Thank You For My Freedom

Navy SealsI have a couple of rules about what I am willing to write about on my site. They are pretty simple rules, but like all simple rules I tend to break them often and this post will do the same.

  • No stories that make fun of my husband, no matter how funny they are
  • Only write what I know about or experience
  • Try to stay away from becoming a Mommy Blogger. I dig Mommy Bloggers, but it is not what I want this site to primarily be about.
  • No Politics
  • No Religion

If you have been following the news machine on television, the newspaper or are even on any social media site, you have no doubt heard about the awful tragedy in Afghanistan where 30 Service men were killed, 22 of them being Elite Navy Seals. In all 38 people were killed. What makes this story even more tragic is that they were answering a call for help for another elite force when they were shot down.

Although this happened on Saturday, I didn’t learn about it until yesterday when I took my seat on a plane from Phoenix back to Portland.

As I settled into my seat and opened up my iPad to watch the Source Code, ironically about a soldier who served in Afghanistan, the older gentleman next to me tapped my shoulder and asked “Is that a computer, can you get the Internet news on that?” I took out my headphones and said “Yes,  isn’t it neat?” I thought I was about to get into one of those conversations I have had with my dad where I explain the technology and show him how it works. Then I watch him clumsily try to navigate through the skills I just taught him. That was not the case.

He asked why I was in Arizona and I told him I was visiting friends. I asked him the same question. He had been there to see his daughter get her PHD. I looked over and his wife was leaning in and listening to our conversation. She seemed uneasy to me, almost nervous and in away almost sad. I thought she might be one of those people who is afraid to fly.  I looked at them both and said you must be so proud of your daughter.  She looked at me and said “Very, I just have a hard time celebrating with what happened yesterday,  you know with the Navy Seals. I didn’t, I hadn’t heard, I had been too busy lounging around by a pool.  She leaned over and said, a “A helicopter containing Navy Seals was shot down.” I said “Oh, how awful” and was about to put my headphones back on.

Now, I am going to be painfully honest.  When she said what happened, I didn’t flinch. Since September 11th, I have heard countless stories about helicopters going down, car bombs exploding and about brutal road side attacks. Yet, I haven’t personally known a single soul who has died in one of these tragedies. I think they are terrible, awful, and sad. Each time I hear about one of them, I say things like “I hate war, I hate the republicans, my boys are never going to join the military” but I am so far removed from it and the news has desensitized me to the actual loss of life.  My Dad and brother served in the Air Force both during peace time so our household never had the speeches about pride, country and sacrifice. We were raised to be good upstanding Americans, we just never talked about war.

As I brought my earphones up to my ear, I heard this woman say almost in a whimper “My son is a Navy Seal in Afghanistan, we are still awaiting word.”  I looked over at her and could see the tears welling in her eyes. Her husband reached over to and squeezed her hand and whispered “He is OK, his wife would know by now and she would have called us” He turned to me and said “They released some of the names on the news but not his, he was in charge of over 2o0 Seals and  wouldn’t be on that type of helicopter.” As he said it, I knew he wasn’t sure, I knew he was terrified, but he knew that is what he had to say for his wife, for the mother of his son. I did not know how they could be strong enough to sit through a minute, let alone an entire flight not knowing about their son’s fate.

Suddenly I wished I didn’t have an iPad or Wi-Fi, I was afraid they were going to ask me to look up the names. I didn’t want to be the one to tell these parents, these kind people, that their son died.  I wasn’t prepared to see that level of sadness and I wished I was sitting next to someone else.  Yet they didn’t ask me to do that. Instead they shared their son’s story with me.

He had been in the Navy, had left for it for civilian life. He had multiple degrees and job opportunities, but chose to re-join the navy because he wanted to be an active part of ending the war. He grew up in Oregon, has four children who are all boys, and an incredibly strong wife.  His parents met when his father was also in the Navy and stationed in Seattle and they have been married for 44 years. He has a sister who just earned her PHD and works to help underprivileged people get medical care they couldn’t otherwise afford. He loves dogs and pays for his parents to come visit him when he is stateside. I know his name, his wife’s name and the name of his sons.

As I listened to their story my mind drifted to his sons and then to my own. What if he is one of the people who died? How sad it would be for his kids to grow up without him, how could his wife possibly raise four boys on her own when I can hardly handle two with my husband by my side?  How devastating would it be for his obviously loving and proud parents to lose their only son?  Then I thought of my own two boys and how this man’s sacrifice wasn’t just for his own family, but for mine too. The reason I was able to even be on that plane coming back from relaxing weekend of seeing old friends in Arizona was because of him, not politics or elected officials.  The reason my boys will have choices in the future about going to college or joining the military is because of him. He is the reason his parents, his sister, his wife and his sons will beam with saddened pride if he has died in the war.

There are some things I will never do when it comes to war and politics. I will never understand war,  like it or condone it, I will never become a republican and I will never want my children or my husband to go to war, but it will now be their choice not mine. Yet, now that I was honored enough to have this story shared with me by these loving people,  I will always respect war and have great unending gratitude to the men and women who are brave enough to take on that role for me, for you, and for our children. I myself am not that brave and I am certainly far too selfish.

When I woke up this morning,  I spent some time getting caught up on the news from the weekend. Then I came across this article “The Lives of Elite U.S. Soldiers Become Public” and I flinched.

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2 Comments

  1. Judy Buonocore
    Posted August 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I hope their son was not one of the lost.

    • Appatomy
      Posted August 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know, not all names have been released. So far his has not come up.