Friday, 10 September 2010

Mother and Son

I often watch PBS Newshour. It’s unadorned news followed by comments from a conservative and progressive of the non-braying genre.

Once a week the show pauses and, in silence, pictures of those in the armed forces killed overseas are shown. It’s a sobering couple of minutes as you stare at young faces, read their names, rank, ages and the small towns from whence they came.

To those of us from whom no sacrifice has been demanded it brings home the real cost of our ongoing wars. Women like Eileen Daly don’t need reminders. They live the loss 24 hours of every day.

Some of you may know Eileen. She’s first generation Irish. Her mother Bridie Keating Daly hails from Ballylanders, Co. Limerick, her father Dan was from Cahirciveen in the Kingdom of Kerry. They lived on Heath Avenue in St. John’s Parish, The Bronx before moving to Rockaway where Eileen attended Stella Maris High School while living on 114th Street.

She married Ron Kubik and moved down the Jersey Shore. She’s a sister of Chief Dan Daly, NYFD, of 9/11 fame and Dennis, a Green Beret injured in the Vietnam War.

Eileen raised three children as a single mother on a nurse’s pay. The youngest Sergeant Ronald Kubik, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was killed while on active duty in Logar Province, Afghanistan on April 23rd. He was 21 years of age.

Run a search on this stellar young man – he’s all over the Internet, and rightly so. But although she would demur, you can easily tell from whom the son got his character, for Eileen is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever spoken to.

Although her family has deep roots in the military, Eileen didn’t want her son to enlist at such an early age; in fact she has little time for recruiters who entice high school students with well-rehearsed sales pitches. That being said, once Ronnie joined up she gave him unqualified support in his tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Kubik was an achiever who discovered a thirst for life and adventure at an early age. On the Honor Roll at Manasquan High School he was a varsity running back, wrestled, acted, wrote a column for the paper - you name it, Ronnie did it.

The guy even played guitar in a metal band, A Void Within. In fact he sported a mohawk and when cautioned about it brought a case to the Manasquan Board of Education and won – felt it was important to protect every kid’s right of self-expression.

I finally had to stop Eileen dead and ask the question many of you are wondering, “How do you do it, girl, how do you go on?”

“I had to make a choice – for life or…”

She didn’t finish. And then it came pouring out. For the first months she was paralyzed by grief. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t move - and this from a nurse who could put in four straight 12-hour shifts at Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood.

But she had family and friends – the backbone of Irish-American life. Her brother Dennis who faced his own problems after Vietnam told her “if the current is pulling you down, you have to swim.”

Chief Daly, in his practical kindly way, suggested she set her alarm and go back to the gym. While her friend, Mary McCloskey told her to put on her sneakers and come walking with the girls. Eventually she made the decision to live and, one step at a time, that urge to carry on and turn the pain into something worthwhile returned

She did it for herself but, more than anything, she did it for her son. ”I know Ronnie is watching and I want him to be proud of me.”

This is a story that’s being played out all across the country in homes and barracks. Most of us are insulated from it.
Ronnie Kubik was a great American who asked not what his country could do for him. Eileeen Daly is no less a hero for choosing life in the midst of pain.

We, as citizens in a participatory democracy, must remain eternally vigilant that such sacrifices are absolutely necessary. Stay strong, Eileen.

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