Today, we listened to NPR on the two hour ride home from Pamlico. In honor of the Memorial Day weekend, many of their stories were about soldiers and their families. I know three men who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Craft: Craft lived across the street from me in Nashville for much of my youth. In the first memory I have of him, he was playing Army. His mom was my kindergarten teacher and is still a good friend.
Fifteen years later, Craft was one of my college roommates. He was still playing Army in ROTC at East Carolina University. On drill days, he would rise early and smear his face with camouflage war paint. Light switches and door knobs would disappear under layers of the paint as Craft made his way out of the house.
Once out of college, Craft enlisted for real. Fast forward another 20 years and he is still in the Army, a career man. He is married to a woman he met in Korea and has the prettiest daughter you will ever see. This is where my ignorance of the military comes in to play! I know Craft is a Captain or Colonel or some really official sounding title, but can't remember which one. He has been somewhere in Afghanistan for over a year. He sent an e-mail with some photos last year and told me Afghanistan is a gorgeous place. The photos of the mountains were certainly pretty. If he hadn't told me that, it never would have occurred to me. I assumed it would be war-torn and ugly.
Bryce: Eighteen years ago, my friend Linda (another college roommate) had a son, Bryce. He has been feisty from early on. He was about 10 months old when Tony and I moved back to NC from Australia. One of the first times I played with Bryce, I was laying on the floor in his living room with my feet on his belly playing Superman. He was smiling and flying along over my head when he burped and blew chunks in my face.
Just a month ago, Bryce left for Iraq. He is still in a holding pattern with his team, living in a tent and waiting for the current group to finish their term and head home. To his mom's relief, there hasn't been any action for the past seven months in the area Bryce is working. He will be driving a hummer. Last week, I got an e-mail from his mom saying he was well, but a little bored. I'll be shopping for a goody-box for him this week. All he has asked for is Pop Tarts, beef jerky, $1 bills for the soda machine and eye drops. With all he is doing to change our world, these seem to be such small requests.
Charlie: Finally, Charlie returned to Iraq around the same time Bryce went. I have met Charlie a time or two in passing when he and his wife came to SuzAnna's Antiques to purchase goodies for his mom. His mother, Nancy, is a friend. She sent me an e-mail shortly after he left. She had spent the weekend working in her yard and crying. She is so proud of him but also afraid for him. He is good to all of the women in his life, including his baby daughter. How hard was it for him to leave them behind to take care of his country?
How do you say thank you to these men and women? The two words, thank you, seem so small. I want to send brownies to all of the soldiers. I want to hug all of the uniformed folks I see in the airports. I wish for them all to come home safe and whole. I wish for their families to have peace of mind while their soldiers are out of sight. I pray for a quick end to the fighting, for the end of the Taliban and their hatred of America, and for this to be the last war any American soldiers ever have to fight.