I have this memory of my mother, when I was a kid, and its not the clearest of memories, but this is how it sits in my mind:
My mom was finishing her masters degree in social work, I must have been in the 5th grade. I remember because I would tell my 5th grade teacher sometimes, “My mom is getting her masters degree.” No idea why I needed to tell her that. Hopefully she had asked otherwise, what a little showoff I was.
Regardless in my memory she had a job or some kind of internship as part of her degree, at some counseling center in a city like Elizabeth, NJ. I can almost remember dad dropping her off at that place. I think alot of veterans went there.. vietnam vets. Mom would never, and has never been one to discuss people’s private details, I’m sure it wasn’t something she’d want to relive at home anyway. But I remember, and its still true, if you bring up life for Veterans trying to pick up the pieces back in the US, she has quite alot to say, and experience counseling them as her qualification to speak on this topic.
I thought about those days, which I’m sure my mom does as well as we watch hundreds of thousands of people being shipped off to a war zone… to a disaster.. and asked to do inhumane things such as kill or torture. I thought about it because I was cleaning the boat and listening to Radio Open Source’s program entitled “Coming Home: Iraq Veterans”. Now I wouldn’t say anything about it if it hadn’t reached into my heart and squeezed when I listened to these veterans speak.
Speak about the violence. What it was like to live that horror and follow orders to shoot people, and then come home and try to just be a friendly well adjusted neighbor again. At one point, one soldier is asked how people would act if they knew the types of things he had to do and what soldiers were required to do in Iraq.
The soldier replies…
“If they knew… they wouldn’t do it…. If people knew what war was about, war would stop. If my family knew, if people on the street knew, war would stop… if people knew, they would be alot more cautious about when war needs to happen.”
I listened to this show and I hit repeat to hear it again. I looked down at my dirty hands and the canal water.. I worried about what kind of future the US could possibly have with so many people damaged in such severe and not visibly detectable ways. I finally gave the engine a few pulls and listened to the engine reawaken after winter slumber, as Iraq veterans talked about their experiences in my ears.
Please listen to the show. Because besides the struggle to bring troops home and end this illegal and politically orchestrated war, the next biggest struggle that will effect the country for generations.. is how to help veterans deal with what they’ve been through, and handle the future as healthy civilians.