This is an op-ed piece from the Eugene, OR Register Guard written by my friend Adele. She is a Blue Star Mom and we met in Crawford, TX in August.
This holiday season, I count myself among the lucky. I made a bargain with God, and he agreed.
For the 10 months that my daughter was in Iraq, I dreaded hearing the telephone ring. Hearing the doorbell ring was too much for me to handle. At Thanksgiving and last Christmas I was surrounded by loving friends, but I could not keep from crying. On vacation, how could I enjoy myself when my daughter was far away, manning a .50-caliber gun, escorting convoys between Mosul and Baghdad?
I talked to God daily. We worked out what was an acceptable toll for the return of my child. I finally agreed that even if her limbs were missing, as long as she came home with her mind intact and her soul unwounded I would be eternally grateful.
God heard me. But he did not hear the pleas of the dozens of parents, wives, brothers and sisters I have met since we began this journey. I have held mothers as they spoke of their sons, and have felt their hot tears on me. I have a friend whose son now resides on a table in the entryway, his sunglasses in front of his picture. I have another whose only child is buried far away in Arlington Cemetery.
But God did agree to my bargain, at a terrible cost. My daughter's leg does not work any more; it is just there for show. The bones and tendons are twisted and mangled. After she was shot down in a helicopter, she was kept in combat for two more months with a broken leg because she was needed - and in her commitment to duty, she would tell no one but me how badly the leg hurt. By the time she was flown out, the leg was irreparably damaged.
This Christmas I will hold her and cry tears of joy. They will be the same tears I cried when I saw her tiny figure at the end of the barracks, alone and crazed, as she was medically evacuated from Iraq. They will be the same tears I cried in the darkened room when she sat with me and poured out the horror that Iraq has become.
I raised my daughter to love and respect all life. Long ago she used to bring small creatures to me, cupped in her tiny hands. We would keep them for a day, and then she would gently release them in our field.
She enlisted in the Oregon National Guard to help the people of her state, by fighting fires and building roads. She wanted to help, and truly believed she would help people in Iraq. But she learned the harsh truth of war.
This Christmas I will try not to think of the day she called me sobbing and told me that she had to kill a young man. I will try not to think about the bitterness of the soldiers I have met who have told me that we are destroying Iraq for a lie. Some families must believe that we are at war for a noble cause. The alternative is too painful. How can you accept the fact that your son or daughter died not to protect America, but for some hidden agenda?
But there are others of us who cannot accept, who must strive to change the course of events. We don't want any more mothers' tears. We can't help but see the Iraqi mothers as our kin, and some of us have to answer to our maimed children when they ask us why we let this thing happen to them.
This holiday season I am fortunate. God accepted my bargain. My daughter will once again sit with me. Supporting the troops does not mean that we have to continue this carnage. I support the troops as ardently as the people who wave American flags. I know our loved ones depend on us here at home to protect them, even as they think they are protecting us with their lives. I take that responsibility seriously, and I ask that others also help to protect the troops by calling for their return.
My daughter and I will sit to dinner with joy in our hearts and the ghosts of the dead in our minds. I can only hope that others will exercise their conscience and join us in helping to bring an end to this war.
Adele Kubein of Corvallis is a groundskeeper, a student at Oregon State University and a peace activist.