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Promises a Marine widow cannot bear to hear


Rachel Porto, 23, is the widow of Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan D. Porto, 26, who was killed in Afghanistan on March 14. Together they have a three-month-old daughter, Ariana. Rachel, a native of Aberdeen, Md., graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2008. She is currently living in North Carolina outside of the family's last duty station, Camp Lejeune. She blogs atA Little Pink in a Word of Camo.

A cassette tape is waiting for me. It sits in a small bubble mailer on my night table. It stares at me when I walk in the room; it beckons to me as I walk out. But still it sits there and waits. It is the last thing. The last thing he sent to me from "over there."

There is no note inside, just a regular old-school cassette tape. The outside of the envelope is addressed in his handwriting. "Love, Poppa Bear" is written on the back. I've opened it to look inside, but I haven't yet drawn up the courage to listen.

I know what I can expect to hear. The same things he always told me. He'll tell me how much he loves us and misses us. He'll sing to us--he always sang to us. Probably our favorite songs, maybe some new ones. He'll talk to the baby, he loved talking to her and she loves to listen to him. The first time I saw her smile was when he talked to her on the phone from "over there."

It will be filled with promises. He will promise us he's coming home, promise us everything is ok, promise that we're almost done and that we'll see each other soon. It's these promises I am most scared of, hearing them anew from lips that will never again utter them to me. Promises I held on to so tightly for the first three months of the deployment. Before... before the fateful ringing of my doorbell at 0530 on March 15. These promises have taken a completely new meaning for me since that morning. Promises to come home turn into, He's already home, just not the way I ever imagined. Promises of seeing each other soon have turned into, I've got a lifetime to wait. Promises of everything being ok have turned into, I am now in charge of making it ok.

As the days pass, more of his stuff trickles in. It started with the dog tags and the ring. The articles the military considers "sentimental," I received even before the funeral. The ring was one I'd given him when we first started dating, my birthstone cut in a heart shape. I told him "Here, I'm giving you my heart." He kept it safe all this time. Now it is back in my care, and it is again my responsibility to keep safe.

The stuff continued trickling in when two weeks ago, the articles that were "on him" at the time of death were given back to me. My Casualty Assistance Calls Officer - the man who delivers the bad news and then stays with you throughout the whole process -- inventoried each item with me. "One Identification card holder, black in color... Two Corporal chevrons, black in color, damaged" etc. etc., for each item, including the memory card. The memory card containing his photos from deployment -- all I have of the stories I'd been waiting to hear, and quite possibly the last things his eyes set on that fateful day. I studied each photo and wished upon everything I had that he could just show up and tell me what in the world some of the photos were of.

Sometimes, I expect to be able to talk to him. I'll tell a story and I'll forget the exact details. The first thought to cross my mind: "I'll have to ask Jonny when I talk to him." Then reality hits. All I have left are these memories and this 'stuff' that keeps coming back.

And the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps that was his and grew to be mine as well. The Marine Corps we both love. The Marine Corps that I trust will always keep my beloved Cpl. Porto's memory alive for me and my daughter.

The Marine Corps that continues to deliver the last tangible items, the last pieces of him left. And the tape. The last promises he left for us, the last words we can hear repeated to remember he is always with us, promises unbroken.


By Rachel Porto  |  May 10, 2010; 9:14 AM ET
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Dear Mrs. Porto, May I say how sorry I am for your loss and how lucky we all are to have been in the care of your brave, brave husband. I am sure he will protect you and your daughter for the rest of your lives. God bless you and may he rest in peace. Thank you for your sacrifices.

Posted by: snakeytrickercharlie | May 10, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

It never goes away. After 41 years, I just had my PTSD evaluation. We were screaming at each other within 20 minutes.

We have to stop worshiping the use of brute force.

Posted by: gkam | May 10, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. P, you are a beacon of encouragement to us all. The first time I ever saw your blog was the day you announced to the world the loss of your marine. My heart broke for you then and it breaks for you now. Your ability and willingness to share your story is amazing. Thank you.

Posted by: gamommy2two | May 10, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I've been following Mrs. P's blog for awhile now, and I will not soon forget the shock I felt from reading her blog post about the death of her husband. I've been following her progress and sending thoughts and prayers to her and her baby daughter.

Thank you for sharing this post Mrs. P. Your courage and strength are incredible. I'll see you in the blogosphere.

Posted by: WifeontheRollerCoaster | May 10, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. P, thank you so much for sharing this. Like WifeontheRollerCoaster, I've been following your blog for awhile now and am constantly amazed at the resilience you've shown for your daughter.
I think of you nearly every day.

Blue Star Families

Posted by: BlueStarFamilies | May 11, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Almighty God, with whom still live the spirits of those who die in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: We give you heartfelt thanks for the good examples of your servant Jonathan, who, having finished his course in faith, now find rest and refreshment. May we, with all who have died in the true faith of your holy Name, have perfect fulfillment and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory.

Father of all, we pray to you for those we love. Grant Rachel and Ariana your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, comfort them and hold them close every step of their lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted by: daddybill1 | May 11, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

To know this writer in person gives me great pride ~ she is MY DAUGHTER

Thank you for letting her share with your readers ~ she has such an amazing writing talent ~ and the world needs to know the "other side" of this war and what it does to families.

I am SO proud of her, she is one strong Marine Wife OOORAH

Posted by: MzBrain | May 11, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I think this series is incredibly important in today's media. Too often we hear from pundits, from talking heads, "experts" or the like who have never been a part of our military, had to deal with the actual men and women overseas or their families. It's time for everyone to start supporting our troops and their families and I think this series is a great way to begin this.

Posted by: MdGrl1 | May 11, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Rachel is the epitome of a Marine wife and brings great honor to the title.
*Semper fi*

Posted by: mrsmuffins | May 11, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

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