Our Memorial Day is a little different since my son returned from Iraq. Last year's Memorial Day started with a parade. WWII vets dressed in their military finest, the rest of us dressed in our t-shirts, "Vets for Peace,“ “Military Families Speak Out,“ or “Iraq Vets Against the War.“
A WWII vet looks upon us with a smile, "No soldier who has ever been shot is for war," he says as he walks towards the front of the parade. We are recent additions to this parade. Silence greats us; pockets of applause and calls from the crowd, "TRAITOR!" "TERRORIST!" as we continue to march the parade route.
We will not be turned away. We hold our heads high. I reach out to my son. A proud Marine, awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and Good Conduct Medal because he served two tours in Iraq. He could have chosen to march with the Marines and received numerous cheers. For him, it's not a choice. He has a moral imperative to speak out to end this war, and for this he is booed. It is not an easy route to take, but the one our family has chosen. Our children are being killed and maimed as others celebrate and we will not let them forget it.
That Memorial Day was one of distress; I waited to see if my son was going to make it through another tough day. Another memory of what Iraq wrought him.
Would I walk in and find him with a gun in his mouth, or even worse, I didn't come in time. Every day I fear my son will not survive this war. I have searched my heart and my mind wondering if there is something more I can do to ease his pain, to stop his torture, to prevent the inevitable. I feel at times I'm watching a Shakespearean tragedy; I know the end and I’m powerless to stop it.
Each week brings more tragedy into our lives. I work night and day with the only option I feel I have left to help my son. To end this war. Each day this war rages on, each day his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms die and the casualties mount, my son suffers. The chance to heal can only happen when this war ends.
I'm such a coward. I'm so terrified what this Memorial Day is bringing my son. I see the downward spiral he is in, and I'm powerless to stop it and cannot even bear to watch it. I call to talk to him and I don't know who I'm talking to. Afraid to say anything because each word I say sparks new anger or sadness.
My family torn apart. Mired in debt and sorting through emails speaking of hate and contempt in my efforts to end this illegal and immoral occupation. Accused of profiting or seeking fame. Walking the halls of Congress and called names, insulted and shown contempt because I refuse to let the politicians be the only voice to end the war.
I often feel I should just give up, go back to Missouri. It’s much easier to work 9 to 5 as a banker with a banker’s paycheck every week. But just as my son chooses to wear his “Iraq Veterans Against the War” T-shirt, I must stay in DC to hold the politicians' feet to the fire. It’s not a choice; it’s a moral imperative.
So excuse me if I don't respond in kind when someone says Happy Memorial Day. For me it is a gray time, no barbques or family outings. It’s another day of pain and worry.
Another day of military families grieving.
By Corporal Cloy Richards
I stare at this paper and don't know what to say