“Buddy, I know you knew before I did, they got OBL. I wish I could raise one for you right now, but I will as soon as I get home”.
The above message was posted on May 2nd, 2011 by a friend of my son’s, one of the guys that was there the day my son was killed. As usual, when any of them post about my son, they tag me. Knowing they are remembering him, thinking of him gives me great comfort, something they all seem to understand. I invariably ‘like’ the postings, not always to show agreement with what they say, but simply as acknowledgment that I have seen it and appreciate the remembering.
Of course, being the news junkie that I am, I had already seen the breaking headline and had read a couple reports. Actually, there were early leaks I had seen, but was awaiting official confirmation. So, the above post was not my first notice, but is was just one of many in tribute of sorts to my son.
To the guys who were there in the ‘Stan, this was the reason for having gone. They went to bring the war to the man, the group and the countryside who started it all by attacking us, on our soil on that bright September day in ’01. After having been there, having faced the enemy they knew Bin Laden wasn’t the sole responsible party. But, he was the symbol. As long as he was left alive, he was a battle cry and a rallying point. Taking him out was as much a psychological blow to the enemy as it was a physical one.
In response to that soldier’s post, a distant connection of his replied –
“typical soldier macho bs. you sound like a psychopath celebrating the death of another human being”.
As soon as I saw that reply, I knew it was on. My first thoughts were ‘who is this person? Does he not understand the context of the post? Does he not realize the person posting is still over there, still in a war zone?’, so I checked his profile. Not surprisingly, it was a nineteen year old kid, a college student. As I found out later, a classmate of the original poster’s younger sister.
That sister was one of the first to reply, and hers was one of the only ones that is even somewhat fit to repeat in semi-polite society. She called the kid an ass and a troll and told him to shut up about things he doesn’t understand.
After that, a few dozen of the original poster’s, and my son’s, Army buddies replied with everything from anatomically impossible suggestions to some of those creative combinations of curse words I can’t help but laugh at and give points to for originality, even if I can’t repeat them. More than a few suggested an in person conversation with the lad to explain to him the errors of his ways of thinking when they got back Stateside.
The original poster contacted me,
“Ma’am, I’m sorry you had to see that ignorant puss-bag’s comment, but I don’t want to take it down because you can also see how we deal with that.”
What followed was a pretty in-depth conversation, ranging from what the war was about, what they were fighting for, and from me, the mommy-esque reminder that freedom of speech is one of those things they swore to uphold and defend. Both to let them know I appreciate their instant, immediate defense and because I wanted to end the ranting, I posted on the original thread a somewhat lengthy reply, part of which was:
“I’m sorry to say that when you get home you will find some people, even those who believe they are educated, echo this sort of sentiment. It has always been this way – those who are the first to abuse our freedoms lack the courage of their convictions to actually fight for them. To people like this, they are words. To us, all of you and me, they are an insult to the flesh and blood you put on the line every day. Thankfully, there have been very few who have had the temerity, or the stupidity, to say something like this to my face. The proof is that I’m not in jail, though I know you all would take up a collection for my bail.”
No surprise, I got a lot of “Hoo-ahs”, and “Yes Ma’am, but can you wait til we get home so we can watch?” replies.
Bin Laden is dead, now what?
In the past two years, I’ve had plenty of time to think about the death of Bin Laden and the impact that man’s acts has had on my life. I think about it every day. Here are some of the conclusions I've come to, though I freely admit they are more stepping stones on my journey than final destinations.
Bin Laden was a symbol, and while he can be killed, creating another symbol, the ideas he spawned are very much alive and well.
Pakistan is not our friend or ally. We need to treat them as such. They are a sovereign nation? Well, if they want to continue to be, stop hiding those responsible for starting this war. Oh, and find and deliver Bowie Bergdahl.
Winning the hearts and minds is a noble, but unreachable goal, at least the way we have gone about it. Theirs is a culture that respects power above all else, and soldiers handing out candy to children, building schools and digging wells looks weak to this enemy.
We are at war with a bastardized version of Islam, as it exists in a 7th Century culture. I fear it will be decades before we can even hope to bring their thinking into the 21st Century. So, leave them to their own devices, let them evolve at their own pace. As long as they don’t try to inflict their backwards, misogynistic hate on us.
Bin Laden and all the Imam’s who preach hate and blame the U.S. for the plight of their people don’t have a single fiber of religious conviction; it is all about power for them. Bin Laden was the umpteenth son of one of umpteen wives. A rich playboy and a nobody. Then he found he found religion as the perfect vehicle to become somebody, and in the U.S., somewhere to place the blame for his lot in life. How different would the world be today if he instead placed the blame where it belongs, on his own culture.
Bring Them Home
Since our soldiers have not been and will not be allowed to win this war, bring them home. But, leave that place with a very clear message.
“Do what you will, live how you choose, die in whatever way you want. But, if you ever again bring your fight to our shores, we will hunt you down and grant you your fondest wish of meeting your God. And the next time you have an earthquake, a famine, a tsunami, don’t look to the U.S. for help.We are done inflicting our Imperialist ways on others.”
If someone had told me two years ago I would be saying to bring our soldiers home, I would have been shocked and insulted. I would have seen it as a betrayal of my son, of what he died for. Since then I’ve been able to see my son died doing what he believed was right, defending the ideas, principals and people of this nation. I now see saying I want no more Gold Stars created is not a betrayal but is in fact in support and in honor of all those who have chosen as my son did, to stand the line. I've taken to heart the words
"The American soldier does not fight because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
I put it on a bumper sticker on my car long ago,
“If you can’t stand behind our soldiers, feel free to stand in front of them”,
yet it took a time to understand part of supporting our soldiers is allowing them to do what we ask of them. If we aren’t doing that, we have no right to ask. So, bring them home.