mardi 14 octobre 2008

C.H.A.O.S. : Mothers and sons -- this is war

And daughters and fathers

Today, I talked with the mother of a young man returned from Iraq. He joined the military seeking positive male role models, and he saw war in Iraq. He left the military rather than return for a second tour of duty, and he still sees the military as positive, but the war in Iraq in the worst of terms.

Here is our conversation. I intend it as a tribute to him, and to her, and to everyone who has made this sacrifice. It makes me ask myself questions about telling my son I could never let him go to a war in which I do not believe, maybe to lose my only child.

This woman did. He is her only child, and she told us that she told him never to let her get in the way of his doing his work.

Mtrn: My son was in Iraq
fleur_de_paris: really?
fleur_de_paris: how many tours?
Mtrn: just one, TG for 12 mos
Mtrn: he exited the military so he wouldn't have to go back
fleur_de_paris: what does he think about all of this, Mtrn?
Mtrn: he doesn't talk much about much anymore
fleur_de_paris: hm
fleur_de_paris: how old is he?
Mtrn: he thinks the war is all BS about $$$
irish1313: well, it is
Mtrn: 24
fleur_de_paris: he is right, but I haven't been to Iraq, so I have more respect for his opinion than my own
fleur_de_paris: so young
Mtrn: he's registered to vote, but won't... can't understand it
fleur_de_paris: I am sure it has affected him
noweelani: like the blackwater thugs, or how about giving our troops contaminated water?
fleur_de_paris: he's reacting, Mtrn, isn't he? He'll need a little time
Mtrn: ya, he's a man's man -- but was always a compassionate man -- it messed with him
fleur_de_paris: maybe he will, at the last minute
fleur_de_paris: maybe he doesn't want to talk about it, but will do it
Mtrn: maybe
Mtrn: maybe
fleur_de_paris: that must be hard for you, to see him changed
fleur_de_paris: I have a son
fleur_de_paris: he is 17
irish1313: how long has he been back?
Mtrn: I just have my safety net out for him, if he needs it
fleur_de_paris: it's hard just watching him wrestle with growing up
fleur_de_paris: you are a good parent
Mtrn: yuppers
fleur_de_paris: why did he join the military? Has this changed his outlook?
Mtrn: he felt he needed some positive male role models in his life -- dad is deadbeat
fleur_de_paris: I see. This might not have helped
Mtrn: well, it did
irish1313: there might have been a few
Mtrn: he sees benefit from military, not just war
fleur_de_paris: he is on a path
Mtrn: yuppers
fleur_de_paris: but he ended having to quit because of Iraq
fleur_de_paris: something hit him
Mtrn: well, that and he wanted to finish college
Mtrn: so he works full-time and attends college full-time
melbaOz: sounds as if your son has learned a lot, Mtrn
Mtrn: yes, but you know how youth can fool us
irish1313: stupid escapade radar going off, Mtrn?
melbaOz: 24 isn't that young
Mtrn: lol
Mtrn: it is, and it isn't
irish1313: it's not that old, either, that's the trouble
Nephilimisl: 24 can be, it depends on what you do, it's not really old either
Mtrn: he is older in ways I will never understand because of the war
melbaOz: I think I was more mature in my mid-thirties than I am now
Mtrn: but in his daily struggles, he is still young
Mtrn: you mean what's he getting his degree in?
Mtrn: CIS, like mother like son :-)
Nephilimisl: sweet. Tell him I said good luck
Mtrn: ty :)

The conversation went on. We talked about our sons, their fathers, and how they have experienced their absence. For hers, it has been a long, slow and painful process. My son has been fortunate, by some freak of his own personality, perhaps.

Our conversation made me think about how I have told my son that if the draft returns, I will take him to the embassy to have him renounce his citizenship. He is French, too, and the French do not see war as we do. They do not send their sons and daughters easily to risk their lives. I do not believe the same thing of our government anymore.

I once met a woman who watched her only child, her son, make the decision to volunteer to go to Iraq. She was a university administrator for the University of California system. That was in 2004. She told me at a 4th of July celebration in the Bay Area how she had pleaded with him not to do it, but he said that he felt it was his duty. She did not believe in this war, just like Mtrn's son lost his faith.

Over the four years, I thought often of that woman from the rooftop 4th of July party, watching fireworks burst in the Pacific evening sky, drink in hand, and I wondered if her son came home safely.

The Obama boards, like C.H.A.O.S., bring people together from all over the US and the world, and I have met many people who have sons and daughters in Iraq, or returned from Iraq, or who have served in other US conflicts, like Vietnam. I have not yet met someone who lost their child. They would probably not be there. Someone told us, after the exchange above, that his neighbors lost a son. The soldier's mother still talks about him coming home from the war, and they fly the flag every day just like they have done from the day he left.

"It's a way to keep him alive in her heart," said Mtrn.

And when all the troops will have come home, when her son does not come to the front door, then what?

I tried to find that woman from LA. I got as close as a good friend, who said she would forward my message. She was cheerful and friendly. I never heard from her friend, but I can believe that her son is safe.

And, what war would I find worthy of my son? What war would he find worthy of himself?

I have taken him to Arlington to walk among the paths and to see the change of the guard, and to Coleville sur Mer to walk among the crosses and the stars of David on the bluff over Omaha Beach. We read the names, and the ones where there was none. We watched the flags come down and be folded into their triangular bundles that evening, as every evening for all these decades for all of those lives, and others still, buried elsewhere, or lost to the Channel water.

And, who will decide if he should go to war, and how does a mother find the courage to let him go?

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