Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bring All Our Children Home

“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” The phrase was new to me tonight when Tommi shared it in light of the support she’s known both from Ken and from Randy. It helped to make a lot of sense for me of the homecoming she’d received in Dallas, New Jersey, and Montevideo, Minnesota. I am moved by their remembrance, their faithfulness, and their tenacity. I am grateful.

Tommi is home, and so many of you have written shared joy for her safe return, but I remain torn. I hear the sense of “years” casually overlaid on the continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, and I think of the other women and men (daughters and sons) still there, still going. I wish it were not so.

The tension of conflicting points of view is captured in this December 27 NYTimes story about a Duluth, Minnesota veteran. Scott Cameron’s storefront sign tallies the count for dead and wounded from the Iraq war and is juxtaposed to signage from the local army recruiter next door. The story reports more on the clash of perspectives here and in other parts of the country.

For me it brings to mind the undercurrent to my joy for Tommi’s safe return: there are yet others remaining, and my rest will be fully realized only when all of our children are home – safe, whole, healthy, and for good.

technorati tags: , ,

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Tommi Is Home

Tommi is home! Tommi is home to stay. She's home for good. She's safe, she's whole, and she's home. It has been seven days now, and still either one of us might start to cry without notice, or laugh in disbelief, or drop into contemplation of the time that passed. What might have been two years was held to 18 months all told. She discharged her duty with honor. She left her base markedly more secure than when she arrived, and she's home now. She's home for good.

The story in brief includes a departure from Camp Taji around the 17th of December and a base-hop inside Iraq to gain position for flight to Kuwait. Though I knew she was "on the move," I learned only later that "the hop" was a noticeably dangerous part of the trip - risk unnecessarily engaged in an effort to get home sooner. Four days passed still inside Iraq, and then transport to Kuwait where the unit boarded for flight to the States. A fuel stop in Ireland scored a scarf "for mom," and Tommi touched down - feet on U.S. soil - on Monday morning, December 26, at the very time I landed in Washington D.C. as a first-time presenter at the MLA Convention - a showcase opportunity for my work in graduate studies at Purdue. All our efforts to plan around the conflicting commitments had failed. Tommi continued on to debriefing at Camp Atterbury in Indiana while I continued to work in D.C. She bused to her Minnesota command post in Montievideo the day before I flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and drove 3 hours to find her - faced pressed to the window in anticipation and the last of those just returned to be greeted, taken up in the rest of love. We sunk into one another... fell into one another. She, more ready than I, was the first to catch her emotional footing, and then she helped me catch mine. I didn't care just then about Iraq, about Operation Freedom, about the "good job" she had done, or about the honor of her service. She was home, she was leaving that place with me, and that, just then, was all that mattered.

Our drive north together was five hours of conversation, no conversation, touch, exhales, and an impromptu "welcome home" party we enlisted from the willing patrons of a coffee shop along the way - a perfect New Year's Eve celebration. Those waiting at home were wrapping presents and preparing the meal for Christmas the next day. A very difficult and dangerous last month finally came to rest in the laughter of family, the stories we told that day, and the good food that made the day.

There are more stories to tell; coming home from a war has "a tail" in issues of health and heart, and remembering comes in pieces. Tommi came home with gifts, surprises, and the kind of "shrapnel" of the mind that every soldier home from war will confront. Supporting our troops is a long-term engagement. ...stories and more stories. In the meantime, Tommi is in Indiana to finish out the school year with me. My good landlord held the apartment across the hall form mine for Tommi, and she was wise enough to anticipate the expense in money set aside to cover the few months of breathing and taking "real baths." Lucky me to have a daughter so lovely so close so very much a friend. And... Tommi is home!

technorati tags: , ,