In our first conversation, Coming Home: Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life, our contributors — including veterans, family members of veterans and members of organizations that support veterans — share their own stories, offer insights on the challenges facing returning veterans, and provide tips and resources on the kinds of support that families, friends and communities can offer veterans.
I am a soldier's mom. As a non-commissioned officer once brusquely reminded me, I was "just some soldier's mom." I may never have been to war but I have sent a child to war. I have never had a child killed in action, but I have had a child wounded in battle and am witness to that living child's invisible wounds of war.
In late 2004 when my son was getting ready to deploy to Iraq, I searched the web for information on what he might experience, what parents should expect and for any practical information I could use. I discovered a number of military blogs (milblogs) by soldiers and well-connected veterans, but nothing from a parent's point of view nor any information for parents on any Army or Department of Defense sites. To fill this gap, I began the blog "Some Soldier's Mom" to share what I viewed as a unique and important experience: having a child at war.
While I originally started the blog to write about "my" experience, I quickly discovered that all mothers of the deployed are connected by our response to this extraordinary situation of a child in battle. First, we mothers experience emotions and have a perspective different from our soldiers (who can only try to understand why we worry or cry so much) and a military wife (who knowingly assumes the role and has a daily relationship with her soldier.) Military parents often say that we did not volunteer, but we also serve. As my Army wife AND Army mom friend Karen says, "It's a whole different part of your heart when it's your child."
I have never had such enthusiastic agreement from other military moms and dads as when I said that sending a son or daughter to war is one of the most counter-intuitive experiences a parent can have: you spend 18 or more years protecting them and then you are called upon to be brave and plucky as you see them off to a place where mortal danger is an understatement.
We learn to use all the technology available to stay in touch and to try and keep track of them. We program our computers to make special noises when our soldiers are online. We have special rings on our phones so we know when they call. We forward phones to wherever we are; we give up our place in store lines to run outside for better reception when they call. We talk about our soldiers. We live for the opportunity to talk with them. Then we talk to others about what we talked about with our soldiers. And we wait for another chance to talk to them again.
We think about our soldiers and their buddies day in and day out. When we wake HERE, we calculate the time THERE and wonder what they're doing. It's a task we'll do many times every day. When we sit for dinner, we wonder what they had to eat today -- wonder if they even had a hot meal today. In the shower we wonder if they had hot water today or if it was just a bottle of water or two over their heads. They pop into our heads while we're doing dishes, walking to our cars, doing laundry.
We cry. We cry when they haven't called or written and we cry when they do. We cry because we are so frightened for them and because we miss them. We cry when they leave and when they return and then leave again. We find that the smallest of things make us teary-eyed... walking in their room... seeing a picture... remembering them and us with them. Yes, we cry. There's nothing like a good cry to set your head straight. Our soldiers get used to it — they don't understand — but they know it just is. We moms say tears are liquid love - straight from our hearts to our eyes.
Over the next few weeks of blog posts I hope to bring a different perspective to the discussion and an inside look at the realities of service, of PTSD and I hope to dispel some misconceptions about those who serve and their families. I look forward to hearing the readers' stories and their comments.
© Copyright 2009 Some Soldier's Mom/C.M. Lois. All rights reserved.
Blogger, Some Soldier's Mom. On what it's like to have a child at war.
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Vigilance: The Good Kind »
The Bonds That Tie »
The Tradition of the Christmas Tree »
PTSD: A Different Perspective, Part II »