My heart broke three times today as I talked to grieving parents about their dead sons. All killed in action in the military, and all being remembered this Veteran’s Day with beautiful stone markers in a lush memorial garden.
I have a ways to go on my story for The Big Paper because I spent the afternoon talking with the mothers who bore these men and nurtured them, the dads who tossed balls to them and helped them loop neckties, and the priest who buried two of them and comforts everyone who misses them.
There is a 31-year-old husband and father of two who was electrocuted in Iraq on his birthday; another six days short of his 21st birthday who came under enemy fire; and a 21-year-old who was crushed when his jeep flipped over on bomb-torn ground.
Today’s heartbreak was a little more poignant than I am letting on because of one detail I conveniently left out. My 20-year-old son enlisted in the Army in recent months, took his oath, and will be shipping out to basic training in Georgia on Jan 2. From there he gets his orders and he is gone.
The pendulum has swung over my thoughts about military service over the years, from ardent objection to anything to do with war on one end of the spectrum to the sobering reality, after 9-11, that our country still needs, and probably always will need, defending.
I was interested to learn that just 1 percent of the population steps up to do it. Still, though, I have serious thoughts about the necessity, or lack thereof, of war.
This is the beginning of my son’s life adventure and I realize I have been holding my breath since the day he told us he wanted in. I am unwilling to crush his dream, but also terrified that combat will kill mine — which is for him to live a long and happy life following his heart.
And it’s just because of that wish that I am forcing myself to hold back on judgments and allowing him to create his own destiny. It’s his life to live, after all. And while it still surprises me that he is grown — I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I held him for the first time? — he really doesn’t need me to tie his shoes, or fight his battles. Especially ones that are far afield of my world here.
So, like a few other friends who have boys in the military, soon mine will be gone. My prayers will follow him and I am determined that the strength of a mother’s love will bring him home. I am not prepared to consider any other option.