Super Gloves and Hand-Warmers

Especially remembering my hero and my love, LTJG Frankie Toner IV, who was killed heroically in Northern Afghanistan on March 27, 2009 by drawing fire to himself in order to save two wounded comrades. He thought his parents were on the flight from Boston, when he watched the towers crumble from across the sound that day. Luckily they weren’t.

The last couple of days have been very hard for me. I have surrounded myself with the things that happened on September 11th, 2001. Everyday is difficult, and everyday I am tearful. But today. There is something different about today. I think it is because 8 years ago today was start of the difficulties I am facing now. 8 years ago Frankie and I were both in New York knowing things would never be the same.

Today I was able to have a thought about Frankie, that made me smile. Whenever I would send Frankie care packages to Afghanistan, I always made sure that he had the best of the best. I got things for him, and also for the guys he worked with. During the winter there, I wanted to make sure my baby was warm enough. I sent him some really great gloves, that are worn by special forces guys. They are thin, to allow for a comfortable hold on his weapon, but warm when needed, and they also allowed for cooling when it was hot out. They had hard knuckles that would protect his hands from bullets. Besides those gloves, I wanted to ensure that he would not be cold, so I sent him some packets of hand and foot warmers. Oh, and extra warm socks. Frankie always liked getting new socks. He always said that one of the things he loved was putting on new socks…and knew that he would have made it if he could wear new socks everyday.

Frankie called me one day when he got back from a convoy after visiting an Afghan Police Station. He said when he was there…he kept noticing all the kids walking in the streets. The thing was, that the kids all seemed to be under the age of 7 or 8…and it was -10 degrees outside, maybe colder…and the children were not dressed appropriately for the cold to say the least. One of the children, walking alone…in the snow wearing socks with sandals…and a thin layer of clothing came up to Frankie. Frankie saw him shivering, and was thinking how cold this child must have been. Frankie was wearing his thermal gear underneath his uniform, warm socks, gloves, and the under armour beanie I had gotten him, and he was still cold.
Frankie was thinking the boy might want candy, because it is typical for the troops to hand out candy when they are on convoys. Frankie did not have any candy. He had grabbed about 7, or so, of the hand-warming packets I had sent to have with him on his freezing ride as the gunner for the trip. He took one out of the hand-warmers, shook it and showed the child that it would keep his hands warm. The child took it, and just walked away. Frankie wasn’t sure if he was disappointed that he did not get the candy he was after. A few minutes later, another child walked in and walked directly up to Frankie, shivering. Frankie knew what he was after. He took another handwarmer out of his pocket and handed it the child. Before the child left, two more were on their way in. This time, it was a little girl…maybe 5 or six…holding a smaller child, around 2 years old, Frankie guessed. About 5 more children came up to Frankie. He did not have enough to give them all one.
Frankie after telling me this, choked up, because he knew the warmth of those handwarmers would go away, and the children would be cold again.
I have just been thinking about that today. We made sure that he always had enough handwarmers after that, and also started gathering winter clothing for Frankie to hand out. I love that I am married to a man whose heart was so big for every person that he met. That is what made me smile.
I hope that our presence in Afghanistan will be a source of warmth for the people there. I hope that we will not give up on them. I hope the children will be able to grow up with the warmth of knowing they have a chance. 8 years ago today changed a lot for both of our countries. It gave us the resolve to fight extreme terrorism – I hope that the Afghan people will stand with us. They have already faced enough of the cold.