3.01.2011

Walk Like Madd

Hey there Lovelies, I'm not quite back but I needed to share something with you about a friend that is very near and dear to my heart.


Last year, I shared with you all about my friend Kale who had been killed in a head on collision in a drunk driving accident. We'd been friends since I was in 5th grade and he was seriously the sweetest, funniest guy ever. His mom Nancy, an absolute blessing to this world, has been advocating on his behalf as well as all those affected by drunk driving. She contacted me to see if I could pass along some information through email and I just knew I could do a lot more by having her share her story here on my blog.

I know we are all busy and all have things we are involved in but it would mean the world if you could take the time to pass this along as well as go and donate even just a dollar or two. Its for an incredible cause and after you read Nancy's story, you'll be hard pressed to find an excuse not to.

Just go HERE and click Support Team Clay/Serafin 

My 23 year old son, Kale Daren Clay is the 2nd son, 3rd oldest in a family of 8. Think Brady Bunch on Steroids! A crazy, happy, loud bunch of us. We were part gypsy, moving often. I tell people, "Witness Protection". Far more interesting than the truth behind our many moves. As a result, the kids were each others best friends, learning that many things come and go in life, but your family is your rock. Kale's had friends wherever he went. From Boise, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, even in Iraq. 

Joining the Army became his primary focus after a few years of drifting after high school, dead end jobs, etc. His weight piled on, something far too easy for the Brown line he comes from. We eat our feelings! He had to lose 100 pounds to join, and it took him just under a year to do it. He was focused and driven, wanting to be part of something he could feel proud of. He was so proud wearing his uniform. He had such a smile, that just melted your heart. You could not stay mad at him long. A practical joker, and seeker of fun; full of pranks and mischief. He made friends of senior command leaders, who would seek him out, just because it felt good to be around him. He made the unit's  deployment bearable, said many of his battle buddies. Mike, his battle bud, told us the story of how Mike was called home due to a surgery his wife would be having. Kale carried Mike's gear, all 80lbs, in addition to his own, during the heat of summer in Iraq. Never complained, only asked how his wife was whenever they spoke.

After his Iraq deployment he settled into life at Ft. Carson. He would be moving on to a new duty station the following  spring at Ft. Drum, with Afghanistan deployment in the summer. I had worried so much over his last deployment as only those who send loved ones off to a warzone know. In my mind, he was a "boy scout camp". That is where I pictured him and believed him to be safe. Seeing him fully decked out in his protective gear always seemed to shock my brain to reality that he was not "safe". Each day you prayed, held your breath, and hoped you would never get "the knock". 

Most of us had talked to him either day before or a few days before, I remember we talked about the college classes he was signing up for, and working towards making his Sergeant rank. He told me about his cool new tatt he got with his Battle Buddy, Mike, since they had both served on a security team. Kale became Uncle to his kids. They loved the mischief Kale would bring to the house. That morning when I woke up, Sat. Feb. 13th, he was on my mind. I called him, and his phone just rang and rang. I left a message for him to call me back. That evening, a rare quiet date with my hubby, just us and the remote. Kids all out at a dance, friends, dates, etc. Two of our gang, were both living out of state. About 9pm, we get "the Knock". It seemed unusual, we were not expecting anyone. I heard Mark talking, then saw them enter.

It seemed like slow motion, and took me only a second to recognize them, instantly knowing, Kale was dead. The one closest to me, not sure how to break the news, nervously asked me "how I was doing?" I looked him straight in his eyes, my voice  shaking and said, "I don't know, you tell me how I'm doing." Not wanting to hear what was coming next. 

"We regret to inform you that your son, Kale Daren Clay has been killed." 

My head started crying out, "NO, NO, not Kale!, Not my son, Not my baby!" I pretty much lost it at that point, crying so hard. We held each other for a time, trying to absorb it. It seemed so unreal, you just kept thinking it or saying it as if it somehow would feel more real the more you heard it. We next knew we had to tell our children. We were about to inflict the cruelest pain on our children, their hearts were about to break and we could not fix this. We started calling them home, "get home right now." The tones, and words already alerting them something major was happening. 

We called our daughter in Washington, hospitalized the past year for trying to jump off a bridge in Seattle. I was about to devastate her and I could not be there to make sure she could handle this. To not have anyone there to hold her or know she could get through this. The screams in the phone tore through our hearts. 

Jordan came in just as dad was telling Kassy in Virginia. The party she was at with friends and family there, all told me later how her screams and cries just cut them all to the heart. Jordan hearing the news that his beloved brother and best friend, was dead fell to the floor, doubled up in pain. 

The girls came next, Megan, Jessica and Becca, all hearing the crying and the news fell, crying, screaming, so unbelievable. 

Brian was the last to arrive, he met the kids in the front yard and hearing the news started swinging, trying to fight us from delivering him this cruel blow. 

We all held each other, cried, friends gathered, all of us numb and in shock. We learned that he was killed in a head on collision early that morning. Another passenger, Pawel Serafin died with him. The driver was a friend of Kale's, and he received injuries to his legs and some internal damage. They served together in Iraq. The truck they hit, was a 350 utility truck. He was injured in the crash. Kale's injuries we later learned, were two instant death injuries, one upon impact, the second as Pawel, who was not seat belted, flew forward, smashing into the windshield. 

I was told that Kale had tried to call a taxi that night, he had tried to call a friend who did not pick up the call. He had plans to meet up with a girl he was seeing but they missed each other. So many things that would have given us a different outcome. Jordan Peters later told me that he held up the Designated Driver business card that all soldiers are required to have on them at all times, he gave a safety briefing to his unit with it. If only he had just called them. If only a police officer was at the bottom of the hill just past base. 

There have been so many hard things we have experienced this past year, burying him, his birthday 17 days later, the two weddings his sisters had that he missed or his first neice being born. Going through trial, seeing those photos I tried so hard to not see that will haunt me to the end of my days. The greatest tragedy was that his death was preventable. The choices made to have "fun" have a lifetime of devastating pain. I carry that till the day I die.

Seeing how it has torn up the hearts of my family. Jordan Peters was sentenced to 10 years, and a bad conduct discharge. His career is over. He carries the pain of this as well to the day he dies. There are no winners here.

This is why I became involved with MADD. It took a personal experience to open my eyes to this huge problem. 

If I can spare one other mother, the pain my heart carries, one other family from being destroyed over the loss of a loved one than the work I do and Kale and Pawel's death will have meaning. MADD was there from day one, and has continued to assist our family during those very dark hours. The services they provide make coping possible. It is free to victims and survivors but is not free to make possible. It takes events like the Walk Like Madd, their biggest campaign, to fund the many programs of education, assisting with court/trial for victims, working with lawmakers etc. 

My son loved being a soldier and was so proud to serve his country. Won't you help me give back? Any amount adds up. I set a goal to raise of $2328.00 the ages of Kale and Pawel. I am half way there, and need help. It is not an easy thing for me to do, I am one who takes pride in serving others and am not good at accepting help. It is my driving force to do this for them. 

I have chosen to walk in Kale's boots he wore in Iraq. They are big, and will probably really hurt, but I walk for him. He did so much for so many others, never caring about his own discomfort.  I hope you will take a minute right now, and find someway to help

One, pass on our story to all your contacts, the more ears that hear his message the better.

Two, sign up to help our team, on the walklikemadd.org, we are listed in Phoenix, and look for Team Clay/Serafin. You can join us if you are close, Sat. April 2, Westgate Center, Glendale AZ, or sign up as a "Virtual Walker". You don't even have to walk.  

Or just send a donation! Really, every dollar helps. Ask people for donations or to sponsor you!

Next, never drive if you drink, don't let someone you know drive if they have. Never be a passenger of an impaired driver. Wear your seatbelt! 

From his birthday March 3 to the walk April 2, I am going to find daily hard things, in his honor, so join me in that too. I struggle with getting up early, exercising more, eating better... always putting change off. Not this time, I promised him the day I buried him, I will do hard things, because he showed me how.

I pray together, we can save lives!



Again Lovelies, please, go go HERE and click Support Team Clay/Serafin

4 comments:

Amy Juhasz said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Kale was such a fun, sweet guy. He's missed by so many.

Erin said...

This is such a heartbreaking story. One of my best friends was killed in a car accident. The driver of the car she was in was smoking pot, lost control of the car and hit a tree. It happened to hit, right where she was sitting. She was the only one seriously injured. It just felt so unfair!

I'm really against driving while intoxicated in anyway. It doesn't matter what you are doing, drinking or smoking pot, or doing drugs, you should not be behind the wheel.

I don't have any money to give right now, but I will send good thoughts and prayers that the goals set are reached and that, someday, this will no longer be something we have to fight so hard to stop.

I Am a Marine's Girl said...

This story breaks my heart, do you mind if I use her story and make a post about it? I'll link it back to yours so people can get the website information. I'm literally sitting in math class crying right now. Heart breaking

Maranda said...

I'm trying so hard not to cry...but it's not easy. I am so sorry for Kale and his friends and family. Thank you for sharing his beautiful soul and tragic ending with us.