Aug. 17, 2007 – On any normal day, Killeen, Texas, is not the place to be. Itâ€™s a palm-size city near Austin where the Target store on the main strip is the big hangout. But this past week, Killeenâ€”home of Ft. Hood Army base, was the best place to be for my family and me: my little cousin Alexia, 24, came home from Iraq.
It’s hard to explain the joy of having a loved one return safe and sound from the battlefield. Every day they are away seems to bring more news of death in a faraway land, and you hold your breath, praying that she or he hasnâ€™t become a statistic. You learn to rejoice over the little things: the phone calls and e-mails from Baghdad that come in the middle of the night, thanking you for the most recent care package. When you learn your family member is coming home, you count the days, praying that fate doesnâ€™t intervene and make real the fears youâ€™ve conjured in your head (a sniperâ€™s bullet? an IED?). And when your loved one finally sets foot on American soil, itâ€™s as if you can breathe once more.
I can’t turn away from these stories. More and more it feels like that Dixie Chick’s song “Traveling Soldier” (click here to see them sing it) where that no one cares, no even notices when soldiers die, when soldiers are wounded, when soldiers are changed forever by the horrible war. I don’t want to turn away because I feel like it would be wrong to look the other way in the face of such suffering, by the soldiers yes, but by their spouses and parents and friends too. Yet, sometimes I have to. I watch a silly romantic comedy. I drink a beer. I ride my bike. I try not to think about the war but it keeps coming back. I feel guilty if I ignore and I feel depressed and hopeless if I don’t.
I don’t want the answer is but I don’t want the soldiers to be forgotten. The war is twisted and wrong (as all wars are… even the “just” wars are abominations in which women and children are butchered for no good reason at all), but the soldiers are just trying to get by another day. They need our prayers, our concern, and most of all they need to do everything we can to bring them home.