I was standing in line buying a soda in the movie lobby in San Diego. I was wearing a sweatshirt I thought I would never buy for myself -- a grey one with USMC in big, bold letters across the front, encircled with the words "My Son is a US Marine." I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned to see a young man whom I knew was a Marine as well. I've become knowledgeable now - I recognize the hair cut, the bearing, the politeness, the masculinity.
"Excuse me, m'am," he said, "but I noticed your hoodie, and I just wanted to thank you for your sacrifice. I know how hard it is for mothers to let their sons enter the service."
The proverbial lump in my throat was the size of a tennis ball. I struggled not to cry, or to fall in his arms and ask for a hug. I asked him about his family, and he told me he was from Missouri, with a brother who was a freshman in high school, and a worried mother back home. He told me his MOS was infrantry, and he was active. My vision blurred with my tears, and I tried to look away so as not to embarrass him.
"M'am, there's just something I want you to know. Wherever your son goes, I've got his back." I felt as if I were standing in a Norman Rockwell painting. I chased images from my mind of my injured son being protected by this earnest and honorable young boy. I thanked him, and he turned and went back to his friends. For days, I wished I had asked for his Mom's name and address. How I would have liked to share that story with her.
My son is a US Marine. He's graduated from boot camp,has graduated from infantry, and is now going back to Camp Pendleton for RECON training. I've immersed myself in military books and the history of Afghanistan. My son is home for Christmas, and I struggle with his aloofness, his need to be strong and show no weakness, and cry at night where no one can see me. I'm looking for Moms who don't support the war effort, but who love their boys enough to know that we must support their decision. I'd thought I'd paid my dues in life, but nothing ever prepared me for this torturous path. When I least expect it I become overwhelmed with emotion, fear and panic, dealing with my fears by keeping as busy as possible. I want to hug my son 24/7, and remember rocking him to sleep when he was a toddler, his favorite fireman pajamas still tucked away in tissue paper in my closet. Are there other mothers out there going through this? I really need to connect with this world of which I am so unfamiliar.