I recently had what I refer to as a happy-sad day. It was combined with happy and sad tears.
On Oct. 8, 2006, we were informed that my grandson had been killed in action in Iraq. It took us in a new direction. My daughter became an American Gold Star Mother on that day with the words, “We regret to inform you.” I was at the grocery store in the middle of my checking out when I received the call from my daughter. My immediate concern was to get in touch with my other two daughters and get to Spring Hill and the third daughter as soon as possible. That was accomplished in a total of 30-45 minutes. I tell you this to lead into the happy-sad day.
When Shane’s (PFC Shane A. Austin) obituary appeared, there was a place for people to leave messages, several years later there were pages and pages of messages left, some writers we knew and some we did not know, but they all meant so much.. At that time I ordered a leather bound book for my daughter with these messages, the obituary and Shane’s picture.
Now with almost 6.5 years since that date, the messages are not being added often, but on April 15, 2013, I received notice that a new message had been added. I went to the site immediately. It was the one message we had waited to hear for so long. It was from a soldier that had served with our Shane, tears would not stop while reading his words. He told of how he had been inspired by Shane, that he was the man he is now because of Shane’s advice and encouragement. He told of how he misses Shane daily and has had many bad days because of the event on Oct. 8, 2006, but had strong family support. He told how he was never able to contact the family because he did not how to approach them.
I immediately researched and found Justin Cookston in Tennessee. I sent messages via three different sources online, hoping to hear from him soon. I heard from him within 2.5 minutes. It was what our family had hoped for since 2006. We talked, he told me so much, so much we wanted to know. Of course as soon as we finished talking about Shane, I got in touch with the entire family, warning Justin to be prepared. He had heard from most of our family within 30 minutes later. We are now planning on flying him here. He wants to visit the cemetery at Ft. Leavenworth, all of us share our stories, our memories and our new friendship.
Justin did tell us that one of the soldiers had been sick that day and spending a fair amount of time in the restroom. This sick soldier was to be on tank duty that day, Shane volunteered to take his place, because as Justin put it, “Shane was strictly military minded.” The family accepted this as a comfort in ways, we feel it must have been when Shane’s name came up on that list, it was his time on that list above.
Shane had every intention of making military his career, and I keep in mind he did accomplish it, it was just a short-lived career. Thanks for allowing me share this, and Justin, thanks for making the connection we waited for since 2006.
I will also add on the Leavenworth Road trails, we have added three new businesses and the fourth, Subway, will be open in about three weeks, according to the owners. Plus I have met with the county engineer, and learned that complete resurfacing from 38th-78th will begin in June, expected to be completed in July. Then plans for reconstruction of some of our intersections on Leavenworth Road will follow in 2014-2015. Exciting things to come, to those who have waited.
Lou Braswell is the executive director of the Leavenworth Road Association.