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The Tragedy of Sacrificing Their Children's Childhood for Bush's War

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Message Sandy Sand
There was a story in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 15, that was enough to set one's guts wrenching and brain spinning in a thousand directions at once.

Headline: Soldiers' daughter in on duty at home
Subhead: A 20-year-old takes charge of her four sisters in Hesperia while her parents serve in Iraq

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While both Times headlines are true, they don't come close to telling the entire story. A far better header would have been, "Sacrificing Their Childrens' Childhood for George Bush's War."

After a glance at the headlines my first thought was that a combined Washington, D.C. version of "Wife Swap" and "The Nanny" is called for here. From W. down, every legislator should be forced to read this story and give up one day of his life to babysit these four girls.

By the time they went through the rotation, the eldest sister, who's had all the responsibility of caring for them foisted upon her, and is sacrificing her youth to tend these minor children and the household, she will have had time to get her diploma at any university or trade school of her choice.

While that's still true, because it wouldn't hurt any of the above to really live out what our military families are living through, I altered my opinon from the above to: This sounds like dereliction of home duty; really bad parenting; misdirected priorities; government malfeasance, and everything in between.

Since I've written several articles on how the government and everybody else should butt out of how we raise our kids, I thought I really shouldn't be sitting in judgement of these parents. Then I considered that this isn't a matter of how they're raising their children, but how they've chosen not to be there to raise their children. I remember my children at those ages and I could not have done it unless there was no other way.

I realize that philosophically, I'm coming from a totally different place than soldier parents who choose to serve at the same time, I'm trying really hard to figure out what's behind their logic, which is quite difficult, because the Times story doesn't give any detail into their deep decision-making process.

It does lead us to believe that the mother had no choice in going to Iraq, but that the stepfather did. It did not say whether she made any attempt to defer her service, but the tone of the article says that she did not.

The married Army couple in the Times story are the mother and stepfather of five daughters aged 20, 17, 10, 4 and 3, and are both serving in Iraq with a Black Hawk helicopter division, and are stationed at an air base approximately 50 miles north of Baghdad -- by their own choice.

According to the Times article: "The Hesperia (California) couple requested to serve together, and the Army, under its recently implemented simultaneous deployment program for married couples, was happy to oblige. So far, 1,712 people have requested to be considered for joint deployment with their spouses."

Continuing from the Times, "The bottom line is that as long as the soldiers requesting simultaneous deployment have a family-care plan in place, there is not an issue with having both members deployed at the same time," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Kevin V. Arata. "It's just a process of better serving our soldiers. If the husband and wife are together, they are going to be happier.'"

They're going to be happier? by leaving small children in the care of a 20-year-old -- robbing her and the almost at the age of majority 17-year-old of their youth, while destroying the three young ones peace of mind and security of having at least one parent around. Did DOD ever once consider how this will affect the children of military personnel?

The mother is a helicopter mechanic, and has been in the Army Reserve for ten years, and told the Times in an online interview, "I have always known that I could be taken away from them. But knowing that she (the eldest daughter) was there made it that much easier to cope with."

Easier for her to "cope"? To quote SNL's Church Lady, "Wheeell, isn't the con.veen'yent'?" It seemed to smack of a very cavalier, lah-dee-dah attitude toward their situation. As far as her being able to "cope better," what about the "coping" of the three youngest children.

The stepfather, an Army helicopter crew chief, recently returned from a year-long tour in Iraq. When a man marries a woman who has children, one would think he has some moral obligation to be concerned about their welfare. Maybe not, because when his wife was called up he followed her three months later, because he wanted to "keep an eye out for her" plus he was "worried about her safety."

Whoa!...She's a big girl and can take care of herself. What about the kids? Now, they're not his kids, but don't they need a mature adult around? It's true that the older daughter volunteered for this assignment, and she deserves a medal for meritorious service "above and beyond", but at what price?

I've been terribly hard on these parents, so leaving them out of the equation, where's the sense of duty, fairness, responsibility and sanity on the part of the Department of Defense?

DOD claims that so far it has had slightly more than 1,700 requests from married couples to serve together, which means that a good percentage of them have minor children. What they don't say is how many of those children have become partial or total orphans.

If DOD is okay with deploying couples to the same theatre of operation at the same time or simply deploying them at the same time, there must be one tiny caveat: NOT if they have minor children.

The Army must really be desperate for bodies to sacrifice to George's war to not add this provision.

These children didn't ask to be born, and when people choose to have children their prime directive is to stick around and personally take care of them whenever possible.

Couples deployed together in Iraq will be away from home -- in an area of grave danger -- for who knows how long, and with an average of a hundred soldiers being killed every month in Iraq, the odds of their not ever coming home are too high to take the risk.

If the Compassionate-Conservative-Pro Life-in-Chief were even vaguely aware of this, is it possible he sent a memo to this Army couple, the 20-year-old and her siblings thanking them for serving their country and giving up their youth and feelings of security in family, home and hearth for their country.

Not a chance! But, he's more than willing to cut veteran's benefits, charge them for health care, under training and ill-equipping them, and using them for propaganda background props.

After watching his high-energy performance at Wednesday's press conference, he's too full of himself, his grandiose ideas of world corporate domination, his feigned rationale to spread of democracy, and the appearance of having vast qualtities of injectable substances coursing through his veins to warm up the ice water, to be aware of much of anything.

The care-taker daughter has given up a lot (job, school, social life) -- far more than most of us and infinitely more than George Bush, anyone in his administration or anyone in Congress.

They say any sad or horror movie must have comedy relief, and if this story were a film it would fit both genre.

The only hint of humor came at the very end when the daughter said, "My mom is still the law in this house. She's just far away. The only difference is that now she does her yelling in all caps."
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Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a (more...)
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