Let me tell you a story of woe! Itís a tale of paint fumes, body ache
and irritation beyond that which a normal man can handle. I know this
because I watched my husband try to handle it, and fail.
I had a bright idea one day,...
Shedding Tears for Strangers
I never served in the
military. Before my son unexpectedly volunteered for the Marines, I was
busy writing my novels and raising my family, and giving little thought
to the men and women who guard us. My attitude has changed. I did not
choose to change. I was forced to.
When my son was at war in Iraq I felt anger toward my circle of oldest
friends ó mostly well-off, well-educated people. I didn't know one other
parent with a son or daughter in harm's way or even in the military. And
no leaders were asking Americans outside the military to make any
sacrifices. Were we all in this together or not?
My son, Marine Sgt. John Schaeffer, recently came home alive from two
back-to-back combat tours in the Middle East.
A tall, thin figure slowly unfolded from a beat-up little car. John had
driven all night to Boston from a base near Washington, where he had
landed the day before. He did not want me to meet him there. "I'll need
time to myself," my son said when he called from Kuwait on the way home.
He said he wanted "to get my head in gear."
I gave my wife, Genie, a head start. Mother embraced son. "I was so
worried," Genie said. John held her as she sobbed. She pulled away to
look up again and again to make sure he was really there.
My wife gave me a great gift: time alone with my boy. John was
bone-weary and lay stretched on his bed. I lay down next to him and was
gripping him the whole time, an arm, a hand; it didn't matter. I just
wanted to be certain that the nightmares I'd had about John being killed
"Once, we were in this convoy," John said. "I spotted this car getting
between me and our following vehicle, and we don't like it when anyone
gets between us. Then I see these tubes on the front seat that look like
RPGs, so I draw a bead on the driver. If he had so much as touched those
tubes I would have put one right into his chest."
John dozed a little and then roused himself. "It turned out those were
just cardboard tubes. I came within a heartbeat of killing him because
of friggin' cardboard tubes. I almost killed an innocent man, Dad."
I kept holding my son, the way I used to when he was 2 and crawled into
our bed after a scary dream. I asked John if he'd rather sleep than
talk, and he said there would be time for sleep later. "My record was
two hours short of five days straight with no sleep. Twenty-hour days
were par for the course."
With the relief flooding over, under and around me came an incredible
exhaustion. I dozed, soothed by his voice. It was the first good sleep
I'd had in months. I woke and John was asleep next to me.
I left my Marine asleep in his room. I poked my head through his door
every few minutes. At one point, I found myself kneeling by his bed
watching him breathe. I found myself praying and crying for all the
fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives of those who were
not coming home. For the first time in my life, I was weeping for
There are Americans on their knees next to fresh graves from Arlington
to Bozeman, from Tampa to Fargo. There are young men and women learning
to walk again and receiving skin grafts for horrible burns.
Before my son went to war I never would have shed tears for them. My son
humbled me. My son connected me to my country. He taught me that our men
and women in uniform are not the "other."
They are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Sometimes shedding
tears for strangers is a sacred duty. Sometimes it's all we can do.
By Frank Schaeffer Los Angeles
Times | May 31, 2005
As with everyone else, I think, I have had a varying degree of
expectations my entire life. In my youngest memories, I believed in
Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy; I put my baby teeth
under my pillow, fully expecting to be rewarded, as faithfully I was!
HA, but alas, this was childhood! This was when my state of mind largely
depended on whether I had too much sugar or soda pop in my little body.
Quote as Garnish:
However horrible the
incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to
give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.
- Douglas MacArthur