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 A Mother's Pain. . .

   In this chapter I've written from the perspective of several different articles and interviews based on each of the writers thoughts and style. Most of this chapter is written from the view of the 3rd person. I thought it was important to capture those particular reactions, which to some degree, differ from mine. I do interject my own view and close with a significant Biblical passage. One of the most difficult parts of this tragedy was watching the suffering of my Mother, from such a state of helplessness.


   "It's been almost 25 years and it still seems as though it happened yesterday... it still hurts." Lorene Traphagan still cries for her first born son, Steve. The horror of war and the price of freedom were cast upon her family's door in the month of June 1968.

A Western Union Telegram,explained the news;

MR. AND MRS. ALBERT H. AUSTIN
4057 MAIN STREET
DENAIR CA


I DEEPLY REGRET TO CONFIRM THAT YOUR SON CORPORAL STEPHEN E. AUSTIN, USMC, DIED ON 8 JUNE 1968 IN THE VICINITY OF QUANG NAM, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM. HE SUSTAINED GUNSHOT WOUNDS TO THE HEAD AND BODY FROM HOSTILE RIFLE FIRE WHILE ON AN OPERATION. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PROVIDED TO ASSIST YOU IN MAKING FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS. HIS REMAINS WILL BE PREPARED, ENCASED, AND SHIPPED AT NO EXPENSE TO YOU, ACCOMPANIED BY AN ESCORT, EITHER TO A FUNERAL HOME OR TO A NATIONAL CEMETERY SELECTED BY YOU.


   "Steve's death messed up my whole family. His father had the same problems because of WW II and Korea that the guys who came back from Vietnam are having now" she said. Steve's father , a 12- year veteran of the U.S. Army died of a rare bone cancer in February of 1980. She later remarried Clyde Traphagan and, in just three months, he died of a massive heart attack.

   "For about two or three years, it was just like I didn't care. We received sympathy cards from President (Lyndon) Johnson and his wife and from Gov. (Ronald) Reagan and all I felt like doing was sending them back," she said. "I'm glad now that my husband wouldn't let me. But, at that time, Steve and all those others were just numbers. It seemed like they didn't matter at all."

   Her middle son, Dean, was in the Army and had received orders for Vietnam. She had to fight twice with the help of her congressman to prevent him from being sent there. Shortly after, the government instituted a policy of refraining from sending to Vietnam siblings and sons of those who had already died during tours of duty there.

   Steve had already served one tour of duty in Vietnam and was wounded. After his recovery he was sent to Hawaii for more training, or so he was told. Under suspicious conditions he was reordered to Vietnam . He was killed while on a search and destroy mission called Allen Brook, in Quang Nam Province. It was only six days after his 21st birthday.

   As his mother was reflecting she said " the last time I ever saw him he was standing alone at Travis Air Force Base, I looked back and ran back and hugged him. They brought him home in a sealed casket and I couldn't ever see him."

   "I found him out in the yard the day he got his orders, he had a far away look in his eyes. He said ' oh Mom, I don't want to go back over there. I don't want to kill anymore.' I told him surely, you won't have to go back there." Though he had no specific orders to Vietnam, he had a feeling that he would be sent again. While training in Hawaii his company received assurance that they would not go back, which turned out to be an outright lie.

   In 1989 Lorene began to work with a local Veterans group towards building a memorial in Porterville. She became the focus of many articles in the newspaper and was able to touch many of the Veterans themselves. It proved to be a time of healing for many. The memorial is beautiful and outstanding in it's tribute and acknowledgment of those precious lives who paid the cost. She received a letter of appreciation and acknowledgment for her contribution and efforts from the local VFW and American Legion. Many of the Veterans have a strong empathy and have made individual efforts to console her.

   At the 1993 Memorial service she was given a special plaque designed by one of the local veterans. It represents the names of those who were killed from the local area. It was sponsored by Steve and Jan Brown, who have been the main driving force and foundation of the Memorial. Steve served in Vietnam himself and two of the names on the Memorial are close friends that he grew up with. There has been hard work, determination and many obstacles to overcome through the whole process, it would have been easy to give up. I'm sure it took its toll on him and his family, as well as with others involved, but many will always be thankful for the acknowledgment of their loved ones.

   I'm confident that there is a day coming, which the Bible promises, when I'll see my mother embracing her son, Stephen, and all the years of separation and suffering will not even compare to the joy of that day, when CHRIST shall shine about us.

   Romans 8: 17-21 says "And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God."


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