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The Homecoming

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Message Elaine Brower
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After almost a year of my son serving in Fallujah, Iraq, the day came when he returned home. Or should I say the night. The military, in all their glory, decided to have a "Heroes Homecoming" at 1 AM or 1300 hours. The plane landed in Philadelphia 12 hours after they left California. From there the Marines were transported by a Yellow Bus for another 3 hours to Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, in the dead of night.

About 200 family members with signs, flags, buttons, t-shirts and pictures, eagerly awaited the return of their loved ones, in the cold and dark. Those of us who worked all day and had to go to work the next day, tried to enjoy this Homecoming. We all shared stories, laughed, cried and drank coffee. Of course none of us wanted to complain about the fact that in the entire United States of America they could not transport our loved ones home in the daylight. Those of us who planned dinners, or had posted welcome home banners on the overpasses of our small towns, did not express our dissatisfaction with this turn of events. We just stood there waiting. Most of us waited for 4 hours, during which time the very stern Marine Captain would announce their anticipated arrival time. "Our Heroes are on their way!" "Our Heroes will be here in 2 hours!" "Our Heroes will be here in 1 hour!" So we waited.

It occurred to me that I had become a casualty and prisoner of this war and occupation of Iraq. I was being held captive, awaiting the return of my son. I was told for the last year how to behave, how to conduct myself as a military mother, how to speak to my son on the phone when he called, what his behavior would be like when if and when he returned home, and now, where, when and how long to wait for his return. My anger grew, even when I tried to "behave" properly around these war-loving family members, and I just kept smiling at them. I wanted him to come home in the daylight, when I could stay awake and spend time just looking at his face, and listening to his voice. So by 1 AM, my smile faded.

The last announcement came "Our Heroes are at the front gate!" The bus finally pulled up in front of the large Homecoming crowd and there they were. Battle-hardened, straight as arrows, tight-lipped Marines stepping off the transportation on their home soil where they would stay, for now. Not only did my smile return, my heart and soul ached. It is a feeling that I cannot put into words. The very next thing I knew I was running toward the bus and I saw him. My son was carrying 4 bags, 2 large backpacks and 2 duffels that each weighed more than me. I jumped into his arms and smelled his neck. At that point, I didn't realize what time it was, what day it was, or the fact that I was freezing. I couldn't let go of him. Nothing else mattered now. He returned. I felt very foolish and selfish to think about the time and weather. How dare I when here I was holding my son in my arms and other mothers would not be experiencing that feeling.

The floodgates opened and I just cried. I cried for those who did not return and for the family's grief; I cried for those who are still there; I cried for those who will be going to fight endlessly; I cried for all of us who stood in that parking lot feeling guilty and happy at the same time.

I cried for our Country and our children. Now I am crying out to all of you, do not send my son back to Iraq! Do whatever you can to end the death and destruction NOW! Not one more mother's child, please.
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Anti-war activist, mother of three combat tour US marine; member of the national steering committee for the "World Can't Wait" and member of Military Families Speak Out (my opinions do not reflect the national position of MFSO).
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