Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Father’s Post 9/11 Thoughts

Tuesday night in a small church chapel on campus, we listened as a writer and father recounted how in the days following September 11, 2001 he watched his 19 year old son make the decision to sign up for the Army. Only after the young soldier was sent to Baghdad did the full impact sink it. The father and mother watched the news from their “nest” and comforted each other until one day a call home came from the son. “I’ve been shot, but I’m okay,” he said. The father related that the tone in the son’s voice was almost exuberant as if the son had witnessed a miracle, and I suppose it was a miracle that the Kevlar vest stopped the bullet and not the young man’s flesh.

After that day, doubts began to grow in the heart of the father. He started to question why he had not tried to stop the son from enlisting at all. He had periods of depression, and yet, each day he watched the news and listened to the reports of more deaths. Then one day another call came, and this time the voice on the other end of the line was official. “Are you . . .?” However, this was again a close call for the son who had been injured as his tank came under fire. Nothing serious—a mere bump on the head. But it could have been thought the father.

The son came home on leave, and the father watched as the son no longer fit in with the high school friends who were more interested in video games than hearing about the reality of war. He had changed. When the leave was over, the father could barely stand driving the son to the airport to catch a return flight to Iraq. As the days in Iraq dwindled down for the son and his service was nearly complete, a fellow soldier who had become a close friend died. The son brought that hurt home with him as he set about starting life afresh.

“I have two sons,” I told the writer as we connected after the reading. He replied, “You know those Army ads where the son says ‘I want to enlist’ and they say ‘talk about it’? Well, don’t listen to them.”

Note: The Army launched a new advertising campaign valued at $1 billion last fall with McCann Worldgroup. According to the Boston Globe, $200 million is guaranteed for the first two years of the five-year campaign. Army Strong replaces "An Army of One" and "Be all that You Can Be."


Lorelei said...

I have a son about to go off to college. If he decided to sign up to fight for his country, I would be worried sick but I would still be proud. I think. I haven't lived through it, though, so it's easy for me to say what I would do.

Sarge Charlie said...

Hi Sheila, I am not sure form you post just where you stand on this matter. Having been there, I understand the rush the son was on after being shot, and trust me he was on a rush.
At the same time the father went into depression, that too I understand since I have had a grandson in Iraq.
I believe that war is harder for those left behind than for the soldier, play the video I posted today, it will get you inside the head of soldiers, because as hard as it may seem the soldier is trained to react, not to fear, while the father has nothing to do except fear.
You know my feelings about the war and soldiers, I am pro victory. cut and run is what we did in 1974, over a million died because we left, are we going to do that to another nation. I fear that we are about to do just that.

Sheila said...

I appreciate your comment for I think it's an honest description of what it's like to be a soldier.

Where I stand is here--I feel our country, under the leadership of President Bush, has broken Iraq and now must somehow try to fix it or at least help get it back to some semblance of order. Is this possible? Do I trust my government under the present leadership? Is it up to America to decide what is best for Iraq? Do we understand this culture which is so different from ours? This is where I am. I don't know who has the answer, but I only know that young men and women continue to die and I question. We must continue to do that.

Marion said...

I've heard this so many times about how difficult it is to fit in after being in a war. I wish they would address this problem, in their advertising campaign...

Sheila said...

I think only recently has the Army started to realize the real impact of PTSD. It's a real consequence and I hope the Army gets these soldiers help to deal with it.

Sarge Charlie said...

It took me 30 years to admit that I was suffering with PTSD, the VA takes care of the soldier, at least the one in West Palm Beach does. I walked in unable to have a conversation without crying, today I look back on the 30 years and ask why.

I do think they are up front with treatment today.

Sheila said...

Sarge, this is progress and I'm glad at least one VA is doing right. I was surprised to see the subject of depression dealt with so openly on the Army's Web site when I recently visited it. And yet we still hear complaints from soldiers who were forced out and mislabeled. I hope we are headed in the right direction.

I'm glad things are better today for you.

Naomi said...

Great post Sheila. This is a common problem for soldiers in England too when they return to what we call "civy street" again. Witnessing some of the harrowing scenes of war changes people's perspective on life. Unless you've been there, it's difficult to understand how our soldiers feel. These men have given their lives to serve in the army and fight for the cause. I think the least the army can do is to give them this backup support when they return that is so badly needed.

Sheila said...

I still think we have a ways to go on this front Naomi.