The news this week has been filled with the reaction to the president’s surge speech. You can read my own reaction to the surge speech at IraqSlogger.com, but here I would like to share something more personal. This surge will demand even greater sacrifice from our soldiers and their families. When soldiers have to redeploy sooner, they have less time to rebuild their relationships with their families, less time to repair their equipment, less time to train; all things that make our soldiers safer on the battlefield. Soldiers who have to extend their stay in the war zone may miss the birth of their child, another season of coaching their child soccer team, another opportunity to check out the boy their daughter is dating. There have been so many deployments in recent years, that military families have learned to cope or they have not survived. More than a few soldiers have received their divorce papers during mail call on the battlefield. Those families that do survive find their own unique way of coping with the realities of war and the constant risk their love one is in.
My son is already in Iraq, so this surge will most likely means this deployment will be extended. This is something we pretty much expected, we knew it was possibility when he deployed six months ago. For me, this mostly means more sleepless night worrying about his safety. Before this deployment my son, now twenty-seven and more realistic about the realities of going to war, decided to pre-plan his funeral. While this was a difficult thing to help with, he found much humor in the whole process. It has become a treasured memory. My son had lived his entire life in California prior to going into the military. Being stationed in the South was culture shock for him. It was his first exposure to the Republican Bible Belt. He held firm to many of the liberal values he had grown up with. Despite being a Democrat, he has managed to earn the respect of his commanding officers. It was knowing the results of many political debates with his commanding officer, that he took great pleasure watching his commanding officer sign off, approving the decision he had made for his funeral. His commander looked them over and came to the line where it said, “in lieu of flowers please donate to:” my son filled in the blank with the words, “The Democratic Party.” His commanding officer said, “What---The Democratic Party—why don’t you just have us hand the money straight to the communist!” Despite his request for donations to the Democratic Party, his commander signed off on his decisions, including the list of pallbearers, who he had selected from his most conservative friends in his unit. He told me that he wanted me to get the most liberal of my political friends to speak at his funeral, because when he was laying on the battlefield dying, he was going to be laughing his head off, knowing they what they would have to go through at his funeral, listening to all the “fruits and nuts” from California. Learning to laugh at such serious matters make life a little easier when child is in constant danger.
Military families have to find ways to cope with the news of the day, with the policy decisions of our government, with the day-to-day danger. But it is going to be difficult times ahead. There is more that you can do to support our troops beyond sticking a metal ribbon on your car. First, hold your politicians responsible for the decision they make regarding our troops. Second, do something that requires a little more action; a little more sacrifice on your part. Why not contact the Veterans Administration and offer to help a military family near you. A soldier worrying about his family when he is on the battlefield would be relieved to know someone is helping his wife mow the lawn, repair the car, paint a bedroom. That someone is filling in for him, coaching his kid’s team; checking on his elderly mother. When a war goes on this long, our soldiers need more than care packages.