Back in Iraq Mode
We’ve been the parents of a soldier for twelve years now. First you get used to them being in some far away base and even living in Germany. Then you have to get used to him going off to war.
When he was a few months old, the doctor discovered that he had a crooked left foot. “Well, at least he’ll never have to go in the Army!” my motherly instinct shared with the doctor. The brace that he prescribed fixed the foot problem and kept my prophesy from coming true.
Being the parent of a military lifer was new territory for us. Adam’s first tour in Afghanistan was cut short so that he could attend warrant officer and flight school. His first tour in Iraq as a co-pilot on a Blackhawk helicopter was almost a year, but we heard from him often via email and telephone.
This time, he’s been much busier since he’s a pilot in command. We’ve had a little email contact and one phone call since September (it’s now January).
They had always talked about having four or five children, but since Iraq happened, they weren’t quite sure when they’d have number four or five. Fate made the decision last spring when they discovered they were pregnant and due around Christmastime. This time they knew right out the gate that Adam wouldn’t be home for the big event.
We’d been feeling sorry for ourselves and the lack of information we had so far. We had always planned to visit after the baby was born, but since she came late and ultimately was induced, our plans were tentative until after the big event. We decided to come out and see Andrea and the now four children when Lucy was two weeks old.
We all talk about the sacrifices the military families make and say that we appreciate them, but I know first hand that until you see it for yourself, you never really know the score.
During our visit, the kids all talked about their dad in anticipation of his visit home sometime later the next week. But you have to wonder just how much more it will hurt them when he has to leave again.
Little Jack, two years old, resembles his daddy not only in looks, but his daredevil antics. “No fear” should have been his middle name. We started talking about Adam’s impending visit saying that Daddy would be home in a couple of days. Whenever I’d mention Daddy to Jack, he’d reply, “Daddy home couple days!” and look over toward the computer in the dining room that is always turned on. That’s when I realized the little guy associated “Daddy” and the computer. Makes you wonder what he’s really thinking…”Daddy lives in that little box on the desk,” you just never know with children!
Whenever Adam comes on the instant message system, the computer rings with the sound of an old fashioned telephone. Andrea and the girls will sign on and “talk” with Adam by typing back and forth. They also have a web cam that enables them to see Adam in snap shot form. His picture changes every minute or so. You can tell if he is watching tv instead of paying attention.
Little Jack looks towards the computer as if to say that his daddy is here, but in the monitor screen. He knows that’s where he’ll see his daddy.
Talking with Adam on the computer Saturday, he shared that he’d had a tough and unsettling day. When I prompted him, he shared that they had found three Iraqi men lying in a pool of blood. They had taken the Iraqi body collectors to pick them up. He relayed the irony of Baghdad having no trash collectors, but body collectors instead. His biggest problem was that there were children all over seeing the carnage. The same complaint he had in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
We walked through the First Calvary museum and stables. Little Jack loved the helicopters and went from chopper to chopper to pose for me and the camera.
Today in the airport, I was able to get on line with my laptop and instant message with Adam. He shared that he’d been in a very precarious situation today. A quick and thick fog set in over Baghdad and they had to fly by instruments back to Taji, the air base. He said they couldn’t see the tops of the buildings, it was so dense.
Three hours prior (considering the time difference), little Emma, five years old, was watching television in the living room. She stood up and announced that she felt she needed to pray. I called her over to my lap and encouraged her to pray, but she objected saying she didn’t know what she needed to pray about. I prompted her to pray for whatever God laid on her heart and she proceeded to pray for her daddy’s safety as he flew his helicopter.
Andrea and baby Lucy are quickly adapting. Lucy is a good baby and has quickly become part of the family. Little Jack is understandably jealous. He sometimes gets a cross look on his face when he wakes up from his nap and Lucy is on Andrea’s lap. He doesn’t understand the need to share his mommy.
It’s a problem that children have experienced and dealt with for centuries and most likely not a bad thing. We all need to learn that we are not the center of the universe. However, it seems unfair that this little guy doesn’t have his daddy around to pick up the slack like most little boys would have.
The older sisters, Lily and Emma, are doing a fine job pitching in, but they both have gaps in their lives as well.
Visiting our Texas family has put things in perspective for us as the parents of a Blackhawk pilot. We still pray incessantly, still hope for a phone call or instant message, but know without a doubt that we are second fiddle and happy to be just that. Adam’s family needs them so much. We just pray that he is able to finish his tour safely and can come home when the job is finished and successful.
January 31, 2007
Adam was home for a two week visit and they had a grand time together. We were able to talk to him on the phone for more than a few minutes at a time which was a treat. They were able to visit with Andrea’s parents for a day since they only live a few hours away from them. That ugly old guy named “Jealousy” didn’t miss a chance to pay me a visit over that one, I must admit.
TALK ABOUT THEM LIVING ON BASE. Adam said that there were a few unsettling moments during his visit. As they sat at the dinner table, seven year old Lily piped up and announced, “Marrisa had to move away ‘cause her daddy died.” The dinner table conversation stopped for a moment and Adam admitted to his eyes welling up with tears.
“I had to leave the room for a few minutes. I couldn’t let her see me cry,” he confessed.
“Daddy, I’m tired of you always leaving to go get the bad guys,” Lily hugged him on his last night at home.
Is it worth it, we ask? Heck no! Why would we want to put our families through such heartache and worry? Why do we care enough to risk it all for people on the other side of the world?
Maybe it’s because we need to be reminded that we already rid the world of a tyrant. A tyrant that murdered scores of innocent people, men, women, and children. Prayerfully, although my Lily and her brother and sisters (as well as little Marissa that had to move away) are sacrificing now, others in this world will live better lives. Lives that include an education and the right to worship and exist in whatever society they choose.
Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? We’ll never know for sure, but one thing we do know is that we gave them almost a year’s warning that we were coming in to find out. And now we’re warning that we’re going to beef up the number of our troops on the ground.
We’ll never win this war until we quit fighting it in the media and in the open forums of our congress. We need to let the military do what it does best and that’s be who they are, the best military in the world.
As Adam was waiting for his connection in Atlanta to head on to Kuwait, he asked me about our annual vacation to Jamaica that I had failed to mention over the past few weeks while he was home. I confessed that I felt guilty for going on this already planned jaunt the same time as he was leaving to go back to war.
“That’s why we’re going back, Mom. So you can still do things like fly freely around the world,” he comforted me. “I want to hear about all the ‘normal’ things that you guys do. I need to know that ‘normal’ still exists. It’s okay,” my soldier said as the crack in his voice betrayed him.