to the side. There are computers in every classroom; the gym and cafeteria rooms are huge. The school is incredible; one would have to see it to get the full picture.

Major Blanchard flew in with his wife. Many of Michael’s comrades came for the dedication. It was good to see them again. My dad was trying to catch a flight in Phoenix, AZ and was bumped off the flight being very irritated about it until we were seated at the ceremony and he happened to look up and there was the marine who bumped him from the fight standing in formation. The Marine was trying to get to the ceremony in honor of Michael. I was so glad Rob was able to attend. One Marine spoke very highly of Michael telling of a time when he was first assigned to Michael’s unit. This Marine was a medic, but Michael insisted he would learn how to drive a track and had him up at 3 am every morning until he learned to drive one. He laughs about it now and expressed that he is probably the only Marine medic that knows how to drive a track. He also told of how he was trying to pass a rescue swim class and was continuing to fail it until Michael found out about it and worked with him showing him how to pass the class and the proper swimming techniques to use. He finally did pass the class thanks to Michael and was very grateful for Michael’s help.

Since Michael’s departure from the physical world I have read countless books, talked to different mediums including John Edwards of Crossing Over, regarding Michael. I have felt Michael’s presence many times and I know he watches over us protecting us. There are times when the lights in the room we are in will flicker, but no other room. I know it is Michael saying hello. One medium told me that the last thing Michael remembers was that his tongue and face were going numb and he was trying to talk but couldn’t. Now I know he wasn’t losing it as what was thought. He couldn’t talk because his tongue was numb from the wounds he had sustained. I have learned that WE never die, we may lose our body, but WE never die and that we chose when to cross over after what we came here to accomplished has been completed. I believe Michael’s purpose was to learn and experience Love, Honor and Courage - which he did with all his heart, mind, body and soul.


 

Raising Christian has been very rewarding to me. Christian’s mother Theresa is a different person now as she continues to improve her life and has been living with Christian and I for the past couple of years even though I continue to be Christian’s guardian and make all the decisions regarding him. However, he needs me at home so I’ve started making candles and painting art pieces to subsidize my income to help me raise him. The candles are 100% soy and very healthy. Every thing is handmade/hand poured/hand painted and custom ordered.