November 15, 2005
Hey everyone! Just a quick note to let everyone know I'm still alive and kicking here in Iraq. . . I am unhurt, been shot at and people tried to blow me up, even threatened with a "dirty" bomb (an IED equipped with a nerve gas canister). . . But to put all of your minds at ease this was the last Major operation which we are scheduled for, everything else is just occupation and security and stability ops in which we will be teaching the Iraqi army to take care of this region on their own. So, no worries. I'll be back home before you know it, the deployment is almost half over then we're on the down hill slide.
Love you all,
December 17, 2005
. . . In old Ubayti the only shots we've fired have been at feral Dogs coming inside our perimeter, and I for one am glad. I've heard a few people say they wish something would happen, but I'm not one of them. . .
Love you all!
February 8, 2006
Hi, I am Steven's mom, Paulette Phillips. I gathered your names and addresses from e-mails Steve sent me from Iraq. I am so sorry to have to share this e-mail with you but you were the people he cared enough to send e-mail to during his long haul overseas so I think he would want you notified. Yesterday, his father and I recieved a visit from the military. Steve was involved in an accident in which was driving a hum-v that rolled over an imbackment (sp). Steven's chest was crushed and I'm afraid he is gone. At this time he is still at the base in Al Quim. They said they will fly him to Dover, Del on Thursday. They have to process some stuff there and then he will be flown to Pittsburgh and have a military escort home. I don't know any arrangements at this point. If you will send me an e-mail letting me know I was able to contact you, then I will e-mail you back as I know anything new. He was a wonderful, wonderful son and friend to everyone who met him. I don't think he had an enemy in the world. We're holding on to all the great memories we have with him and will always try to honor his memory and life in every way. May God be with you in your grief.
April 9, 2006
I've been thinking of you and wanted to write to say you are in my thoughts and prayers. While I was in Iraq, I had the unusual privilege of being on an Air Force Bace (Anaconda in Balad) to try to accompany the remains of a colleague killed in Iraq home. Although I did not get to come home with Tom, I was able to be there for a few days, getting to know the men and women in the mortuary unit and see first hand how they do their work. I wasn't able to find out if this is the base where Steven's body was, but if so, I can tell you that they were kind and dealt with their responsibility with a sort of holy awe. With great respect, they do their work. I saw them carry Tom's casket onto the plane, where all the soldiers there saluted and bid him a quiet farewell (and he was a civilian). In such times as these, comfort comes in strange ways. I hope you find comfort in knowing that all those who dealt with Steven, based on my own experience, were touched by the life that was his as they made his body ready for its final trip home. God's peace be with you in your tears.
April 9, 2006
Thank you for your kind thoughts and words. We are slowly mending. It's a very confusing time as we know he is in a better place and his time with us was full and meaningful to many, but we still have such great pain in his physical absence. It is a comfort to know such respect and honor is paid to all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thanks again. Take care. Our prayers are with you as you minister those in your path.
Veterans Day 2012
It’s been 6 years+ since Steve and Tom and so many others died. Steve and Tom both died in Iraq. They both were Marines. They both landed home at the US at Dover Air Force Base. There, perhaps, the similarities end. Steve was young; Tom, not so much. Steve was on active duty with the Marines when he was killed in Iraq when his humvee rolled. Tom was murdered by persons unknown, after having been held hostage for more than 3 months. Steve was in Iraq as a soldier; Tom was there with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams).
Steven was my cousin. I never knew him, not really. We never met. I know his Grandpa, who is first cousin to my Dad. But I never knew Steve, except from a couple of e-mails. Steve added me to his list and I him to mine when we found out through family that we were both in Iraq.
Steve died in February of 2006 and Tom just a month later.
Today on the radio I heard a Veteran’s Day story about a man who served at Dover.
I cannot hear the word without tears.
It is a symbol of so much. Of pain and loss. Of dreams shattered. Of war and power. Of the dignity of the dead. Of ritual. Of kindness. Of young men and women compelled by circumstance to see far too much far too soon. Of secrets.
The place I was never allowed in.
The place to which I could not accompany Tom in his final trip home.
The place where Steven went.
There are so many Dovers around the world and so many sons and daughters, father and mothers, who wind up in all the Dovers, never having planned such an end for themselves.
It is Veterans Day and I have no advice . . . no wisdom . . . no insight. . .
All I have are tears.
It is a keening word.