Remembering What It Is To Understand

I remember everything about September 11th. Not the events so much as the day. I remember watching as my mother slept next to the phone. As she waited for the call that could send her away. I remember her uniform ready to go sitting on the kitchen table for days, for weeks after. I remember understanding, but not about what was going on, on the screen. As the days passed I remember watching as everything went back to normal, but nothing ever did. I remember when she finally had to leave. Promises of only for a few months. This will be over quickly. Just like last time. Last time I was a child. Last time I only knew she was gone, but not at war. This time though. This time was different. Maybe it is never different. Maybe she did the same things last time. Maybe I was just too young to understand. No, this time as she left I got to feel every ounce of pain and fear.

This time as I read her letter. This time as the tears hit the pages. This time I had to accept that she may not return. That my mother may never come back from this. No reason was given as to why. Only words of love. Only thoughts that she always loved me no matter what. Hopes that everything will be okay. Prayers that she would return from this and all would be well.  A day of sadness and then everything has to go back to normal. Something we have been through. Something we have to go through as Military children. The stupid parades, the ridiculous slogans, and that fucking flag. That flag that gets waved around as though it means so much to them. Draped across the back of their trucks as it floats in the wind. A cloth that signifies more than just where you live. A stitched-together history we take for granted. When they say they died for our freedom they don’t even know what that means. They aren’t just people. They aren’t just soldiers. They aren’t just tools. Pawns to move around to defend our freedoms. They are our parents, our mothers and our fathers, siblings, children, they are so much more than a “We Support Our Troops” sticker.

I got lucky my mother returned. Many of them did not. Many of them came back different. When I moved here to Texas.  I saw firsthand those that gave it all. Military City they call it. Passed by every day by legless men, scarred woman, and damaged people. You never notice them right away, but you notice them among the whining, bitching assholes they walk beside. The ones that say we need to get in there and kick some ass. The ones who think that war is easy. The ones that don’t understand that nothing about this is easy. The ones who will sit on the sidelines and clap. How easy it must be to do that. How easy it must be to never understand what it means. How blessed they are to never have to understand war, death, or sacrifice.

I watched a young man struggle like a child once while taking out the trash. Struggling to understand why the wheels got stuck. His mother running over to help him. A vision, a glimpse into something I assumed was a handicap. Later my wife would explain that, that young man was more than handicapped. He had gone to war. Right out of high school. Wanted to fight for this country. Wanted to help any way he could. Until the IED went off and took more than his chance. You couldn’t see the scars from a distance. You couldn’t tell what he went through until you got up close. Close enough that you didn’t want to know. That knowing was more than anyone should ever know. Nineteen now he was trapped in his body. Trapped trying to understand where he stood now in life. Forever destined to live at home, to live like this. He got a job at the local restaurant my wife worked at. Amazed, happy, proud of him until my wife explained more. Unable to do the most basic of things he was there as a favor. A charity to give his parents a break. An attempt to give him something to do. The brain damage he sustained left him childlike for now and forever. I’m often asked why I work so hard. I work so hard for those that can’t. For those of us who sacrifice more than their time.

Years later the battle rages on. Years later there are no answers to the pain we all went through or still go through. We got him. But what did we sacrifice for one person? What justification do we have for our actions of retaliation? They say that war is a necessary evil and they are right. War is evil but necessary? Do we need it? Couldn’t there be another way? Are we really so broken that only war could be the only fix for a tragedy? We police the globe with our mighty fist. A fist controlled by those that will never know what it takes, what it feels like to make up that fist. We have power and influence, and as I watch it being used to bully others into what we want I am reminded of all this shit. All these feelings that there is more to the equation than numbers, than opinions, and thoughts.  A conflict that not only rages around me but inside….

12 thoughts on “Remembering What It Is To Understand”

  1. “I work hard for those that can’t”
    I love this!
    War… Since when I was born I have never seen a war… But I’ve seen violence… I’ve seen soldiers fight bravely to protect their motherland… When I was in seventh grade I went to the Himalayas… It is the border between India and Pakistan… I visited the grave of soldiers there… And I remember crying… My parents always told me that soldiers sacrifice their own family for their country… They consider themselves to be protectors of their country first and then a father or a mother or a wife or a brother or what not….
    They have my at most respect.

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      1. Yes… I agree… Sigh… We can’t help it though… Can we…? All we can do is sit at home and hope that everything is alright… Which… May not save anyone’s life but it may give someone’s life meaning… It may make someone feel good…

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  2. Nothing is as simple as we wish… the only fortunate way to move forward is to forget. Which seems as unacceptable. It is the small ripples inside us that can become tsunamis so we are best served by dealing with ourselves eternally, everyday. I wish i had an answer. Don’t we all? Or are you convinced some people are hell bent on destruction? And they are taking us with them? Forcing our hand and thoughts to move because choices are limited? What is the best way forward? If not to forget, not to repeat, not to dishonor the sacrifices made for us? What? Then?

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    1. I think you have the answer… nothing is as simple as we wish… though we do repeat a lot of the same mistakes… we fall into the same traps… claiming it was the only option… As far as the best way forward?… not policing the world based on money, prejudice, or false information… I’m not 100% against war… at times it can be necessary… this was not one of those cases…

      Iraq had issues before we got there… but we literally blew up your neighbor hood because the mayor was an asshole… and we only bombed your neighbor hood because we were scared a man three states over did something unforgivable… I’m all for arresting the man… working with the state… to find this person and his group… as far as your Mayor?.. maybe we could find way for your town to handle the problem… get the right information out… there were more options… the whole thing was fucked… not doing any thing could have been just as bad…

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      1. I get all wrapped up in things i have no clue as to what is going on… jump onto the bandwagon of war and peace with little understanding. Being a dreamer i want nothing more than everyone to be happy but even the small wars, we brush under the rug, disturb us greatly. So… whether we are right or wrong about a situation, means we are probably both at the same time. Right and wrong about everything. I want closure with 99% of my life but only get 1% of satisfaction of understanding anything. I have had my share of injustice. My share of quarrels with people who misunderstand me. Who of us haven’t felt chagrined? I am probably way off your topic. And i know what it is to lose loved ones to what we deem injustices… but do we really understand? I feel so insignificant. My son was assaulted with a metal pipe by his drug-crazed roommate. Instead of suing him and his family, my son choose to forgive and move on. That hurts but i honor his choice. And so i guess i stand on the precipice of all we do and just sink into the abyss. I am nothing after all, just when i thought what i had to say made a difference. For my own sanity? Yes. For someone else’s sanity? No.

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      2. I think what you had to say made a difference in me… made me think… In writing it is easy to make a point or get one across and only come off one sided… but there is always two sides to every story… more angles than anyone has time to process… war is a necessary evil… my point was to say I wish it wasn’t… I don’t think my mother having to sit by the phone waiting for war was stupid… I think it was honorable… wish she didn’t have to do it though… I don’t think the kid who suffered at the hands of a bomb is worthless… he is a brave and honorable man and I’m proud to say I know him… I just wish he didn’t have to go through that for nothing… I think we are both dreamers… humanity… dictates war… anger… frustration… it shouldn’t but it does… I just wish it didn’t have to be that way… I believe we are all better than that… and I stand at that same precipice beside you wondering why we can’t be…

        Sorry to hear about your son… I’m not sure I could forgive something that horrible… he is a bigger man than me… it takes more to forgive… than it does to pick up a weapon and hurt someone… I think that speaks volumes about the kind of mother you are to raise a person that strong… So to say you didn’t make a difference… is a lie… you’ve done more for the world than most will ever know…

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  3. It is obscene that war is waged on a flimsy pretext, and even more obscene that so many just take up the cry, without knowing what we veterans know: There is no greater Hell than that which is imposed on us. No, freedom isn’t free; but what kind of freedom and from what?

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