Friday, May 05, 2006

Some thoughts on homecomings


Yesterday I found out one of my neighbors has a son in the military. He was finally coming home and had left a message for his family that he had made it back to US soil. Her smile was like she'd swallowed a sunrise, she was so grateful and relieved. While she'd never struck me as a particularly stressed person, in our brief exchanges I had noticed a particular high

(Photo: Phil Mosier, The Story; Antavion Stewart wades through a sea of boots representing the number of dead in Iraq at [an Atlanta] Peace Rally)
energy perkiness that now seemed to have mellowed into something lighter, but no less enthused. I really couldn't imagine two years of fearfully waiting, but still going about your business living your life everyday trying not to be paralyzed by nightmare fantasies of the official uniformed knock at the door. But families just do what they have to do, making sure there is a home and family for that child to come back to. War is still unreal to me despite coming from a military family. I'm sure this is because no soldiers in my family ever talked about their time "in country" unless it was their non-war experiences and even that was very brief. I imagine the concise version might have been due to the debriefing process wherein soldiers are informed about what they can and can't talk about about, both the official line from their superiors and the unofficial one from their peers who know from experience what family members and friends can and can't handle hearing. But there surely were also images and feelings the newly returned couldn't imagine describing. Do parents always want to hear about the complicated emotions their son or daughter experienced while killing someone, or numerous someones? More time is spent waiting for something to happen than responding to or intiating attacks, and that tension leaves the body with a particular form of trauma as well. War is an event that keeps claiming us. In families the ripples are potentially felt in subsequent generations. As a society, we have yet to have had the war to end all wars, despite the promise that war can, and will, keep us safe. Blessings and congratualtions to my neighbors and their son, may they live well. May we all achieve a peace that allows us to do the same.

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