Tag Archives: Military

Remembering the Forgotten

As human beings, we want to be remembered when we are gone. We want to know that someone, somewhere will remember us. We cannot all be a Shakespeare or an Einstein, the world remembers those that left behind great legacies that cannot be surpassed. We settle for our friends and family remembering us and hopefully in a good way, for Death will visit us all.

This blog begins in a cemetery. A particular cemetery in Houston, Texas, The Houston National Cemetery, to be exact. My husband, Richard Kean, is a bagpiper and he plays his pipes all over the state of Texas and beyond. We’d gone out to the Veteran’s National Cemetery in Houston because he was going to play at a funeral there. We’d been there dozens of times before and I always had the intention of visiting my uncle’s grave but I never did, until a few months ago.

I looked for the location of his grave at the kiosk at the front and after Richard was finished playing for the funeral he was at, we went to look for Uncle Bill. It took me awhile, his grave was only marked by a footstone, no headstone. I found him but I’d forgotten to bring flowers or anything! I looked around for a stone to place on his grave but that cemetery is so well managed, not even a pebble could be found. I looked in the van, maybe I had left a rock in it, but I hadn’t. I promised myself to bring flowers the next time.

His name was Billy Gene Craker. He was born in 1928, the half-brother of my Grandfather. I don’t know much about his life. According to one of his nieces, he would come and go and no one ever really knew where he was, he was cursed by the family alcoholism. He did serve in the Navy during World War II though. My grandma always made a point of keeping up with her ex-in-laws though and Billy was no different from the others. My mother, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with any of her father’s people. Billy Gene moved to Houston sometime in the 70’s or 80’s and lived not far from my grandmother. He became a real-estate agent, got married and had a step-daughter. I remember him coming over to our house a few times, the memories are blurry though. That I met him, that was my memory of Uncle Bill, until I got a phone call in 1996, from a woman that knew Bill to tell me that he’d died and she was looking for my grandma.

Grandma was the only Craker in the city and she couldn’t find her phone number. Why? Because grandma’s phone number was under my dad’s name. She and my aunt lived alone together and they all felt it was safer that way. I do not have a clue as to how this lady found me. My name definitely wasn’t Craker and this was 1996 before we could find any information we wanted with a quick click of a button. I lived in a different county too. But she did find me. She told me that she needed to get ahold of grandma to find Bill’s nearest relative. I called grandma and she called the lady and found out the tragic story of Bill’s end.

Bill had been murdered. He was found in his apartment, with a screwdriver driven through his skull. My dad had said that he’d seen Bill selling newspapers on the street months before. I don’t remember if he did stop and talk to him. Something had happened, who knows what? The fact was that he was dead and there was no one to claim him. When things were sorted out, there was a funeral at the National Cemetery. I met his ex-wife, step-daughter and the same friend that had called to find grandma, at the funeral. I was the only blood-relative there. His coffin was basically a cardboard box.  It was so terribly sad. The story was written up in the local paper of his hometown, Monett, Missouri but I cannot find my copy and it isn’t online. If I ever come across it, I will include it in this blog.

Richard and I were at the cemetery again a few weeks ago. I brought flowers this time and I left them between his grave and the grave next to his because no one leaves flowers out in what is basically the pauper’s field section of the cemetery.  I remember Billie Gene Craker, I am perhaps the youngest person that does. His life was hard and his death tragic but he deserved flowers at least.

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22

Twenty -two. That is how many American service members and veterans take their lives every single day. Twenty-two. 

My son lost another comrade today. He posted his farewell on Facebook and by the time the authorities got there, he was dead. A young man, serving our country, took his ew.jpgown life, like so many before him. Caleb came to me terribly upset moments ago. We shed tears together. He said, “You couldn’t tell he was sad, he was always so happy”.

That is how depression works. The world sees a person that is all right. Everything seems fine in their lives, but depression lies. It says, “Everything is wrong, you are worthless, you are insignificant”. Depression lies. Even when you do great things and succeed and earn accolades, it is there whispering in your ear…”you are worthless, the world is a bad place, you will never be successful, everyone is better off without you”… And the circle of negative thoughts and even suicide begin to turn once more.

I didn’t know this young man. I haven’t known any of the men that have killed themselves that have personally served with Caleb. That number is six. Caleb served for six years, that is one member of the Air Force each year of his service that took his own life. With all of the care out there, the resources for veterans and our men and women serving in the armed forces, this should not happen. I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken for his mom and dad, friends, and family. I am heartbroken for my military family.

If you are suffering, you are not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It is not weakness to ask for help, it is not weakness to fight the demon of depression! It is a battle and you are strong. You have gotten this far. Please call The Veterans Crisis Line  at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, if you are serving or have served. Or text, 838255. Someone is there to talk to you and help you.

If you are not a service member, then please help out by joining The Mission 22 Team. Help spread the word and help our service members. They serve us, it is the least that we can do.