On May 5, 2007, United States Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II was killed near Khalidiyah, Iraq. He was 36 years old. Recently I had the honor and privilege to interview his wife.
Please welcome, famous widow, and member of the club nobody wants to join, Tanya Mundis Palmer, wife of famous American Soldier, Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II.
Hello Tanya. First, sincerest condolences. We salute Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer's bravery, courage, and valor. Thank you.
Please tell me a little about where were you born, where you grew up. Do you have brothers and sisters? Are you oldest, youngest? Are family members supportive?
I was born and grew up in York, PA. I have a younger brother, an older stepsister (by 1 month) and an older stepbrother. I have a huge family and Charles’s family is rather large, also. I have so much support between all the family and close friends, that sometimes I don't know what to say to everyone, except when they ask if we need anything, I tell them to bring some "chicken nuggets."
How did you and Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II meet? Where did you go on your first date?
Charles and I were officially introduced to each other through a mutual friend at their anniversary party in Mooresville, NC. I guess you can consider that our first date.
What did you do? Do you remember your first kiss?
We played cards, and sat beside the fire and talked until the sun came up. We had our first kiss that morning. He said he was "committed". I said I had a lot of baggage (2 kids and a fairly mean ex). He said that was okay. I said, “Well, then I'm committed, too.”
We were with each other everyday from May of 2002 until February 2006. Except for 3 days when he went to California (to visit) and 2 days while I was at my Grandfather's funeral in PA.
Do you remember your last kiss? Can you describe where you were, what you were doing?
The last day we kissed and said our goodbyes, was on February 15th 2007. We were on main side base of Camp Lejeune @ 1500 (hours) (I was) waiting for him to get on the bus to leave.
When did you and Charles get married? Did you have a big wedding?
Charles and I married January 19th, 2006. We snuck off to the justice of the peace with my younger brother and the 2 children. We were planning on having a big wedding in 2008 only due to the distances of where our families lived. We tried very hard not too hurt anyone’s feelings and wanted to be able to give everyone the chance to be able to attend.
What did it feel like when Charles entered a room? …When he touched your hand?
When Charles walked into the room, he filled the room with his smile, and when our eyes met from across the room, I would fall in love even deeper. I would wait for a comment to be said by him that would have us all laughing until our sides hurt. Most times he was quiet, but when he spoke, people listened, and then the debates would begin. The touch of his hand made me feel safe, and his embrace let me know that he would never leave.
Tanya, where were you when you received the news Charles was killed? Were you prepared? What was your first thought?
I was at home washing my car in the front yard. You’re never prepared. My first thought was that these three gentleman could not go into my house. It was a Saturday, and the kids had everything everywhere. I knew that if my husband found out, he would be upset. Although, in my mind, I knew why these men were here. You can never forget.
Tanya, did you and Charles discuss the possibility he would not return from Iraq? Did he prepare you in anyway? What did he tell the children?We never really talked about him dying. Rather, he prepped myself and the kids in his own way. If the kids asked him questions, he told them truth. Somehow it has helped. I'm actually in the middle of a big custody battle. The weekend after Charles deployed, I let my ex have the kids for the weekend. Needless to say, he kept my daughter, but he gave me back my son. I was not able to talk to, or see her until that Saturday when I was told. I got to see her that next Saturday.
How did your children take the sad news?
Rebecca broke down on the plane. She cried so hard, she shook, and the only thing I could do was hold her, and stroke her hair, and tell her everything will get better. Brenden didn't cry until we received Charles's personal effects from Iraq. I read a birthday card to him that my father and stepmother had mailed to Charles while he was in Iraq. That opened up the river that night, and every night since, he sleeps in Charles’s cammie shirt that Charles wore over there. Rebecca wears his cap and a set of dog tags. I'm still in the middle of the custody battle, but at least the judge has ordered every 2 weeks during summer until the custody hearing.
Was there a favorite thing you and Charles liked to do together? What was it?
We enjoyed so many things. We both worked a lot, so the time we were together was precious. What we enjoyed the most though was taking the kids camping and fishing. When we cooked supper, we cooked together. We enjoyed having friends over, or visiting.
Tanya, what one thing do you want the world to know about Charles?
What I want the world to know.....Charles was a wonderful father to two kids that were not biologically his, although some people were shocked to hear. The kids had picked up his mannerisms through the years. He was a wonderful husband. This was both our 1st marriage. He loved his son more deeply than I've ever seen a man love a child. Until he had re-enlisted in the Marine Corps that was all he would talk about. I was proud of him before he was Marine. He worked hard and many long hours at the powder costing shop but you could tell that the Marine Corps was where he wanted to be.
The day he came home after being at the recruiters office, he was smiling from ear to ear. While we cooked supper that night, he looked at me and said, "Guess we have to get married." I looked at him and said, "Okay". Then we finished up supper, tucked the kids in, and watched a movie before going to bed.
He was a different man from that point on. Everything was more intense--The passion, the love, the honor that he felt--He loved serving his country, and taking care of his family at the same time. He volunteered to leave on advance party to go to Iraq. He always wanted to make sure that "his Marines" were taken care of. He went out of his way to stay late, and would have the men and their wives over so we could all meet. He was a tough man but always tried to be fair. He would let me cry on his shoulder and then when I was finished would ask, "Okay, now how can you take care of the problem?" That's how he prepped me for his death. He made me think in the middle of a crisis, instead of him taking care of it for me. I can never be more grateful to one person for that.
Charles was a well-liked man, and his friends spoke highly of him. He was just an all around great guy.
What do you want your friends, neighbors, family members, or strangers to say, or not say to you, as you work through the grief process?
I want people to not be afraid to speak to me. They can say anything . Let me talk to them. Let me hold them, if they need to cry. I don't want people shying away from me knowing that their husbands are/or will be coming home. I want them to love their husbands, and know that I am happy for them. I want their bonds to be closer knowing that one day one of them might not come home. I have no regrets in that. Charles and I had a unique bond on all different levels that not everyone can find. I was able to spend many years with Charles, where as most military wives don't get that chance. I am eternally grateful for our time.
What are your plans for your future, Tanya? For your children's future?
My plans for the future? Who knows what the future may bring. But (my) short-term goals are to stay here, and start college. My children will be going to college. Right now I am soaking up my children's, friends’ and families’ love, which makes it possible to go on each day. I'm sure I left something out. I speak better than I write. I have a lot of thoughts, but they leave before I type. I've enclosed a copy of an email. It's from him to me. Kinda gives you some insight on what kind of man he is and our relationship.
i don't mean to take care of them first,
but i have to.
before i was trying to have partners in a business
that i thought would take care of me,
and whoever was with me,
but here i have to because of rank,
and that it is the way it is supposed to be,
not like when i was out when you first met me.
i thought when you met me,
i was with the right people,
that it would work that way to where
i would accomplish the same thing i am getting in here,
but it was not. i wish we could have done this when i was in the first time,
because i would have never gotten out.
i feel that we have a very strong relationship,
because we believe in each other and
strongly support each other than anybody else.
so i really feel we have what god has strongly felt
about having a strong relationship because
we support one another and our feelings
or the time we spend away or speaking
still grows stronger than what normal people can realize,
and i brag about how we are and how they
can be if they can just realize what they are
trying to accomplish. and believe it
or not they can't comprehend how we do it,
because we have so much faith in each other and trust.
but they are starting to get it now,
because they are asking more questions,
and i tell them that i wish
because i really do that i don't get to talk to you
as much as i want to because of what is
demanded of me but you are still supporting
me as I do you and I really support you
and greatful to have a wife like i do
and would not trade anything for that.
because have seen what i could have had that is
why i had waited and would never traud anything for it.
my feelings have never changed and i would still marry you
again and again because you always support me
as i support you and i will never traid that or jeopardise that.
it is hard to find someone like that.
that is why i chose you out side of
what i could have had and
yes i do love you even though
i don't tell you in voice or in person
because it is hard to confess so there
it is hope you understand
and i will call you tomorrow
when i get off and my roommates are gone
if not friday for sure because i will have alone time then.
love ya and talk to you soon.
i need to get a laptop so we can do this more often
we can talk hee hee alot more without nobody knowing.
love ya. talk very soon because I am just as you are.