Thursday, December 31, 2009


This letter comes to you tonight from the heart of a lonely Marine; a Marine that doesn’t want to embellish nor diminish the future that awaits him. There is no comfort in the practice of war. There is no peace in the knowledge that I know how to kill a man with a bayonet or that from 500 yards I can send a bullet into the face of a man nine out of ten times and sometimes ten out of ten. But I do have peace in you, and comfort in your arms and touch, and the simple knowledge that our souls have been knitted together and though our destinies are bound together it is through that bond I have become free. This bond saved me. And it will continue to save me time again as I face the demons of my life and the demons that are not mine but the worlds but that I have volunteered to fight for the world. My body is separated into two worlds. Five to five I am schooled in the art of taking life, and from five to five I try to build our life by creating it. My mind races across the hell I will travel witnessing the tragedy and tears, the bullets and blood, and the faces that will be lost to fate. At its end I see you. I see us. I see that although this journey begins in hell, it ends in heaven; and that cannot embellish nor diminished.

Love me through hell and high water and I will take you to a better place. Maybe even Olive Garden.

Forever yours,


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some die looking for a hand to hold.

I remember you

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

two many letters

Two more letters came in the mail! I will just post one today since I've been overload brandoning lately!

Dear, Dear
The desert I am surrounded by is littered with these innumerable scattered crescent shaped sand dunes. The curve of each dune facing the same way: the way the wind blows. Squinting, they resemble large croissants, which I love. And all I can think of is what a cool pattern it would be for pajamas. Croissant pajamas. They're going to be big. Some how the desert always makes me think of dessert which logically brings my mind, and stomach to you, whom I love. I miss you so much. We are lucky to learn early what life is like without each other; a lesson most under take (with the undertaker) when it's too late. I feel ashamed knowing I snuck out of bed some nights to check the tv for final football scores when I could have been lying next to you, or adventuring for a midnight snack alone, when it would have been so much more fun for you to come along. I promise I'll never do it again.
You know what I love about you? Besides everything- it's that you mkae me happy when you're not even here. I'll be under the most miserable circumstances, cold, wet, maybe a little afraid, but if I think of you I always smile. I get that feeling like I'm jumping on a trampoline for the first time in a long time.
I think about all the fun and crazy things we've done and the things I know we'll do and I see many happy days ahead of us. What an adventure it will be to start a farm together, to travel the world, chase our kids around the house trying to put clothes on them, which I wont blame their ardent resistance, when we know absolutely well we'd be running around in our underpants too.

Things I look forward to:

Saturday morning breakfast
A great dog
Bed time stories (after the kids')
FHE, which will consist soley of family wrestle mania tournaments and sorry attempts at hymn performances with old instruments.
Shelves filled with great literature
Helping our children with homework

Extreme (rabid) makeout sessions when we're 40, with heavy petting (because the prophet says its okay when you're married so we'll take full advantage)

------ ---- ----------
(censored for obvious reasons)

Taking the same classes at college so we can cheat off each other's homework [WHAT DREAM ON BUDDY]

Getting sent to the dean's office together.

Falling in love every day.

[heart] Brandon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

With love, the beautiful brandon

So this is another I almost peed in my pants moment. This is the second letter I've gotten from brandon in two months- mom joked about it being sent on a camel but I think even a camel would have made it to my house faster than the military mail has.

for the people who care
this is what it says:
Ah Honey!
I miss you so much, not even this empty desert is as lonely as I am. I guess the old adage is true, distance makes the heart grow fonder, maybe thats why so many people... nevermind. Anyways you are on my mind always, I hope you are safe and happy. I look at my pictures of you and still cant believe how I married such a beautiful lady. I cant believe I married the love of my life Jacqueline Francis! You make me so happy even when I am not with you just the though of you makes me smile. I say a thousand prayers a day that I will come home to your sweet face. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for deepening my smile wrinkles.

Yesterday I led my first combat patrol outside our outpost (the others were inside and mostly just to the chow hall). We went out to check on the trip flares surrounding the base. Most had been set off by animals.

I fell in a canal of water but overall it was succesful.

We did another this morning to a small village a mile away. Its funny we have these super cool vehicles that take us everywhere but yet we choose to walk.

We are very safe from IED's because there are so many goats around. All with 4 or more legs.

The people said we were scaring the women and children. I hid my disfigurments as best I could but to no avail they discovered my ugliness. We just might loose this war on account of my face.


I have no words brandon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Too many potatoes

"Dec 6, 1993, Dear Mr. & Mrs. Cochran, Just a note to update you on Brandon's behavior. Today, he told a girl she had eaten too many potatoes. She is over weight and his comment hurt her feelings. When I confronted him about his comments, he said that he was just giving her some valuable feedback and that he would be happy to jog with her at lunch. His apology did sound sincere. He is very good natured and takes these small repromands in stride. Sincerely, Mrs. Clawson..."

Brandon's mom sent me this today and I almost peed myself I was laughing so hard. I'm glad I can laugh about it now because four months ago after we first got married brandon mentioned that I was gaining weight. (We found out later that I was pregnant when we lost the baby) But at the time his comment really really hurt my feelings.
When I brought it up in a disagreement later he had no idea that it had hurt me at all.

Really people. REALLY.

He had the most sincere, complete intention of this meaning-

I want you to feel good about yourself- I want you to go to physical therapy and fix this knee problem so that you can hold our children and not be afraid of falling, I want you to want to FEEL healthy and happy.

He really meant that but it came out like this:

" I think you should come exercise with me"

As you can imagine I just about ripped my prince charming's head off.

But now I just think it's hilarious.

here's the rest of the letter the teacher sent home

P.S. We just had another incident. The DARE officer just arrived to take a picture of our class. We were chosen for special recognition with the City Council. Brandon hit the officer in the chest with a rubberband. Brandon told the officer he was aiming for a girl in the class, but she jumped behind the officer at the last minute. The officer was very upset and will not be taking our classes' picture. I will not be putting Brandon's name on the ICCM club list (I Can Control Myself)[WHAT HAHAHAHAHA] even though he has earned a startling $20 Clawson Bucks since the last incident."

[now everyone will know who the real brandon is] [honestly my family thinks they died and went to heaven when he is around, and that he NEVER misbehaves, NEVER belches or jokes about gas with me, NEVER hands me HUGE AMOUNTS OF horrifying hygiene products in walmart- declaring loudly to everyone around us that we better "stock up", and NEVER NEVER laughs insanely loud like a mental retard in public places to embarrass me.]

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Remember that time we got married forever? Remember what came before that? All of that? Well, this morning I laid in the little yellow room where we took our first nap together- and tried very hard to recall it all. This is our story and I want to right it down before it's left behind.

We met three years ago. I was new to BYU Idaho, and you had just returned from your mission in Ghana Africa, the Ivory Coast. I was dating a boy long distance from Berkley, he was everything I thought I ever wanted, and would ever need. He was intelligent, deep, poetic, more than anything he let me be whoever I thought I was. I was in Rexburg Idaho, it was cold, I was lonely, my roommates thought I was crazy. My relationship was on the rocks, I was doing everything I could to hold things together, but in the end Patrick and I didn't want the same things out of life. I'd been watching Brandon for months. To me, he embodied the typical, beautiful golden boy. He had a testimony, charisma, and dates in every dorm (even in the guys... honestly). Every girl in my ward was gaga over him and I remember calling my mom one sunday and saying in reply to her probing about dates or possible boys I liked there " he's gorgeous, he's all brawn and no brain, and what's worse- is everyone likes him- I could never date a guy like that." I remember thinking how clever and smart I was to avoid what seemed to be constant heartbreak- sweeping chapman hall. HAH! Love, who needed something like that when I had a brooding, atheist with childhood repressions who appreciated my nonsense?

He tells the story differently, he says that I was just different- (like his story) and I caught his eye. He says he needed to know me. But I get itchy all over just thinking about how many times I would just stare at him, oblivious to my existence.

I was sitting in the cafeteria, he said. I was sitting in the cafeteria when I saw you come in. I asked the guy next to me who you were and if he knew anything about you. I remember thinking that in my mind I said a prayer "God, if you get her to come over here I will ask her out".

Oh please.

I make fun of him now, but maybe he was telling the truth.

Anyway, in my memory I walked past his table and heard him speaking french. I stopped and tried to start a conversation with him. I'd taken almost six years of french from middle school skipping highschool and was currently enrolled in a full time french course in college. I could handle this. He jumped up and started babbling and
I still have no idea
to this day
and he doesn't either
as to what he said.

I excused myself and went dejectedly over to the ice cream machine.

In his head
he asked me to sit down and I told him no way.

It took three years, and much more than I can write
for our lives to cross paths again.

It began online, we would chat and ask each other noncommittal, noninterested, easy answer questions that typify any conversation.

How are you? What have you been up to? Why do I still think about how I'll never date someone like you? Why do you have deep quotes and like to read? You're supposed to be shallow.

Just kidding.

And then he emailed me.

"Want to go on a date?"

Brandon Cochran April 8 at 8:25pm
Dear Jacqueline,

I surmise finals went well.

I'm going to be in Rexburg around 11 Friday morning. I need to meet with an old professor sometime Friday or Saturday concerning a writing project I'm working on, but wanted to know what time you'd be available for floralfittiering this weekend.


Jacqueline Cochran April 9 at 8:02am
Dear good knight sir,

Finals went wonderfully with the exception that I got a phone call yesterday about my gram being awfully sick. She is coming in to town today to start chemotherapy and I'll be with her.

I have a paper due tonight but as far as classes go those are over. phewe. Friday early morning Imagonnabe moving into my new apartment and then I work from 9 till 5 at the flower shoppe. Saturday I work again from 10 until 12 so anytime after then- or friday knight or whenever you can sqeeeeeeueueuueeeze me in.

I'm glad you are coming. :]



(just kidding.)
Brandon Cochran April 9 at 10:34pm
TO: Jacqueline

I am very sorry to hear about your grandmother. I will muster all my faith seeds in her behalf.

My mind told my heart to tell me to tell you that we should have dinner friday night and then play on saturday but that I should ask you first.

FROM: Brandon & the bear in the bathroom
Jacqueline Cochran April 10 at 7:49am
TWO: Brandon/bear. (they could be one.)

I'll check with my secretary,
but it sounds good to me.
(it seemeth delicious to me)

Frumb: Ja
with these, and so many more

good things come to those who wait (2)

Do not take the darkness of the night,

because distant is the dawn.

Do not forget the sweetness of summer,

because winter isn't gone.

Do not fear your love

to state.

For better things come,

to those who wait.

On our first date, Brandon drove up to Idaho, rented a hotel room and drove to my townhouse. I was in the middle of moving out to another townhouse down the road and I had just gotten off work. I was nervous, excited, and terrified that this person would be 1. nothing like his emails, or his words. or WORSE 2. everything I imagined he would be. and everything I already knew I wanted.

He showed up and I showed him my new apartment, where my new roommate screamed at us for having a boy upstairs...
it was a good start. I was shaking the whole time, and he just acted like he was fine. He asked me if I was hungry and I told him no so he pushed me into his car and began driving to Idaho Falls. I know now that he was probably STARVING from driving all the way up here to take me to dinner. And the only reason I wasn't hungry is because I'd been eating my feelings all before he arrived.

On the half an hour drive we talked nonstop. When we got to where we were apparently going- I was confused but interested. Brandon opened my door and pulled me into Smitty's pancake house.

We sat down and ordered some juice. He looked over at me and said "I hope you're hungry" and when the waitress came he asked her "what is the highest stack of pancakes someone has ever ordered" I glanced at her in fear, and then did another mental check on how not hungry I was. She kinda looked between us like is this a joke? And he ended up asking her to bring us 25 pancakes.

She brought them on a platter with a tub of syrup and a bowl of butter, and he grabbed one and I grabbed the other and we began stacking.
Our stack was two and half feet off the table when we began eating it.

He just kept eating and eating
and I ate until I was sick (literally) and had to go to the bathroom.

We talked until they closed and then left to walk about the falls.
Brandon surprised me with his talk, his congenial mannerisms and his overall goofyness. He began the date with calling me sister francis the entire time, asked if i would give an opening prayer and then proceeded to carve my name into a tree.

After that we threw rocks at ducks, and he chased me around with his butt sticking out pretending he was a bumble bee.

It was love people.

Passing the temple, an older man was closing the gates and brandon popped down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

This was our first date.

I told him no way and took off running.

This guy is crazy
I thought.

The old man at the gate was bent over laughing and brandon chased after me to make sure I knew he was kidding.

It was a good good date.

On the way home we passed fields of cows and Brandon pontificated on why man had chosen the horse as a ride when he could have chosen the cow. A noble beast.

I just laughed until I cried.

The next day he picked me up and we went to find some cows to ride.

Weird things always happened on our dates,
double rainbow arches,
albino bunny rabbit and a black bunny rabbit,
brandon spilling a myriad of assorted beverages all over himself on each date.

1. singing into a soy sauce bottle
2. pouring water all over his lap


He would rise at 2 or 3 in the morning and drive up, and wake me up with a daisy in his fist,
or flowers in my face.

Or bacon in my nose.

Brandon began to be, everything I ever wanted. All the things I missed.
He filled the very deepest part of me. And I like to think that I do that for him too.

Brandon drove those 4 almost 5 hours, every week- until he made the decision to leave school, and come move up to idaho to be near me while I finished school.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in harms way

My family has been so wonderful this holiday- every five minutes I ask them when Brandon is coming home, knowing the answer and nobody has shoved the "i told you not to get married" in my face.
So thank you for that. You have no idea how much that means to me, how much you mean to me.
I found this article in the NYTimes from a Marine's father- I think it aptly describes a lot of what I like to call my marriage limbo moments. I often find myself daydreaming about Brandon, what he is doing and when he will come home. I thought this was appropriate for the season. Merry christmas!

Mr. Cassone, whose son Richard is serving as a sergeant in Afghanistan, sent this essay to the Complaint Box on the City Room blog this weekend. The City Room editors thought it was more of a poignant story than a complaint and thought At War readers might appreciate it. We did, too.

Hey, I’m the guy you just about blasted out of his driver’s seat with your horn when we missed the green light at the mall entrance. Anyway, I’m not mad about it. We’re all under a lot of pressure this time of year. Before you know it, Christmas morning arrives, and so there’s not much time to get the right stuff for everyone. And not only did we miss that light because I was daydreaming, but we also would have surely sat through another one if you hadn’t honked, because I really wasn’t there. You couldn’t have known, but I was so very far away at the time, in a place that I’ve actually never been. I was in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

Sgt. Richard CassoneSgt. Richard Cassone at Fort Benning, Ga.

I wasn’t paying attention because I was wondering what my son, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, was doing right then, though it’s nine and a half hours later there. Like so very many other parents and loved ones of deployed personnel, I know very little about what my son does. I do know the name of his job; he’s a forward observer with a small company out of Camp Pendleton called First Anglico. I know that he is deployed with British and Afghan soldiers and that he calls in air and artillery support for their combat operations, but I don’t know what he does from moment to moment, and so sometimes I can’t help but sit and wonder. I did ask him last Sunday when he grabbed the satellite phone to call me for a minute or two, but he would only say that he was doing what he had joined to do. And that he’s doing it while sleeping in a frozen tent that he shares with a bunch of mice and a stray, flea-bitten cat, a supply of Ziploc baggies for toilets and not much in the way of entertainment, not that he’d have time for that. And even so, nighttime is the easy part of his day. And that’s when you honked.

CassoneSergeant Cassone in San Diego.

The thing is, there are tens of thousands of daydreamers like me. And a vast majority of them will put the experience behind them like I did after my son’s last two deployments. They will all forget about the background noise of a very personal war that they lived with while their loved ones were overseas. They will forget the fears they suppressed, confronted and then suppressed again. They will forget about having crept their car up to their driveway after work, peeking in at the dread of an imaginary black Crown Victoria with United States government plates that might meet them there. They will forget all about that, and then they’ll start worrying about Christmas and other holidays again. They’ll worry about getting the right gifts and decorations at the right price and having it all in the proper places in time for the kids to get up. And then they, too, might get impatient and honk at the guy in front of them when he’s too slow at the light pulling into the mall.

Sergeant CassoneSergeant Cassone on a previous deployment in Iraq.

But there are also many for whom Christmas will never be the same. The worst parts of their daydreams will have become reality. They were met by that Crown Vic, and so for them, there will always be a stocking that goes unfilled and an empty place at the table where the most enthusiastic and promising member of their family once sat. And like the daydreamers, you’ll never know who they are when they pass you on the street or miss a traffic light when you’re in a hurry. But for them, when they get lost in their thoughts, their daydreams are no longer taking them overseas. They are bringing them back to other Christmases and birthdays and summer vacations when their Marine was still around. So just this once, could you let them stay there for a moment longer and miss that light?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The awesome power of a wife's love

A very old man lay dying in his bed. In death's doorway, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookie wafting up the stairs.

He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands.

With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven.

There, spread out up on newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Was this heaven, or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table. The aged and withered hand, shaking, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife.

"Stay out of those," she said. "They're for the funeral."

Monday, December 14, 2009

santa came early!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

worth fighting for

Okay, I'm breaking the rulez. I am writing too many blogs (two many blogs) tonight. But I have a heart that is just bursting with so much that I want to tell you.

I've never been patriotic.

Don't shoot, don't shoot!

And you know what else? It's been really hard to have any of those feelings when I could be so so bitter to this whole war, and to the simple and sad fact that every single day while Brandon is gone, I worry about these things that no wife should ever have to worry about. (I'm not complaining, and Brandon never complains, in fact- the knowledge of these pitfalls make me so much more grateful for what I HAVE.) (even if I don't have him). These are brandon's living conditions.

1. A broken heater in -20 degree weather in a tent in the desert
2. A sleeping bag built for 0 degree weather only.
3. Men who he loves more than he loves himself
4. Food in a bag every day
5. patrols through foreign villages with a variety of people who hate him and his country
6. night watches that allow him to "sleep" during the day while everyone else is blowing things up, shooting, and running around.
7. Letters about once a month
8. A broken phone

Brandon, are you eating? are you sleeping? are you happy? are you sad? do you know how much I love you? are you warm? are you safe?

But you know something?
I've really had to find a reason why this war means more to me than just because my husband's life is on the line
I feel like this quote describes how I'm learning to feel about the war.

" War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much, much worse.
A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety is a miserable creature; who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

I'm not saying brandon is better than you. or me, or anyone else.

But I do think, that our generation is under-informed, impatient, ignorant- and selfish.

Again that's a generalization- I don't mean all people are that way- and I don't KNOW all people.

Last night brandon called from a different base where he was attending an Intelligence brief. He told me these comforting, soothing, peaceable, fantastic words.

"After this, I don't ever want anything to do with the military again. I want to grow my hair out, buy a vw bus and wear bell bottoms for the rest of my life."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I love this man.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


So, the phone apparently is broken in afghanistan.
Good to know four days AFTER you should have called.
I'm going to take out a chunk of you when you get home.
Megan, you save my life from terror and worry.
I am going to GO
because that's been lacking recently.
Due to the unfortunate event of the breakage of the phone.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

God bless us, every one.

Tonight I watched Amadeus for the first time since I was like 12. It was sad, and beautiful, but mostly the former and it made me think for the "brazillion"th (thanks sarah) time how grateful I am for my life. I was talking to a co worker- someone I was previously intimidated and shied from at first, about people we've dated (she just broke up with someone she was seeing for 2 years) I shared an experience I had that was similar. God really does put us in situations with other people for significant reasons. I needed to share the fact that I understood how she felt, that I cried myself to sleep for a long long time. My heart went to hers, I could only imagine a sliver of what that life was like- I feel like that part of me was so long ago. I was impressed how well she seemed to be coping.
MOST importantly I needed to share the hope on top of hopes- that a heart breaks, expands, and heals.

And she needed to remind me, how lucky and important it is to have the priesthood in my home- even if my husband isn't here physically.
His spirit touches my home, and my heart wherever he is.
That's something I never took into stock.

In my house growing up- we recieved blessings before school and if we were especially sick, but it was hard for me to just ask for a blessing. When I moved away to school, specifically during this heartbreak I referred to earlier, I realized that I could reach out to any priesthood holder, and that they could bless my life in friendship, and mostly through them, God himself could heal my life, my blunders. And comfort my perspective, my head, and my heart.

I really believe that.

In many many selfish ways, I could have looked at that relationship as a waste of time, of effort, I could suppose that it took a lot from me that I would never get back.
But that was wrong.

Love is never being sorry that you gave in the first place.

I'm not sorry that Brandon is gone doing what his heart tells him to, because I am always there, and he is always here.

And it took more fumbling and bumbling and breaking and tears and joy too- to realize all that.

I'm a clumsy person, and I experience those things expectedly, but when do I begin to experience joy?

Precisely when I choose it.

Heartbreak, is the refinement of love.

It takes what isn't working
pieces it apart,
and learns to build it back into something better.
And not just for one person.

The all encompassing universality of that single emotion leaves me in awe and wonder.
It inspires me
to love more, to fear less.

I am going to borrow from Dickens (it seems that's all I do these days reading Nicholas Nickleby) (I am dictionaring my way through it- thank you kindle)

God bless you,
and love you.
every one.

okay I'm off my soap box and into bed I promise.

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