This week I was
Googling* for my childhood best friend. We went to elementary school together and, like many childhood relationships, we were only friends because we lived on the same street. We were completely different from each other.
His name was Warren Litherland.
He and I lost touch when his family moved to Washington state in the eighth grade. For the seven years before that, we were inseparable. I think I got my love for frogs going with him to the local “creek” and catching them under blocks of broken cement. We fought like cats and dogs with me being the cat most of the time.
I never had more respect for him than the time he was being bullied by some guy who had the benefit of having a large buddy. I looked away and when I looked back the bully was silently weeping while the beefy wingman just stood there. My friend just walked away with me and that was it. He had a confidence about him I admired.
He also was the first of us to ask a girl to the school dance. I begrudgingly admired him for that too.
We saw each other once or twice after he moved away.
In college a few years later, I got a letter out of the blue from an APO in Germany. He remembered my address and we exchanged a few letters. He was a private serving in the army there.
It was my turn to write when I lost his address. I was very flakey in those days.
Even more years later, I grew slightly less flakey and, thanks to the Internet, began to look for him. I found a picture of him at some sort of graduation ceremony with him sitting between two young soldiers. The picture labeled him Warren “Pops” Litherland. There he was; middle aged, obviously career military and apparently well-liked by his men.
Over the last few months, I had been having dreams about connecting with him again. So I made up my mind to find and reach out to him. I felt bad about having dropped the ball when we were corresponding and I would make it right.
The search engines paid off. I learned that Warren became the Rear Detachment Commander at Fort Hood as part of the 22nd Infantry.
I also discovered from my searches that he was deployed to Iraq and had eulogized more than a couple of his fallen comrades.
And finally, much to my dismay, I found this Newsweek article from 2006:
Ten-year-old Lea Gibbs was still awake in bed the night the Army chaplain and the casualty officer came by her father’s house. The men offered no gentle talk of sacrifice, no quiet prayers. All Lea heard as she came out of her bedroom was the screaming of her step-mom: “Your daddy’s dead! Your daddy’s dead!” Heidi Litherland, began seeking grief counseling for her daughter. “We don’t handle that, Ma’am,” Litherland says she was told when she contacted the base hospital at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. The hospital shuffled Litherland off to Army social services, but they didn’t handle counseling, either: instead, they told her to go to a base clinic to get an assessment of the girl’s emotional state. “Her dad just died! What kind of frickin’ assessment do you need?” Litherland fumed. She managed to get a list of local private counselors from an Army chaplain, but none could take Lea: their waiting lists were too long. It took five months before she finally saw someone.
A white pages search shows a Warren and Heidi Litherland near Ft. Hood TX. I’m not 100% certain this means he is dead, but I’m afraid to call.
I’m sure many Six Meat Buffet readers know someone much closer than I who has been touched by the Iraq war. For me, today, I know of someone who sacrificed himself serving our country. He will be remembered by me honorably and fondly.
As an aside, the Newsweek story ends well but it doesn’t stop parasites like Michael Moore from milking the memory of dead soldiers.
* Preston reminds me that Google’s anti-American antics make them unworthy of their own verb. Here “Googling” is used in the generic sense. My search engine of choice is Yahoo, but Yahooing sounds like a misdemeanor offense involving public indecency.
My friend lives! I apparently read the Newsweek article wrong. It wasn’t him at all but was his step-child’s father. I apologize for the mistake but am thrilled to be back in touch with him. Thanks to an old friend of mine who is a real sleuth, he tracked him down.