By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneFebruary 8, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- It's hard to get hold of the grief of a mother.
The tears are there, just under the surface, falling uninvited at the memory of loss.
Becky Loggins knows those tears all too well. She sheds them for the beloved son who went off to fight a war, who became a man of purpose in the uniform of a Marine, who died in a foreign country as the target of an Iraqi sniper.
Loggins is the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Loggins, 27, who was killed April 26, 2007, by sniper fire while conducting combat operations in the Anbar province of Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The nearly four years since then have not softened the sharp pain of Loggins' broken heart. Daily she lives with her loss, going to work, being a mom to a daughter and another son, making connections with her friends in Athens. But, with every step she takes, she carries the grief that is so difficult to shrug off.
"I keep things inside. I know I should talk about them. But it's hard. I want people to remember Adam, so I need to talk about him," Loggins said. "My life has completely changed. Life can change in a heartbeat."
Loggins is among the parents, siblings, spouses, children and other relatives and family friends that this weekend's TAPS event at Redstone Arsenal hopes to reach. TAPS, which stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, will bring its TAPS Survivor Seminar and TAPS Good Grief Camp for children and teenagers to Bicentennial Chapel beginning Feb. 4 and extending through Feb. 6. The program will be hosted by Army Community Service's Survivor Outreach Services. For more information or to register, visit www.taps.org or call 876-5397 or 842-8375.
Loggins and her daughter Amber Godwin, an operating room nurse at Athens Hospital, have attended a TAPS event at Fort Campbell, Ky. Although she is not making plans to attend Redstone Arsenal's TAPS, Loggins said she is appreciative of the programs the military and non-profit support groups provide for those who live with the death of a beloved servicemember.
"I read about SOS in the paper and I contacted them. But I am not exactly sure what I am looking for," Loggins said. "I keep looking for something to make me feel better. But there's only one thing that will make me feel better and I can't have it. I do know, though, it always feels better to be around people who know how you are feeling, who get it."
For Loggins, writing her grief, rather than talking about it, has been her way of coming to terms with her son's death. She writes on an Internet blog at logginsfamily.blogspot.com, where many of the entries are tear wrenching. She has written an article about her son - Excerpts from My Broken Heart: The Combat Death of My Son -- that appeared in a magazine published by The Compassionate Friends, a national organization providing grief support groups for bereaved families following the death of a child. Compassionate Friends does offer a Huntsville-based support group for bereaved parents and adult siblings that Loggins attends regularly.
"My daughter has been a source of strength for me," Loggins said. She has also found strength in the everyday things, such as her job in customer service, and lawn and garden at Lowe's in Athens, and in her hobbies of scrapbooking, knitting, crochet and quilting.
"I've made a lot of good friends at work," she said. "When I first went to work I didn't tell anybody about Adam. I didn't want to talk about it."
But a chance encounter with a representative of Veterans Affairs who was in the store making a purchase brought Loggins to tears.
"I knew I had to tell others then. I thought I was handling it by not talking about it. I thought everything was OK," she said. "But then that happened and I knew I needed to talk about this more. I started by putting Adam's picture on my locker at work. On Memorial Day (2010), I started telling people about him."
As she thinks about her son, Loggins knows that he was destined to serve his country. Adam wanted to join the Marines after graduation from East Limestone High School. His mother asked him not to and, instead, he took college classes as an emergency responder with plans to be a firefighter like his dad.
"He always wanted to join the Marines. I begged him, please, not to. Then 9/11 happened and I think he grew into a man and he wanted to do it," Loggins said.
Adam and his younger brother Josh were close to Loggins' father, who was a Vietnam veteran and a retired Army staff sergeant. Don Collins died of symptoms related to Agent Orange in 1994.
Adam was 26 when he joined the Marines and graduated from boot camp in April 2006. His nickname quickly became "Old Man River." And, nearly at the same time, his younger brother Josh joined the Army.
"Josh and Adam were real close. Adam wanted to be his own man and he did it his way. Oh, the difference I saw when he got out of boot," Loggins said. "A lot of people don't understand Adam's dream. But I understood it."
But, though she understood, Loggins also feared the worst for her oldest son. As a young girl, Loggins was stationed with her family at Fort Campbell in 1964-67, where she saw what a nation at war meant to servicemembers and families dealing with loss. It wasn't long before Adam, trained as a heavy machine gunner, got his orders to deploy to Iraq. He left in January 2007, and four short months later he was killed.
"I saw this. I knew what war was. I knew it when he went. I knew what would happen," Loggins insisted.
"He knew he was going to war. They prepare them for that very well. He knew when he went what it was all about. When he told his sister he was being deployed, she started to cry. He said 'Don't cry, Amber. I want to do this. This is what I want to do.'"
The family, including fiancAfA Brandy Heath, went to Camp Lejeune to be with Adam in the few days before his deployment. Once he deployed, he called whenever he could to tell his mom he loved her and missed her.
"I sent him letters and packages. I sent cookies with help from the Girl Scouts," Loggins said. "He played soccer at East Limestone and I have a picture of him playing soccer with little Iraqi kids. He made lance corporal in Iraq and I have a picture of that ceremony."
Before he deployed, Loggins sewed the identification tags into Adam's uniforms. Without him knowing, on the back of each tag, she wrote a Bible verse.
"I prayed over them. But it didn't work. I was a little mad at God," Loggins said. "I am not so mad at Him anymore. But my perception of God is different."
Loggins was attending a luncheon in Huntsville with her son's father, then Huntsville Fire Chief Danny Loggins, when they received a phone call that Marines were at their home in Athens. All the way home, Loggins prayed that her son wasn't dead. She knew when she saw the faces of the Marines that her prayers' desire would not be answered.
"When that happens, your life is just devastated. I don't remember a lot of the things that happened after that," she said.
Today, she still can't talk about those days surrounding Adam's death. Soon after, the family received invitations from veterans and military groups that wanted to recognize them at events. Some of those were attended. But, today, Loggins shies away from them. She also stays away from daily news reports on the war.
"It's hard for me to see young Marines, knowing what they may be going to," she said. "We don't want those killed in war to be forgotten. But it's hard to be reminded about what we have lost. It also bothers me when people think I'm a hero for what I've been through. I am not a hero."
A display of Adam's uniform, medals and other mementoes is part of the collection at the Alabama Veterans Museum in Athens. Rather than hanging a Gold Star banner in her window at home, Loggins cherishes the more gentle, personal reminders of her son. A Marine scrapbook and a bracelet of his pictures are among her favorites. And, tattooed on Loggins' left ankle are the words "Semper Fi," the Marine motto, meaning Always Faithful.
"Adam loved tattoos," she said. "Me, my daughter, Brandy, my sister and my niece all got the same tattoo together. Adam loved the Marines. He was exactly where he wanted to be. I love the military, too."