Apparently, via the magic of the internet an article I wrote last week has in the space of only a few days, made its way around the world. The article â€˜Why I Marched in DCâ€™ was hard to write because it is hard being the mother of a trained killer. Sadly, I am only one in a growing sorority of other military mothers whose children have become experienced killers.
Generally, reaction has been more than favorable and amazingly understanding. Two comments perhaps need to be addressed. One was that I failed to express any remorse at the loss of life but only sorrow at my sonâ€™s burden. I disagree with this as I believe the entire article was an expression of remorse and how I hope to amend my part in the senseless deaths in Iraq.
While I pecked away at that essay in a hotel room in Washington, DC, I never lost sight that halfway across the world a mother grieved for her son. Or a child longed for â€˜babaâ€™. If I was not clear enough before let me be clear now. Without question, my hand has reached around the world and brought pain and suffering to a people I donâ€™t even know. What is most appalling is that I did it by not lifting a finger. So now I march, I write and speak out as every mother must as I should have long ago.
The second objection was to my claim that the troops are heroes. A reader from Jerusalem asked â€˜how can you consider it heroic to kill people from miles away?â€™ To answer I will share some incidents that happened in Ramadi during my sonâ€™s last tour.
It was September 24, 2004 and President Bush was on the campaign trail at General Pershing Park in Racine, WI. His audience was chanting â€˜Four More Yearsâ€™. Thousands of miles away in Ramadi, a Marine convoy and foot patrol that included my son, John, were making their way through the streets. They had received intelligence of a possible insurgent stronghold and their mission was to capture dissidents and seize any weapons.
A young Marine, a â€˜bootâ€™, meaning fresh out of boot camp, walked along on the opposite side of the street from my son, the patrol had been taking fire intermittently all day. A crowd of Iraqi civilians turned the corner and came along toward the patrol, hidden in their midst was a gunman who fired and the â€˜bootâ€™ hit the ground.
The crowd scattered and the Marines opened fire. This is a trained response, yet visceral, drilled into them through hour after relentless hour of training. â€˜It is what you doâ€™, John said, â€˜you rely on your weapon to get you throughâ€™.
The patrol was now engaged in a massive firefight with incoming mortars and bullets flying everywhere. The Marines are returning fire, all are relying on their weapon, all save two. Two men, one Marine and one medic, a â€˜docâ€™ they are called, ran several yards through the hail of gun and mortar fire risking their lives to try and save the â€˜bootâ€™.
My own son admits that he was so caught up in the moment that it never occurred to him to do the same and he marveled at their efforts when he saw them weaving through the battle to reach the fallen Marine. He speaks in awe and admiration of those two men and what they did that day. It was too late though, PFC Timothy Folmar, 21, was already dead.
Another incident involves a Marine encamped with John who took five rounds in the chest. He was saved by his flack jacket. He felt very fortunate to have survived and after a few days to allow the bruises to heal, he was given a new jacket and sent back out to be shot at once again.
My own son endured, amongst other things, seven IED attacks. In three of them the humvees he was driving were damaged beyond repair. Like the other Marine, John felt fortunate, each time, to have survived. Also like the other Marine he got to go out and do it again and again and yet again.
These examples of heroism happen every day in Iraq. Every day our troops go out not knowing how or when they will come back and yet somehow they continue to do it. They exit the limited but relative safety of their camps and risk their lives and do it again and again, day in and day out. The men and women serving in Iraq are heroes. All of them from the villains of Abu Ghraib to the medal of valor recipients are possessed of more courage and character than their commander in chief.