Between employment in the Catholic Church and family military connections, Rosemary Bloise has weighed the United States’ invasion of Iraq — which reached its fourth anniversary on March 19 — from a variety of perspectives.
Now, the war is serving as a backdrop for a memorable string of events involving Bloise’s becoming a first-time grandmother.
Bloise was recently on hand at a U.S. Marine base in North Carolina as her daughter gave birth, her son-in-law having been called away to Iraq just a little more than a week earlier.
“It’s been bittersweet for all of us. We’re so excited about the baby, but knowing Joe would leave before seeing his son was awful,” said Bloise, who serves as pastoral associate of Church of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads. “I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to share this moment with my ‘baby’ as she gives birth to her baby, but I’d give it up in a heartbeat if Joe could have been there.”
Bloise’s son-in-law, Sgt. Joseph R. Mallory, left Feb. 12 for the Al Anbar Province, his second tour in Iraq. Upon his deployment, Bloise traveled to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to be with her daughter, Alicia. Nathan Joseph Mallory was born at 3:13 a.m. Ash Wednesday morning, Feb. 21.
Bloise noted that her sister and other daughter arrived at Camp Lejeune while Alicia was laboring. And Joe called up just before the baby was born, not realizing she had gone into labor. Alicia could only talk briefly due to the pain.
“The poor guy was terrified for her,” Bloise said.
When he called back an hour later, she had had the baby.
Alicia had taken a photo of her husband to the hospital.
“So I put it next to her and Nathan in the bed while she was on the phone, and we took pictures. She said ‘we’re having our first family picture taken now!’ She did such a great job, and Nathan is perfect. We’re very blessed,” Bloise said. “Alicia’s blood pressure was very high and with Joe leaving, I was really worried about her. She’s done really well.”
Bloise drove her daughter and grandson back to New York about a week after the birth. They are living with her until the end of Joe’s current hitch, which is expected to last seven months to a year.
Bloise noted that Bishop Matthew H. Clark was at St. Mary Our Mother on March 6 and stopped by her office to say hello.
“Of course I just happened to have pictures of Nathan, which I happened to shove in his face,” she said. “He was so supportive when I told him about Joe.”
She added that Joe’s parents drove from Indiana to spend a recent weekend with Alicia and Nathan, who in turn will visit them for Mother’s Day. Bloise said she naturally would like to have been with Alicia for her first Mother’s Day, “but I told her that if my son was in Iraq it would give me great peace to be able to hold his son on Mother’s Day.”
Bloise is no stranger to the demands of military life: Her former husband, Ron, spent his career in the Air Force. She said that even though the possibility of being called away is a given, loved ones still struggle when that moment arrives.
“There’s no way you can ever be ready to say goodbye to someone you love — especially when they’re expected to risk their lives going to a country where they may or may not be welcomed, for an issue they may or may not be clear about,” Bloise remarked.
Her family situation spurred her to erect a military shrine earlier this year at St. Mary Our Mother. It included a basket of yellow ribbons for people to tie on a tree; they could attach photos as well. Bloise said the initiative was “just trying to bring a human face to those we pray for and their families — not a political statement, but a statement of faith, hope and love.”
By the same token, it’s hard for Bloise to be neutral in her political and moral stances on war.
“As far as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ well, you’re talking to a mom who was once arrested for civil disobedience one Good Friday on the Nevada Test Site (where nuclear weapons are tested),” she said. “Do I have issues about a ‘just-war theory?’ You better believe it. I can’t see how any war can ever be just.”
Still, she stressed that “supporting our troops and their families, at home and away, does not mean we’re condoning the war or the policy-making politicians.”
Bloise said she had suggested to her son-in-law that he try to get excused from his current assignment, but he had cited the need to be with his unit. That didn’t set well with Bloise “until I realized that if he’s going to be that loyal to the Marines, Alicia made a good choice in husband and father.”
“The dedication and commitment our military and their families have humbles, inspires and challenges me,” she said. “I wish I could live my baptismal promises the way they live their promises to each other and to our country.”