FALLEN SON: For Ben Biskie's mother, the memories hurt and help heal

VERMILION
MIKE FITZPATRICK
May 24, 2010

VERMILION

The worst day of the year for Della Bombac is Memorial Day.

Bombac's son, Sgt. Benjamin Biskie, died from injuries he suffered after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Christmas Eve 2003. Biskie, just 27 at the time and a 1994 Vermilion High School graduate, was the first soldier killed in Lorain County.

"Christmas Eve is hard, and Christmas Day is hard, but I find the most difficult day is Memorial Day," Bombac said.

Life has gone on for Bombac. She continues to work as an aide at a nursing home in Lorain. She still lives with her long-time fianc, Richard Guba, and often thinks about her son.

"I say, 'Butthead, where are you when I need you?'" Bombac said, recalling the nickname she used for her son.

Biskie joined the Army in 1995 to become a demolition specialist. By 2003 he was assigned to Headquarters Co. of the 5th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade, where he was a driver for a major in the unit. Bombac said her son assured her he would be safe.

He was driving Maj. Christopher Splinter, 43, of Platteville, Wis., and Capt. Christopher Soelzer, 26, of South Dakota, when the vehicle hit a roadside explosive near Samarra. The two officers died immediately. Biskie held on for a little longer, Bombac recalled.

"He was rushed to the trauma center and lasted two hours. There was too much internal bleeding. They couldn't save him," she said.

Vivid memories of the day she learned her son had been killed still resonate with Bombac. It was about 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and she was still groggy after having celebrated her 60th birthday the night before. She heard the knock on the door, and when she opened it just a crack, she saw a man in military dress. Her heart sank, and she was overcome with a feeling of dread, she said.

"I looked and shut the door, and then of course I opened the door," Bombac recalled.

To cope with her loss, Bombac compiled a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and other mementos she collected following her son's death.

"That's what helped the healing, you know. My daughter Darlene and I agreed: Why forget him, you know, why put him on a shelf and totally forget him. No, I won't do that. No. He's a human being and yes, he passed, but that's my son, my only son," Bombac said.

Biskie left behind a wife, Marcie, and a son, Benjamin, who was 6 at the time his father died. Marcie has since remarried, Bombac said, and lives in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Biskie's two sisters, Andrea and Darlene, also moved to Missouri to be closer to their nephew, Bombac said.

"He's doing good," Bombac said of Benjamin Jr. "His stepfather is fantastic with him. Marcie keeps (Ben) alive. She keeps pictures of him around the house."

Ben Jr., now 11, still has times when he gets down. But Marcie helps him through those, Bombac said.

"Once in a while he'll go in his room and kind of be sad and say, 'I miss Daddy,' and she'll say, 'Yes, I do too.' Yes, she's remarried, but that's still a part of her life."

Bombac said her son still communicates with her. To illustrate the point, she tells the story of a dream she had just days before she went to Missouri for her son's memorial service.

"I had a dream, and I don't dream," she said.

In the dream, Bombac is in a hospital and a nurse tells her she has a phone call.

"I could see the desk and the phones and the nurses," Bombac said.

And then she heard her son's voice on the other end of the phone.

"The voice said, 'Mom, it's me. I'm just letting you know I'm OK, and I love you, and I will watch over you.' And then I woke up. A couple of days later we left for Missouri. I've never dreamed like that. Never," Bombac said.

Today, whenever Bombac finds a penny she believes Ben left it for her.

Bombac, a soft-spoken woman who loves her cats, has pictures of her son all over her tiny Lorain apartment.

She would like to see the U.S. pull out of Iraq.

"If they haven't accomplished anything in five years, what's it going to take, more boys to die?" Bombac asked.

Bombac expressed frustration that Iraq has yet to become a fully independent nation.

"Why can't they run their own country?" Bombac asked. "Why do they need our guys to do it? I don't understand it. This war has been going on for 3,000 years. What's going to stop it now?"

Benjamin Biskie deeply believed in the mission, though, Bombac said.

"He loved being in the service. He believed in the Iraq war. What I understand, he would take his paycheck and buy school supplies for the kids," Bombac said.

Her son paid the ultimate price for his belief in the mission, and Bombac still feels the pain of the loss of her only son.

"I miss him to this day. He was my little boy," she said.

"The families that have lost loved ones, people should understand, I don't care if it's one year, five years or 30 years. That's a piece of their heart that is gone, and they should have a little more understanding. I should have died before my son. Not him, you know," Bombac said.