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Posts Tagged ‘military mothers’

(In honor of my Tia Terry…and her son the Marine veteran)

My son is a Marine; retired now from active duty, but he’ll always be a Marine. I sent my boy off to boot camp shortly after he hung up his cap and gown and put away his childhood. The day he shipped out, my life changed too. I was proud and flew flags above my home to let the world know those in my household were proud of the US of A, and that our boy was a US Marine.

Going along with that territory, is the innate fear that war will happen, and that my prayers will have to be answered across an ocean, and a world away. There’s no other experience to match that which comes with the call that he’s shipping out and off to war. I grew a week older with each day, knowing only that it would soon begin…regardless of whose fight was about to be fought, this was to become “our war”, both his and mine.

When I dusted off his photos of high school wrestling, of grade school innocence, of any day from any age that has passed…I knew THAT boy wouldn’t be coming home. In his place I would receive a veteran combat Marine…but then, I, his mother will also have changed. Some things would be similar, but not much will be as it was. A lot will be better; less will be taken for granted.

While the front line was wherever he happened to be, as he and the rest of the Corp would bring the fight with them, I had only CNN and the internet, as the letters slowly dwindled and left me to just the news, my imagination, and simple faith in his training. In knowing the Good Lord would look out for those who look out for what is good and nearer to Godliness.

Perhaps your son may have been off to do battle on a local paintball range at the edge of town, to dive and duck, scheme and scam. He may have come home with a spattered shirt, a bruise on an arm, rib, and ego. His paint gun may have run out of air or balls of paint ammo. But there was no chance he’d ever run out of time…of blood, hope, of life. There is no similarity to those foolish games, not even for an instance. Some wounds can’t heal, and when it’s real, it won’t come out in the wash.

When things go wrong in that desert so far from home, some like me get a knock on their door, and only a folded flag to hold for ever more. I did get my Marine son home safely, but he was now a veteran of combat, a Marine who had been to a place only he and others with him there could know.

I don’t know what he saw, what he heard, what he smelled, what he felt. I don’t know what he carries on his shoulders now that he put away his backpack, his weapons, his duty, and his craft away. He doesn’t really talk about it. It was war. I know what happens…some boys don’t get to live on, so the rest will be able to. Regardless of which side you are on, there are mothers fearing for the worst, staying close to the phone, feeling a twinge even when the television emits the sound of a knock on a door.

And while my vocabulary grew with the terms of war, my list of prayers did too, as did my knowledge of chapters of scripture. I got to know of community support and gratitude for our sacrifices. I was far too far from my son, but closer to God and those who joined me in support and prayer.

While he was gone for so many months, I became a combat veteran too. But while only he witnessed the brutality and faced the challenges of mortality first hand, I faced the horror through not knowing, through the deafening silence when a phone doesn’t ring, when the mailbox fails to bring a letter with that familiar half mile long return address of military alphabet soup.

When I see footage of a unit shipping out, a family on a tarmac or in an airport with flags and banners in hand…I will fight off that lump in the throat, that knowledge that only a military mother can know, the pride, the waiting, the jubilation, the certainty of uncertainty…and I’ll go back, and look on knowingly…

 

It’s what I DON’T know that will find me knowing, that even though he is home again, for me, the war will never really end. I fear what those hours between midnight and dawn might bring…when he’s alone with his thoughts, his memories, the metaphoric gear he’ll always carry on those shoulders, the duffel bag and boots filled with hot sand, sleepless nights…things he’ll not likely share. I only know how much it changed me…

 

 

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