In honor of Sgt. Christopher Rudzinski I am sharing with you the words that his father Mike wrote regarding their travel to Dover Air Force base to bring their fallen son home. My heart sinks knowing that Natalie and Mike are grieving the loss of another child. My heart sinks even further knowing that Caroline and Ryan are facing the future without a husband and a father. My prayers are with this amazing family today, tomorrow, and always.
through the clouds……
I hope you don’t mind me writing you and updating you on Chris’ return home. I’m not sure I can cry any more tears and remain strong for my family too without talking with somebody. My head is in a spin and my heart aches as we start the process of bringing Chris home. Today Natalie, Caroline, Ryan and I were flown to Dover Air Force Base to witness the dignified transfer ceremony. It is the ceremony where our men and women in uniform take heroes and render honors as they return to American soil. I’ve had to do some difficult tasks in my life and Army career, but I have to say that standing there in the rain and cold and watching our military men and women take loving care of my son, like they have with the thousands who have preceded him was about too much to bear. It was too much for Caroline, she collapsed at seeing her beloved husband and Ryan’s daddy, in a flag draped transfer case, being unloaded from the plane and put into the van which has taken Chris to the mortuary unit to prepare him for his trip home.
I was moved by the reverence and care the honor guard, the general officer, the chaplains the mortuary staff, the security detail and even the military families on Dover Air Force Base gave to Chris and my family on the way to and from the flightline and during the transfer. I can’t imagine where these people find the strength to do this over and over again. They too, are truly heroes-military and civilian alike.
But I thought you should also know about the other heroes we ran into today, because they made my heart swell with love and pride, even as it was breaking. It started with the United check-in clerk who moved or bumped somebody out of premium seating to ensure that Natalie and I could sit together on the flight to Philadelphia. It continued with the flight attendant who leaned over and whispered some tender words to my wife as she sat crying on the plane, holding the picture or her “baby and his baby” (Chris and Ryan) that I shared with you.
Then came the cascade of wonderful gestures, messages and visitors who were ensuring that my kids, family and friends who could not go with us, were being comforted and feeling the love and reverence for Chris that we received today. Finally I have to say two final events happened which made my soul soar and my tears start anew.
First, Caroline told me, that a gentleman on her flight overhead her talking with her military escort about Chris’ death and he politely asked Caroline to speak with him at the arrival gate when she got off the plane. When she got off the plane, the gentleman was standing there and he said he owned a business and he always supported the troops and he wanted to help her out. He placed several folded bills in her hand and said “buy something nice for your baby.” Then he walked away without introducing himself. Caroline put the bills in her pocket and went to baggage claim.
Later today, Caroline was telling us about this kind gesture and she pulled out the folded bills. She said, “I think he gave me twenty dollars.” She was wrong. He had given her five hundred dollars. Natalie and I started crying for a stranger who’s only wish was to do something nice, without recognition or reward.
When I decided to share this story with you, that ‘s when the second event occurred. I read all of the comments under Chris’ picture and the outpouring of care, concern and reverence that the readers of KisP offered to us. I couldn’t stop crying. We are overwhelmed that so many people took the time to offer a part of their heart in an effort to save ours. You all are heroes to me and my family. And I guess this brings me to my main point. What a wonderful country this is, surrounded by people who offer their treasure, their service, acts of simple kindness and even their hearts to help a stranger in need. I am confident we will prevail against the evil that is plaguing humanity. Thank you for putting Chris’ sacrifice into perspective for me. I think I might even get through these dark times.
May the Almighty God bless and keep you and reward you in this life and the next.