Left Behind: Families of Our Troops

This guest post comes from Dizzy Dezzi. This post is taken from TKB and I think everyone needs to read this. Listen to the words of a military wife!

Sorta cross-posted from dizzydayz.

I know I haven’t stopped by in awhile, but I don’t like using this generous spot that Donnie has given me to post fluff (I have my own blog for that). But, many of my own readers know that nothing gets me more riled up than talk about the Iraq war, soldiers, and their families.

So, what got my panties all wound up, today? This post over at buzzflash.com:

Women and Older Troops Dying at Record Rates in Iraq; Twice as Many Children per Casualty Lose a Parent than in Vietnam

Now, I was a child of Vietnam. My grandfather and my father both did tours there. Thankfully, I did not lose any family to that war. Since I was an infant at the time, I do not have any recollections of that period in American history. But, I did grow up as a military brat (both parents served in the military) for 18 years and many were the days that my mother/father was left alone to care for us while my father/mother went TDY or where we were left with friends because both parents were in school or off playing “war games”.

I also had uncles and aunts who served in the armed forces, so I am no novice when it comes to the basic travails of living the military life. It’s in my DNA

I swore I would NEVER marry a soldier. Even during peace time, I knew that there would be a lot of time spent alone so that he could train to be a better soldier.

Never say “NEVER”. My husband will tell you that I balked. I was happy to live “in sin” with him, indefinitely. That is, until I got pregnant with our first child. We “officially” got married (vs common-law) just two weeks before our son was born (we are going to have a lot of explaining to do when he grows up and sees his birth certificate).

It was after the birth of our first child that we were faced with our first “deployment”. My soldier shipped out for 6 months in Bosnia.

No problem. I didn’t worry because I knew it was more or less a security detail, not a war.

A little while after his return home, 9/11 happened. I was pregnant with our second child. I knew, as I watched those towers fall that we were going to war. I cried not just because thousands of people died that day, but because I knew that I was going to have to face the fact that now I could be forced to raise his two children alone if we did go to war.

It was after the birth of our second child that we were faced with our second deployment. My soldier got orders to ship out for a year in South Korea.

No problem. Even though Bush had started sending troops to Afghanistan, my husband was going to be safe and sound, doing another security detail.

By the time he returned from his stint in Korea, Bush was threatening war with Iraq.

Within three months of his return home, we were faced with our third deployment. Only this time it wasn’t going to be a simple “security detail”. He was going to war.

So far, he has come and gone from Iraq, two times without incident. Well, accept for the soldiers he used to know and serve with. Soldiers he considered friends. Soldiers who even now he stops himself from talking about. The ones who died in Iraq.

Since my soldier’s first Iraq deployment, I have taken up providing entertainment for the troops, where we live, so I see troops coming and going all the time. I have not been close to any soldiers who I read about in the news, but there is no telling how many soldiers who have crossed my path have passed away or how many wives I once met, who will never cross my path, again because their soldier is gone.

I’ve met plenty of wounded soldiers. Some of them are my friends.

I am bracing myself for the day when I get a call to attend a memorial service for a friend who is a soldier or worse, the day I get the call to plan a memorial service for the soldier closest to me.

I raised a child all by myself for almost 9 years. I balked at marrying a soldier because I knew that I would be put in the position to act as a single mother due to the “needs of the Army”. But, naively, war was never one of those things we thought would fall under that heading.

As we are preparing for Iraq, Season 3 and I struggle with some new challenges in my life, I am forced to again face facts that I could very well end up being a single mother, for real (again). More from the buzzflash article:

Another statistic that is often overlooked is the number of children whose lives are changed forever when their parents are killed in Iraq. These kids never volunteered mom or dad to fight; many were not even born when their parents enlisted and, in some cases, deployed.

Such figures are not officially tracked, but we were able to identify that nearly 900 children had lost a parent in Iraq by December 2004 and 1,508 by March 2005. Extrapolated to the current casualty total, the figure today is probably somewhere around 2,200 children. This number is already higher than a tenth of the Americans who lost a father in Vietnam, and the amount of children left behind per death is more than twice as high.

One expert explains these results by noting that “the proportion of married soldiers is higher today than in any previous war.” That means higher rates of wives and husbands are being left widowed by the war.

The White House would rather ignore these inconvenient truths and pretend that death only happens “on their TV screens.” But the truth is that for thousands and thousands of people, death in Iraq is very real.

Every time I read articles like the one above, it bothers me that our president ran on a ticket claiming “compassionate conservatism” and “family values”. Of course, now we all know those are just empty platitudes. But, you do have to ask yourself, how come the “family values” crowd only comes out when they are afraid gay people will invade their marriages or that women will use birth control or have an abortion (and gawd forbid, save the welfare state some money by not bringing into the world a child who will require food stamps to raise)?

If the “family values” crowd really were about putting their money where their mouth is, they should be storming Washington and screaming for our troops to come home. Aren’t they the ones who preach that gays shouldn’t marry because a child needs two parents (of opposite sex)? Aren’t they the ones who bad mouth women who wish to have babies without the benefit of fathers around? They claim this is a real crisis.

For this reason, the “family values” crowd should be shouting “Support The Troops…Bring Home The Mothers and The Fathers”.

My soldier serves honorably and stands by the contract he made with the Army. I have asked him point blank and although he does not “support” why we are in Iraq, he does not wish to quit.

Sadly, I do not wish to be a widow; I do not wish to be a single mother (again). At least gay people and single woman can make the choice for themselves (for the most part) how to create their families. They are willing to take full responsibility for that choice.

When it comes down to who comes home in a draped-coffin, soldiers and their families have almost no choice. They don’t get to decide who will be lucky enough to come back alive (if only a shell of their former self). They don’t get to decide which military spouse will be forced to raise a newborn who will never know their parent who died in this war based on lies. They don’t get to decide who will be left orphaned by a single parent.

Only our government can decide.

Our government has decided that our soldiers and their families should be willing to sacrifice for a war that never should have been, while their own offspring are only asked to sacrifice a few bucks at Nieman-Marcus.

How come when it comes to the single parents created by the war in Iraq, the “family values” crowd appears to be deafeningly silent?

“Support Real Family Values: Bring Our Troops Home”

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