GLENDALE, AZ, US
U.S. Marine Corps
CPL, 1ST BN 6TH MAR ( RCT-6, 2D MAR DIV, II MEF FWD) 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
01/18/2012, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
What follows are thoughts from the perspective of a US Marine Corps mom.
I know what it means to be a Marine mom. I’ve been one since 2008 when my oldest son, Philip, enlisted. Since then, two more of my seven children have become Marines. But this past January, every Marine mom’s nightmare became my reality – I lost a child. My oldest son Philip was killed in Afghanistan. My life changed forever.
As a military family, our boys were exposed to the Marine Corps while we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Philip was about ten and thought the Marines were ‘all that.’ David and I tried to encourage all our children to go to college, but Philip had a different calling. He chose instead to embrace the life of a Marine. In 2009 his younger brother Kenneth joined the Corps and was followed by brother Allen in 2011. By that time I was a Marine mom expert. I had such pride in my boys and learned more about the Marine Corps with each one. Pretty soon, I was giving other moms advice on what to do, what not to do, and what to expect.
Although I worried about my boys, I talked to them on the phone and communicated with them on Facebook as much as I could. In July 2011, Philip deployed to Afghanistan. My experiences as a Marine mom were being stretched to new levels. Being away from Philip wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was focusing on him, but not forgetting I had six other kids including two other Marines to take care of. I still had three sons in the house, the youngest only seven years old.
Corporal Philip McGeath wed his wife Sarah in 2010.
The last phone call I had with Philip was on Christmas Day. He called to wish us a Merry Christmas. All of our boys who were home had the chance to talk to him, too. It was so great to hear his voice. He sounded upbeat and self-assured. He loved what he was doing, but he was ready to come home. He and Sarah were ready to start a family. Philip even had baby names picked out. His homecoming in a month couldn’t come any sooner.
His homecoming did come sooner. Just not in the way I had imagined it.
The day we found out about Philip’s death started out like any other day. I went to work at the airport. While at work, I was told that the supervisor needed to see me. Immediately, I thought I was in trouble, wondering if I’d missed something in the international security checks. When I got off the airport train, I saw some men in military uniforms and for a moment thought all of my Marines had come home at the same time to surprise me. All three hadn’t been home at the same time in four years. My supervisor said there were some gentlemen who needed to speak to me. That’s when I saw the Marines standing beside my husband.
Instantly I knew. I had been in a military family for a long time. I knew.
All I could manage to ask was, ‘who?’ When David told me it was Philip, I was stunned. As a parent, you never expect your kids to die before you. Especially not kids like Philip. He loved so much and was loved so much that you couldn’t for a minute think he could be gone. He gave life his all. Everything about him was more than average. He loved his family, he loved his wife, and he loved the Corps. He had always been such a great example for my younger boys to follow. I didn’t have a conversation with him where he didn’t ask me to tell the boys he said hi.
Now I had to go home and tell my three younger boys that Philip was gone.
It’s been over a month now since we got the news and every day is a struggle. I’ve had to put on a brave face because I’m still a mom: to my younger boys, to my daughter and to my Marines. It’s my job to take care of everything. But slowly I’ve realized that I can’t fix this. Keeping his memory alive has become what keeps me holding on as well. I was surprised that so many people believe the war is over just because all the troops are out of Iraq. There are still men and women fighting and dying for our country in Afghanistan. I believe it is my job to speak out about Philip and his life because he’s so much more than a line in the newspaper. I know Philip would want me to stop crying and move on. He’d want me to take care of his brothers since he can’t anymore. And he’d want me to look after Sarah. So, that’s what I’ll do.
Phyllis McGeath, Marine Corps Mom.