My son Matthew entered into the U.S. ARMY immediately following high school back in 1997. I was so proud of my only firstborn son. He was so proud to serve his country and had hoped he’d become a doctor.
While serving two terms in Iraq, my son had called me to inform me that they had found a growth in his brain and would be flown back to Washington DC for immediate brain surgery. I still remember where I was and that horrible call. I fell to the ground and immediately set out for DC. I’d hope to arrive there before he went in. By the time I arrived he had already had surgery and was in the ICU.
When he awoke for a minute he saw me standing over him, and said, “Mom, I want to meet my boss!” I looked at his wife at that time and asked, “Who does he want to see?” She said, “The President of the U.S.” I looked at her and said, “Ok, I have something to do and started to walk out.” She turned and said, “You can’t just walk into the White House and ask him to come see your son, especially in the middle of this war!” I looked at her and walked out. This was a cloudy Thursday in Nov, 2004.
After getting directions from the hospital administrator and others, I was sent to Colonel Farmer’s office inside the hospital which incidentally looked like the White House. I walked up to the entrance, where two guards were armed and standing tall, guarding the entrance. They said nothing as I passed through them.
I was approached by a major and then directed personally into Colonel Farmer’s office. I explained that although they may get this type of request, I was hoping that my son could receive a picture, a message, a letter anything from the President as my son had served his country very well and I had no idea if my son would survive.
On the following Monday, my ex-husband arrived at the hospital and said that the entire hospital was in lockdown mode. He barely got in. There were police, metal detectors, bomb squads, SWAT, and so much going on and when we asked if we were in danger, everyone seemed to not know anything.
My son said to me that his then wife informed him that we were in the middle of a war and that my request was not a good thing at the time. I looked at him and held back my tears and said, “I need to do what I have to do for my son.” Then, I broke down. I felt like I made him a little upset but more of me said you did what a good mother would do. I shrugged it off.
The next morning at around 6:15 am there was a knock on his hospital room. I opened the door to notice a very nice-looking suited man stood there asking formally for my son. Before allowing him in, something caught my eye. It was his lapel pin. It read, “United States of America”! It was a presidential pin. I choked and allowed him in. My gut felt heavy and my heart was singing loud.
I carefully watched the look on my sons face as he jumped out of bed with a wrap on his head and saluted this gentleman, a representative of the White House, of our President. He informed my son that his boss would be in later that day around 1:09 pm. My son face was lit up like the brightest star in the sky! He was in total shock. He looked at me and said, “Mom, how? Mom, how did you do that?” His wife stared at me and had nothing to say! I said, “I love you kids more than anything, and I will attempt anything for you kids. I may not be rich but I have a mouth, baby!”
At exactly 1:03 pm we heard a huge crowd in the hallway. I got up so see our president and his staff of like 20 down the hall. He entered my sons room at exactly 1:09 pm with his beautiful wife, Laura Bush. They spent about 11 minutes or so with my son. He received a Presidential coin from President Bush. It was the most wonderful look I’ve ever seen on my son.
I’m so happy that our President took the time to meet my son and give the entire fifth floor of Walter Reed Hospital in DC a brief visit during this time. That day he got his wish!
I miss my son, SSG MATTHEW THOMAS CUNNINGHAM US ARMY, so very much, not a day goes by I don’t cry for him. I don’t think I will ever be the same, but I thank God I was with him that horrible day he died on Nov 21, 2013. And, I also thank God for having two beautiful daughters, Lisa Cunningham, TX, and Candace Cunningham, WA, that have helped me enormously deal with the pain. I love my kids so very much! Thank you girls for everything and everyday with me.
I love you both to the end and back!