The colors have been cased in Iraq. The mission is almost over. The last troopers are heading home in a few days time to please Lord, make it home for Christmas. This Christmas, regardless of whether my husband makes it home for the actual day or not, will be extra special for my family. My husband will be home. He will not be going back. It’s his turn to watch the next war on TV. He’s served and served well, nearly 50 months in combat. He’s coming home to two daughters who have grown up largely without him. A bass boat that has sat neglected in the front yard. A cat who will tear him limb from limb and then curl up on his lap. And a faithful old dog who has been the most enthusiastic welcoming committee every single time he’s walked through that front door.
The war in Iraq is winding down. I started reading through my blog posts from my year there because I’m funny that way. I wanted to remember the year I spent in Mosul, writing and blogging and just fucking grateful that I had a toilet and a real shower. I made it through the year with no camel spiders (thank you sweet newborn baby Jesus). A whole lot of memories rose. Some funny. Some utterly soul crushing. A lot of firsts. Indirect fire. Ramp ceremonies. Earning my combat spurs.
I think it’s oddly fitting that today I received an email from a fellow officer who shared the piece I submitted to the NY Times At War blog (http://www.jessicascott.net/blog/2009/11/what-is-it-like/) with a ROTC Cadet who was having a hard time with a loss of a friend. The fact that something I wrote during deployment made a difference more than two years later? It’s not why I wrote it back then but maybe it’s why I shared it. But it means a hell of a lot to me that something I struggled with terribly made a difference for someone today.
Thomas Ricks asked over on Foreign Policy what he should say when soldiers asked why did my friend die when yours did not. What did you do during the war? Maybe those aren’t the right questions we need to be asking. As the last soldiers depart the desert for hopefully the last time, maybe the questions we need to ask are not those of an individual but as a nation. Why did we go? Was it worth it? What difference did we make?
We may not like the answers we find. If we do not, though, what will we do with them? It is fine to bitch about the government over coffee but what will you do the next time our nation sends its sons and daughters to war?
Maybe a more important question even now is what will you do with those sons and daughters who are coming home from war? Will you hire them? Will you look at anyone who wore the uniform and think that he or she served honorably just because they wore the uniform? I have been a commander. Everyone who wears the uniform has not served honorably. But what to do with those who have but who have come home changed? Maybe not damaged. Maybe just different.
The colors are cased. We are waiting for our soldier to come home. The war is over. Did we make a difference? Did our friends die for a reason? Or were they merely called home, their time on this earth done far too soon? I don’t know. I wish I did.
Maybe now at the end of the war, all we can hope is that we maybe, in some way, made a difference. Hopefully a good one.