Every Parent's Nightmare
This was the first thought that went through my mind yesterday when first I heard of the Marine helicopter crash in Iraq. That the mothers and fathers and spouses and children of those men could not get to their sons, husbands, fathers will haunt me for a long time. It made me weep that other Marines that have the most unenviable job in the service would visit the families of these brave Marines. It made me comment to my husband that I would become completely dysfunctional -- catatonic -- if soldiers ever showed up at our door. I said I might actually refuse to answer the door. "Why would you not answer the door?" he asked inquisitively and with disbelief. "Because there is a part of my brain that believes that if they can't speak those words, then they can't ever be true." It happened when my twin sister called and told me that one of my brothers had died at the age of 49. "No he didn't." Those were the first words out of my mouth to her. It would be 10 times that if soldiers ever came to my door.
When you have a child in the military you do think those thoughts. You are especially prone to transient, fleeting maudlin thoughts when your child heads to a place where they are shooting at him, trying to propel missiles through his vehicle or attempting to blow him off the face of the Earth. You try desperately to avoid thinking about the possibility. You chastise yourself if such a thought creeps into your brain.
It doesn't help that occasionally you are made to talk or think about the possibility that your child might die (it has taken me the better part of 2 hours to just type those words). When our son came home on leave just weeks before his deployment, he made a big deal of hanging his Class A (dress uniform) in his closet and was making sure that all his ribbons and medals were in place, that his shoes were shined, the shirt and tie hung with care. When I said, "Don't worry about it... it will just get wrinkled when I ship it back to you," he replied, "No, the Army might ask for it." "Ask for your uniform? Why in heaven's name would they ask for your uniform?" He just gave me a look, and I instantly understood. We spoke not a word, and he continued putting his uniform SOP. You may tell your soldier that you are thinking of them, praying for them, proud of them. You may never write or speak the unthinkable, the unspeakable. They know you worry. They tell you not to worry. It's a time-honored exchange.
The other time the topic ever even remotely was discussed was when he was recently making out his will -- which the Army recommends before deployment. One of the items to be addressed was where he wanted to be buried. His answer was, "Wherever you and Dad decide." We left it at that, and I admonished myself that we will never have to make that determination. That, today, there are 31 families making that determination twists my heart tremendously. I want every one of those families to know that my family, many, many other Americans and I are thinking of them and praying for them. We honor their sons, their husbands, their fathers.