I was stitching last night for something larger than me. For Rachel K. Bosveld, who wrote as a 7th grader:
I feel lost in emotions they wrap around me like a blanket and hold me tight
I touch a butterfly as it flutters past
I worry about dying without having done all that I could."
She was right to worry. Rachel enlisted in the Army when she graduated from high school in Waupun, Wisconsin in 2002. She was an artist, who loved to draw forest scenes, play her violin and act in the high school drama club. She hoped one day to become a graphic artist.
Rachel felt a great sense of pride to be following in the Army footsteps of her father who served in Italy in the late 60s and her brother who served in Alaska. She came into her family as a neglected baby, adopted by the foster parents she was placed with. She idolized her brother. She told her mother, in reference to her decision to join the Army, "Mom, I have to do this... I want to keep up the family tradition, Except, Mom, I'm going to be the first girl in our entire family."
And she was just a girl. Not a woman. But a brave and strong girl with a tenacious will to live. At 18, she graduated from boot camp in October 2002 and was quickly deployed to Iraq. On September 12th of 2003 the Humvee she was driving was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The Humvee burned up from the inside out, but with gritty determination, Rachel wrenched open the door, dislocating her shoulder in the process. Once she was free of the burning vehicle, she started taking small-arms fire until another Humvee arrived on the scene.
She survived that attack, but for only another six weeks. She was patched up and sent back into duty as a member of the 527th Military Police, guarding the Abu Ghraib Police Station in Bagdad. On October 26th, 2003, Rachel was killed during a mortar attack on the police station. She was 19 years old. And her funeral was held on what would have been her 20th birthday.
It breaks my heart to think of Rachel and all her untapped potential, frittered away in an unfortunate war. And perhaps, had circumstances been different, she might have just celebrated her 24th birthday. She might just be starting out on that graphic design career path. Instead she is a statistic. A statistic with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
I stitched her name as part of the Mother's Day Project. I wished, when I e-mailed to become involved, that there were no more names of women service members who lost their lives in Iraq. My stitches were tiny. Her name is so small. I started out with a variegated green rayon thread to honor her love of drawing forest scenes, but it tangled and looked terrible. I ripped it out and began again. It is now stitched in a variegated red to purple DMC floss. Red for the blood she spilled, pink for the girl she was, purple for the bravery she showed.
Each stitch I made was a prayer. A prayer for all the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who are doing their patriotic duty, under grave circumstances whether they believe in their mission or not. And I especially prayed for our good friend, Joe, who is currently serving out his National Guard commitment as an M.P. in an Iraqi prison.
Please keep him and the rest of our bravest and finest in your thoughts. As well as Rachel.