For Philip, from Mom
My sweet son,
I cried and cried when I got your email. I feel like I have been run over by crushed razor blades and rolled in salt. It is so hard to believe that you have to be exposed to such horror and tragedy. I am so grateful that you can express your feelings so openly and honestly.
You are such a great writer! My God! After all those years of telling you that you could be anything you wanted to be if you just put your mind to it, you discovered it was true... a writer. I guess every mother who has struggled with raising a son who loved life in the fast lane worries that they will never take life seriously. You certainly have grown up to be a fine man. Please consider putting all your journal entries together and writing a book about your experiences when you return home.
I am carrying one of your Army issued hankees that you left in the wash on one of your trips here and the picture of you in your Bradley. Every morning I see that hankee and give you a mental hug and kiss. Pete says if I don't stop crying they will think a dam burst upstream.
I am so glad your father has created this weblog so I can read not only your entries but those of concerned and carrying family members who also have soldiers serving in harms way. The heartache of concern for your safety can't be expressed. I love you son. I want to hear your voice and to hear that you are alright. From your written words, you are so expressive that I feel as though I have crawled into your mind. I feel your pain but also feel your compassion, your caring and your love for your fellow soldiers. I am so proud of you.
I also sent this to your father. If you both think this is too mushy don't put it on the weblog. If you want to include it you have my permission. I'm glad tear stains don't show online.
Posted by Critt Jarvis at 01:15 AM | Permalink
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Philip is indeed a great writer . Thank you for this
Posted by: Robert Paterson | Mar 21, 2004 9:23:51 AM
You are INDEED a great writer! And your writings make everyone aware of what you are all going through over there. It is very difficult to read the truth, but everyone needs to. All our thoughts and prayers are with you all everyday.
Love, Sandy (your Mom's cousin)
Posted by: Sandy Tavernia | Mar 21, 2004 1:20:42 PM
Your mom said it best, Phillip- she expressed my feelings exactly in terms of knowing your child who you nurtured and cared for is having to deal with such horrible experiences. I would rather experience a hundred weeks like the one you just had, than see my child go through such madness. But I also realize you can't pick and choose your children's life expereinces. In 1991 several of my family members died in a month's time: my father first, then two weeks later my sister, then two weeks later my mother. Later that fall my brother in law and grandmother died. It left me reeling; who do I mourn for first? I knew I would never be the same, but I am fine now. I am good, although not the same as before, and I don't think about that time every day, and sometimes not for weeks. Time can be your ally or your enemy, depends on your approach to life. If you can look at the world as a benign force with good and evil, but mostly good, then you can look for the good when faced with evil. It helps me continue to look forward to my future.
If you see my son PFC Stearn with the HHC 1/18th Infantry Mortars, tell him I love him and am praying for him with every breath. Praying for you too, another one of my heroes.
Posted by: Kim, PFC Jonathan's Mom | Mar 21, 2004 3:44:34 PM
Hello - I just finished reading everyone's comments and stories and am filled with a sense of comfort knowing that Hans touched so many people's lives. I am not a childhood friend or a family member, but someone who loved Hans deeply. I only knew him for a year a half, but I know that I will carry his memory and a smile in my heart forever feeling blessed to have known him as I did.
I am stationed in Tikrit with the 67th Combat Support Hospital and had the opportunity to see Hans the Monday before he died. It was a short reunion because he was out on patrol and had just swung by to say hello. I even took his picture standing there in all his gear just to prove that he was real. If I had known then what I know now, I don't think I would have said or done anything differently and I find peace in that. I can tell you he looked tired, but you could still see the sparkle in his eyes; he was so focused and motivated to be patrolling his new sector. He vowed to help "keep the boogeyman away" from those of us who are on FOB Speicher and I told him that he and his guys were allowed to stop by anytime as visitors, not as patients. I wish now that they would have had the choice.
I just wanted to tell you another version of what happened on 13 Mar 04. I could never know what happened out there on that cold morning even though my mind tries to play it over again and again and tries to fill in the gaps. So I will tell you from my perspective as the close friend and nurse who received that awful call.... I remember it was early in the morning when I heard a knock on our door and somebody yelled in "MASCAL". My friend and roommate, Laura, and I had just gone to sleep a few hours before and it didn't quite register in our brains. The second knock made us jump to our feet and throw our shoes on. I can remember running to the hospital and hearing Laura say, "This better be real" as we had had quite a few MOCK ones in the past. I replied, "God, Laura, you better hope it's not." I know now she regrets even thinking it. I arrived in the ICU and helped get extra beds set up and waited for word on how many patients were coming and what their injuries were. The rumor mill had already begun churning and there was talk of the casualties being from 1/18. I tried to ignore it and not think the worst. I don't remember what time it was when my hospital commander and Chaplain walked onto the ward, but I remember feeling this dull ache in my gut when I realized they were walking towards me. They said I had a phone call from Hans' unit and I should come with them to the TOC. We ended up having to call back due to the phone connection getting cut but the soldiers on the other line didn't know anything about a phone call. It was then that the Chaplain said some of the patients seen in the ER were asking how their commander was and that they were worried about him. Nothing could be confirmed or denied, so I numbly walked back to the ICU to wait. I don't clearly remember the events of the rest of the morning, only that one of my coworkers had received a phone call from her husband asking if I was okay. He is in a different unit, but had heard the news. That's about the time I felt this tremendous ache in my chest and knew in my heart it was true. Hans was gone. Our commander kept saying that nothing was verified yet and not to believe it until it was, but even she knew that there wasn't any hope left. The rest of the day is pretty much a blur - I spent a lot of time with close friends and the Chaplain and hung out in the Chapel late into the night trying to accept what I had heard. Even now it all feels surreal. I later spoke with SPC Press who was with Hans at the time and he was able to give me an idea of what happened, but even his accounts were fuzzy. I guess shock and disbelief will do that to a person. LT Crawford came by the next day to see me and it really helped to see a friendly and familiar face from the unit. We laughed and I cried when we shared some memories about Hans, particularly his stinky infantry feet and clever sense of humor :)
That Monday, I was honored to attend the memorial service for Hans and SPC Ford at Camp Omaha. It's a feeling that is hard to describe - being there to witness the discipline and unspoken love and respect that every last soldier portrayed. I always used to joke with Hans that his "tough love" with his soldiers and his love of the Court Martial system might one day come back to bite him when he least expected it, but I understand now that tough love is exactly what every soldier needs. Hans never cowered behind his guys letting them do all the dirty work; he was out in front leading the way and showing them that hard work, determination, and digging deep into their souls to build up their honor and integrity was the best way of showing them how much he loved them. And he did love them. I can understand that now and know that maybe it took his death to help us realize how much he has inspired every single one of us to become better people, soldiers, brothers, and sisters. People do come into our lives for a reason and although his time here on Earth was brief, his spirit and inspiration will forever be burned into the hearts of those who met and knew him.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to come back to the states to attend Hans' funeral. I was able to attend the memorial service in Schweinfurt and it was breathtaking. There wasn't a dry eye or an empty seat in the Chapel that afternoon. The support from the folks in the rear was astounding and continues to grow. I personally am looking forward to getting back to Tikrit - especially now that I have a deeper pride in the comraderie and such an emotional tie to be there. Ever since the 1 ID soldiers set foot in Iraq, there has been a renewed sense of honor and pride in what we as the 67th CSH are there to do. These soldiers are our brothers and sisters, and we want them all to know that we are here to support and care for them with all that we have and all that we are. I know this has been a long winded email, but it feels good to get it out there. I will leave you with a great quote that somebody wrote on our hospital information board the day Hans and SPC Ford died.........
"Life has a certain flavor for those who have fought and risked all that the sheltered and protected can never experience." John Stuart Mill
I miss you and love you, Hans. You will always be my SMF. Love Your SLF
Posted by: Jodi L Brehmer | Mar 22, 2004 4:41:11 AM
I'm not sure how I even found this site but my son is with you guys at Camp Lancer. Specialist Davidson in the 1st and 33rd. If you see my son tell him I send my love. Your story needs to be heard and you tell it beautifully. Thank you for reaching out to all of us wherever we may be. May God bless you all and your mission and bring you all home safely to all of us!
Holly - Christopher's Mom in CT
Posted by: Holly | Mar 24, 2004 11:51:58 AM
Not only was Mom's letter not too mushy it was so right on! Every morning I wake up and my first thought is Dear God, please let our guys have a peaceful night and than the next thing I feel is my stomach..it feels like I swallowed broken glass and I roll over throw the covers over my head and pray, pray for our troops, my son, our families and that I'll get through another day.My son is SPC Adam with 1/26 "A" CO 1st Platoon...he's got his guitar with him..if you know him, tell him to write home!
Posted by: Pamela Goodwill | Mar 28, 2004 6:59:31 PM
Hello. I am looking for a man Cpt. John Kurth
called his "brother." Possibly a close friend
or army buddy. It is imperative I find this
person. Please contact me with any information.
Thank you--God bless our troops!
Posted by: Sandie Jaggars | Jan 16, 2007 10:33:35 PM
Just realized I didn't put a contact on my
request for information on Capt. Kurth.
Please email me at:
Please help me locate his friend!
Posted by: Sandie Jaggars | Jan 17, 2007 12:02:30 PM