We will try to remember our last night with him before deployment in order to remember the essence of HIM while he's away, as well as to remember the man who left so that we will have this touchstone when he returns...perhaps a different man....surely a different man?!
We sat in the yard in an old Adirondack chair semi-circle facing a lawn and orchard of crabapple, pear, plum and peach trees; a flower garden staked to support growing herbs and a birdbath visited by thirsty and hot goldfinches, cardinals, and assorted other birds. The air was full of their song...peace and calm in a storm of emotions!
He talked of men who were deciding in the last days NOT to go. We were amazed by such information...that a man could decide that war was something he could not stomach or tolerate and that he could bow out making it safer for all the men who ARE going. We don't want soldiers there who don't think they can stand up to the challenges. They would only make it extremely unsafe for 'our soldier' and so, their bravery in admitting this self-knowledge and staying behind, is appreciated more than they know!
He talked of men who had never been 'out of country' despite years with the National Guard. He talked of being one of the more experienced members of the unit and we shuddered as this made us realize just how inexperienced these men truly are!
He talked of equipment that he felt was the best of everything, but then told of a buddy's call to someone highly connected who could get them dessert fatigues instead of the regular army issue they have been wearing. I think they felt undervalued wearing these uniforms and they need to feel that they have the best of everything right now especially!
We noticed on Saturday that there were a mix of uniforms...some forest greens and others light, sand tones. It seems that the unit's members who have already served a tour of duty have the newer, more appropriate uniforms in shades of sand, while the rookies are dressed in darker European/North American fatigue colors.
He spoke of just wanting to get the show on the road. All the talk of going; all the prep for going, he felt as a hinderance to getting over there and more importantly, for getting back!! It is obvious that he is already counting the days and they haven't even shipped out yet!
His fiance spoke of the night he was dropped off at their house...Friday...could it be such a short time ago? She spoke of how the men with him seemed almost panicky at letting him go. He reassured them that he'd see them again on Monday. It was okay. She said they had been strangers 30 days ago, but on Friday, they were hugging each other in 'good-byes' for 3 days as though it would be a lifetime. This is how dependent they already are on each other! We know this is a very good thing...they will take care of each other over there...or die trying!
This reminds me of the news we watched that night wanting to see how the media that was all over the event would handle it. We learned that there is a father/son pair who are going together. Their wife/mother told the reporter that she comforts herself with the knowledge that they will take care of each other over there. Who has the worst of it? These two soldiers or their mother/wife who must sit at home worrying...OH, HOW SHE MUST WORRY! You could see it all over her face on Saturday night. What a family! My eyes fill with tears thinking about her!
'Our soldier's' mother is living with us, so our most intimate knowledge of him and what he goes through will come through her though certainly we will communicate with him as well. She is an extremely private person, so we expect that we'll not hear nearly as much as we'd like to!
We will do what we can to help her through this time. It's hard to know what that might be...the help. How DO you help someone who is in pain and worried? Talk, distraction, what? Should we reminisce...help her to process all the fun/good times remembering his growing up years? Or would that be too painful?
I put the tv news on this AM and as they are reporting that two soldiers are missing from a checkpoint, we can't help but think that the killing of Zirkawi may be heating things up there. They may be moving toward new tactics that MAY include the seizure of US soldiers.
I think of all the families somewhere whose sons/daughters/husbands/brothers/uncles/nephews are over there and how this news must impact on THEM! And the horror of these soldiers' families who live with the realization that the nightmare has come home to roost. Abu Graib may be avenged on THEIR soldiers! I hear it with some relief that 'our soldier' (and all his buddies who we feel we know now in some small way ) are not yet over there...HE is still 'safe' in New Jersey...actually on a bus on his way to New Jersey!
Stay tuned for further thoughts and news from this 'mobilized family.'