Memorial Day

Seven years ago, I wrote this:

Our friend’s son was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. I did not know him. I have only a vague memory of him shooting hoops with his dad. I can’t imagine what it feels like, to have this empty space where there once was a son and a future filled with marriage and children and annoyance and beauty. Empty now.

I think of this young man who wanted to serve his country, who had so many other choices, all of which would have led to life. He chose to serve his country.

I don’t agree with this war or the one in Iraq. We entered these wars on the whim of a president who thought war was a game, who thought he was too important to serve in Vietnam.

Our friend’s son, this one young man, volunteered during a time of war.

I walked today on quiet streets. I stopped and talked with moms about how hard it is to go shopping with teenage girls.

My children have lived innocent lives, not worrying about a bomb going off or enemy warplanes. They live in safety because every day, some young man or woman wants to serve this country.

We don’t know these young men and women, but we owe them everything: every birthday party, every meal, every quiet morning and even every commute to work.

I don’t agree with this war. We as citizens have a huge responsibility, which we have shirked, to only send our soldiers into battles which directly ensure our safety.

No matter what my feelings about the war, my feeling for these young men and women is one of extreme gratitude. We are safe because of them. We complain about broken washing machines, the weather and traffic, because we really have few other worries. These soldiers are carrying us all on their shoulders. They and their families.

Our friend’s son died for our country yesterday. Because of him, my daughter at her track meet today and the students that I tutor tonight will give no thoughts to bombs or war. All because this young man and others like him choose to serve our country.

Now he is gone, leaving an empty chair at his family’s dinner table.

I owe him so much, and I didn’t even know him.

Lessons from a Dying Dog

best picture of Cora ever

One of the sad things that happened this past November was that our dog, Cora Bear, got very ill. We took her to the break-the-bank dog diagnostic hospital and found out that she was riddled with inoperable cancer. We brought her home and promised ourselves that we would not let her suffer, no matter how much we loved being with her.

She did fairly well for a few days, perking up to go for walks and to tell Simba, our naughty cat, to stay off of the dog bed. One evening Cora laid down and was reluctant to get up. I slept on the floor next to her in case she needed me. This was not long after the Paris attacks, and as I heard Cora struggling for breath a few times during the night I wondered about those of us who commit violence.

Here I was lying on the hardwood floor next to a dog, remembering all of the joyful and really bizarre moments that this one precious dog life, this one heart, had brought to our family. Just days before, a few sick individuals had picked up guns and purposely stopped heartbeats, without even wondering who those souls were.

My thoughts ranged further as I lie on the hard floor. It would be easy to make terrorism a story of bad guys versus good guys, but that is exactly how war entraps us. Someone hits us and we hit them back harder; they hit back harder still and the fight escalates, like four-year-olds on a playground. What is the saying? If we all went by the law “an eye for an eye” the world would be blind.

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Tal Afar January 18, 2005 Samar Hassan, five, screams moments after her parents were killed by US soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division. The troops fired on the Hassan family car when it unwittingly approached during a dusk patrol in the tense northern town. Her brother, Racan, eleven, was wounded in the shooting. Later, after being treated in the US and returning to Iraq, Racan was killed when insurgents bombed the family home in retaliation for the boy’s trip to the US.

Our country, an extension of each one of us, has a reputation for attacking other countries. In my lifetime some of the countries include Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan (twice). If you want to see all of the times we have attacked, click here. We always have reason for attacking, but the bottom line is that we kill tens of thousands of people. The survivors — family members — want to hit back.

War is a contagion, a virus that spreads soul to soul.

Cora, our dog, is gone now.  As sad as our family is, we know that she had a good and full life.

Many families in Beirut, Charleston, Paris, Colorado Springs, and San Bernardino, to name just a few, cannot comfort themselves with that thought.

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A small minority of people in every society are susceptible to the propaganda that so easily slithers out of the mouths of government leaders and hate groups.  These individuals, these killers, have sick minds that latch onto any ideology that allows them to harm other people. Whether they are “domestic” or “international” terrorists, they are all incredibly similar — failed human beings who cannot see the joy in life, cannot pause to rejoice in the heartbeat we all share.

So how do we counter this obscene violence by individuals who don’t have the capacity to live in peace?

We can limit their access to weapons. And I’m not just talking about the US problem with gun control. The world has a problems with gun control. Groups and individuals are making fortunes selling arms.

To protect your family, contact your representative and demand gun licensing laws. Support organizations like Moms Demand Action, who are desperately trying to save our children.

To protect our country, we need to dig. Where are the guns and weapons coming from that are fueling these conflicts all over the world? Who are the manufacturers? How are these weapons transported to ISIS and other terrible organizations?

Peace is not the lack of response to aggression. Peace is a very active response. Let’s find out who is profiting by selling guns and stop them.