This isn’t really a post. It feels more like a dirge. I’ve been organizing photographs recently – got ’em all in the cloud, ya know – and I came across some that my spouse had taken on the last trip he made to DC with Rolling Thunder. The photo of Arlington (see the header pic) pulls my feet out from under me. Note how the stones line up so smartly, the grass is as trim as a boot camp haircut and the quiet is deafening.
A few years prior our son made a trip to Afghanistan and then another to Iraq, courtesy of the U. S. Army. It’s been ten years since he came back to us and I still find myself looking at his face wondering who is this man wearing my son’s dog tags, carrying his wallet, thinking he can fool this old woman. Sure, he looks familiar, but I don’t know him. The joy is gone from his voice, his smile is strained, dark circles always under his eyes.
His eyes – I look into those green eyes, within them the most amazing color of orange around his pupils, and I can’t describe the pain that cuts through me, takes my breath away. It’s his pain I see in those beautiful eyes as they gaze back into mine. Pain because he left others behind to continue the battle while he came home. Pain because he saw body bags take friends away after IEDs ripped through their bodies. Pain because of guilt he suffers from taking the lives of the sons of other women.
I see his pain and I feel a red hot rage at politicians who move our kids into harm’s way for the sake of an agenda, at a military machine that chews them up and spits them out like so much kindling, at myself because I raised him to follow his heart, to live his dream and he did. It’s a rage so powerful I don’t know how it’s contained in my body. I shouldn’t be able to bear this kind of anger without bursting into flames.
You see, I raised a different child. The child I carried in my body, nursed and cosseted, grew into a laughing young man with a zest for life. He never walked when he could run. He sang while he did chores around the house. He whistled. That’s the boy the Army got from me. Don’t misunderstand. I love the man he is now. He’s a good man, strong and hard working. He loves his family and I’m so blessed to have him in my life. I’m so grateful, so thankful to God that he came back alive. But he’s not the same boy.
Anyway, I was telling you about the picture of Arlington – the header. Well, our son made that trip to DC with his dad, both of them on Harleys with a group of friends. It’s an annual trip, a demonstration of sorts, in support of POWs and MIAs (look it up if you’re not familiar with the terms), letting our politicians know that we haven’t forgotten them and we’re watching. Our POWs and MIAs deserve to come home, to be buried in the country they died for. It’s a cause that’s dear to my heart. That’s the kicker. You see the irony, right? In so many ways our boy is MIA and I can’t stop looking for him. It’s a dangerous world, my friends. Hold your babies close.