22, of Lee, Maine; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died June 23, 2007 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed were Army 1st Lt. Daniel P. Riordan, Army Sgt. Jimy M. Malone and Army Spc. Derek A. Calhoun.
To honor SGT Joel A. House, his parents, Mr. Paul House and Mrs. Dee House retrieved this stone from a small swimming hole near their camp in Lee, Maine.
Watch this video to learn why this stone is significant and what it says about SGT Joel A. House.
Sgt Joel A. House
“The Birthday Visitors”
Written by Deanna House—Gold Star Mother
“How much longer before you’re ready to go?” Paul walks into the den and looks out at the driveway. “Where’s the camera?”
“I’ve got one more disk to upload, Paul.” I’m almost ready. Can’t a person relive her trip to the beach? It’s my birthday, and I should be able to spend the day like I want, right? I’ve got the camera here. I’m uploading the pictures with my family now.”
I pull back now when Paul pushes. The days of jumping at the sound of his voice are behind. I didn’t know there was no reason to jump. Not purpose. Not habit. A decade of steering a career as a private school teacher has opened the door to teach at the American School of Monterey. I wanted to be a writer, but life just happened with all the jumping around. When I landed, I was a high school teacher who could never quite understand the politics of the schoolhouse. Budget cuts in rural Maine pushed me again, but this time I was different. I was stampeding towards a new dream. But right now, twenty-nine years of marriage, living in this town, and raising three children was pulling me back in a re-memory of my life.
“I thought sitting on the porch at camp on the longest day of the year, watching the loons and the sunset, was how you wanted to spend your birthday?” Paul says. I tune him out until I hear, “Who’s here now?” A blue van with military plates has pulled into the driveway.
“We’ve lost Joel,” he walks back into the kitchen.
“What?” I look up from my Mac. It was actually my son’s computer. He’d bought a new one to play video games on while on his second tour in Iraq. He’d been home on leave three months earlier. His brother, sister, Dad, and I went to Best Buy with him.
“Joel’s dead. There are Army soldiers in the driveway.”
I push away from the table to look out the kitchen window. “Maybe he’s been hurt? This doesn’t mean he was killed.” All the clichés about heart ripping and gut wrenching in moments like this are true, so there’s no need to add them here. If you’ve lost your child, you know. If you haven’t, you’re right. You can’t imagine. I turn my inward eyes up and beg, “You can’t do this to me again, God! Please? Anything but this. He’s just a baby, my baby.”
“They don’t send Army vans if you’re son’s hurt. Remember last February? They called. Go let them in.”
I step out onto the front porch and open the door. Two soldiers stood dressed uniform. “Yes?”
“Are you Deanna Arlene House?” one soldier asks. His voice is tight.
“Yes.” I’m saying, ‘yes’ but screaming ‘NOOOOOO!” ‘Not my baby, massah’ ricochets from an old slave movie I watched only one time in high school and couldn’t bare that mother’s loss, so I never watched it again.
“And is your son Specialist Joel Amos House?”
“Yes.” The one I carried while his 4-year old brother battled brain cancer. The one I rocked and wrestled. The guitar wielding soccer player who loved “Tour of Duty” and James Bond video games. I’m the one who knew his deepest secrets, fear of dying, fear of talking with people, and fear of not being smart enough around those people. We had him tested–twice–and he didn’t have a learning disability. There was definitely something. Maybe the Army could help him.
“Ma’am. We’re sorry to inform you that your son was killed this morning at 6 am, Iraqi local time, by an improvised explosive device while out on patrol.”
“Wha-?” ‘It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man,’ I hear Clint Eastwood say. ‘You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.’
“Are you sure?” Paul, who is standing behind me, asks.
“May we come in?” a soldier asks.
I turn and walk back to the kitchen table. Grief pulls the chair out from under the table. Tears put my head in my hands. Loss rips through the crosscut in the fabric of my dreams. I had talked with him only two days earlier. I heard his voice and he heard mine. ‘I’ll be only six hours from Fort Hood when you get home in January.’
“Is there anyone we can call for you, Ma’am?”
“All of her family is traveling. They are on their way back from the beach,” Paul states.
“Call Ruth, Paul. Call your sister, Ruth.”
Paul gives me the phone. He turns to the soldiers to ask details.
“We can’t give you many details, Sir. Tomorrow your casualty assistance officer will contact you. He will have reports.” Paul continues to ask them for details.