Another Memorial Day Marks Grief's Journey

Frank Adamouski watches as his wife, Judy, comforts their son's widow, Meighan, at a memorial service Thursday in Richmond. Capt. James F. Adamouski was one of the first casualties of the Iraq war.
Frank Adamouski watches as his wife, Judy, comforts their son's widow, Meighan, at a memorial service Thursday in Richmond. Capt. James F. Adamouski was one of the first casualties of the Iraq war. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 28, 2007

Not a waking hour goes by when Judy Adamouski does not think of the son she lost at war. Some nights, she drifts from room to room in her Springfield home -- sleepless, taking in what is left of his life. A framed photograph of a soldier in uniform. A wedding portrait. A diploma from West Point.

"You miss the voice," she said. "You miss seeing him. It's just hard. All we have is our memories and our pictures."

Her son is not a recent casualty but one of the early deaths of the Iraq war: Army Capt. James F. Adamouski, killed April 2, 2003, in a Black Hawk helicopter crash as U.S. troops made their way toward Baghdad two weeks into combat operations.

This is her fifth Memorial Day since then -- a holiday that marks time's passing but still finds her living with a mother's grief. "Jimmy," as she called him, was her only son, 29 years old, newly married, bound for Harvard University for a master's degree.

"People always tell you that time heals all things," she said, sitting with her husband, Frank, in the home where they raised Jimmy and his three sisters. But she said her experience has been more complex: "I have my good days and I have my low times."

Less than two miles away, in another Springfield neighborhood, the parents of another fallen soldier, Army Capt. Mark N. Stubenhofer, have also grappled with a son's death over many months. They, too, have faced inconceivable loss and the permanence of grief.

The two families would eventually find that they belonged to the same large Catholic church and that both of their sons' names were placed on the same prayer list as war started in Iraq. The list ran pages and pages long.

Jimmy Adamouski was the first name on the list.

Mark Stubenhofer was the second.

Strangers before their lives intersected at their sons' funerals, the two families have grieved and coped in different ways. For one family, steadiness comes in the familiar rhythms of the workplace. For the other family, founding a service organization has helped.

For both grief has been unpredictable, sometimes rendering the years that pass almost meaningless. Still, for both life has slowly moved forward.

At times, they have found themselves lifted, unexpectedly, by acts of remembrance performed by strangers.


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