He is near Basra, Iraq by last counts. I, his
aunt, sit at my laptop on a ridge above Chattanooga, Tennessee trying to make sense of it all.
It has been years since the initial war protests in our city. As a participant in those protests, I wanted to believe we (Americans) could get
Congress and the President to listen to the lessons of history. While I was in high school in the late sixties, we watched one of our favorite guys, Charlie, tear up his report card
and throw it up in the air with zeal.
His draft number was low and he was dead in Vietnam before our school year had ended. When the traveling Vietnam wall comes near my home, I go and touch his name. I remember a boy I dated, Allen, who came back home quietly. He had sent me a lovely lady Vietnamese doll. Upon returning to his
family, I never heard from him. Many years later, I saw him briefly with his children.
I don’t know what the war was like for them; but, I know as a young woman I cried over their letters, their photographs in our yearbook and the telephone calls from their mothers.
Now, my nephew is in Iraq. In the desert where he estimates it is 160 degrees. Now,
his mother, my sister, watches and waits
and probably cries. Although, she has kept a stiff upper lip most of the time, even when he decided to remain in the Marines.
My father was always so proud of his Air Force uniform and photos as symbols of his service to our country. The triangle I live in with my father, “My Marine” and my country holds the promise of dissension as a patriotic duty and
service as privilege.
I ask myself: “how do we live this out as citizens?” Some people I know never speak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many times, we hear little in the media about the numbers of children dead, the masses dislocated and the possible financial, political and human suffering which will continue regardless if the next administration’s decisions.
I am a citizen, an American and patriot.
How do I reconcile this many thoughts, emotions and ideas? I mail a box to Iraq,
I gather toys for children and I think and
think about the whys and wherefores of war
and my part in the way I use resources.
I hope his mother will not be disappointed. I hope his wife is right. I hope he will be back
with his baby girl in September.
But, what about the others? As a mother, grandmother, aunt and grand-aunt; all our
service people feel like my “kin”.
The Iraqi and Afghanistan faces on TV and in my news magazines haunt me.
Will freedom and democracy change so much pain and suffering? How will we as Americans cope with this tragedy in the many years to come?