Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Cost of War (So Far)

(via Daily Kos)

Knight-Ridder tallies the numbers:

M1 Abrams tanks: 20
M2 Bradley armored vehicles: 50
Stryker wheeled vehicles: 20
M113 armored personnel carriers: 20
Humvees: 250
Fox wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, mine clearers and trucks: 500
Apache attack helicopters: 27
Blackhawk utility helicopters: 21
Kiowa attack helicopters: 23
Chinnok cargo helicopters: 14

And that's losses from combat operations. Thousands more vehicles are near expiration date as they are ground down in sandy Iraq.

But the most important figure:

American soldiers: 2,270

And Now Sisters

Ken Camp snapped a shot of the "Three Brothers" war memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C. Ken posted his image here with only a few words, "This statue made me wonder how we'll see our sisters honored in the present."

His words have rolled around my head for a couple of weeks now, and I wonder, too, how we'll honor the sisters now taken to war alongside their brothers. When I found this image of the same statue, other aspects of the memorial seemed to speak of a harsh reality, an unglorious grit to a nasty piece of work. And I want the war to be over. I want the fighting to end. I want us to get with the building of memorials and the work of trying again to remember not to do this anymore.

It All Takes Time

Many have asked/wondered how Tommi is doing since returning home. Tommi is doing fine. She has taken an apartment across the hall from me – I’m still going to school at Purdue (West Lafayette, Indiana). We are “neighbors” and friends living in layers of relationship reaching beyond a single understanding. Just across the hall, Tommi is closer than she might have been had we lived together in our Minnesota home, but the boundary of her own living space creates the interesting dynamic of visiting where the presumption of together might otherwise have defined the being together. Circumstance drives expression in ways beyond easy anticipation, and moods often shift without notice.

There is permission for Tommi to live out loud, into and through a reintegration with life at home again. She was wise to set aside the money it would take for sixth months of rent, food, and transportation – to give her the room for processing, but I don’t think either of us imagined the time her reintegration would ask of me when we believed it a good idea to do those six months at Purdue. Am I complaining? No, not a bit! I love her here with me – the company and the assurance of her voice; there is relief/release in the simplicity of stepping across to the hall any time to be convinced again that the war is over for Tommi: she’s home, and she’s safe. …and that’s worth saying again: she’s home, she’s safe, and it’s over. Thank God!

…but loud noises, surprise sirens, or sudden moves prove a reflex in Tommi that wasn’t there before. Of course they do, and I am made to think again of all the people who certainly do not have the leeway of liberty to rest as Tommi does. For many/most there are children, jobs, spouses, and the cares of property to demand attention. I can see advantages in the power of distraction if the demands of life are taken in a certain light, but I ache in believing how much greater the need for a time of retreat would be for those who had seen yet more discomforting assignments than Tommi would have seen from inside the wire. It seems to me there is need for rest, for retreat and healing, even where comfort can be found in the distraction of ongoing responsibilities. Tommi is finding time to heal even as she is finding her way back home.

Proximity to campus allows Tommi opportunity for a measure of distraction. She is taking one class with mechanical engineers (well, almost anyway – arrangements “on the side” are letting her work a bit alongside students learning to build guitars, but her own liberty is necessarily bounded by the risks that shouldn’t be taken with power equipment when the insurance that comes with $2G tuition is provided), and she’s tracking with me through a semester of first-year composition. She’s cooking good food, arranging a personality for her apartment, and preparing professional documents in anticipation of employment. She isn’t gearing up for graduate school just yet, since deadlines for application came and went during the months of her readying for return and the flurry of being back. There will be other years, and time will unfold as it does. In the meantime, Tommi is reading. Sleeping. Taking baths! … there were no baths in Iraq. And she navigates the sometimes emotionally charged ebb and flow of making sense in old patterns that don’t seem to move anymore quite as they once had. She is finding her strength again.

So, how is Tommi doing, really? She’s doing fine. These common words of social courtesy tell most of the truth available to the moment: she’s doing fine, and nothing of remarkable beyond the reach of that simply phrase knows how to be said really. Maybe I thought there would have been (should have been) more – call it fanfare or notice for “a hero” come home. She is a hero in my eyes. Maybe one of the difficulties is that there is no parade in each next day. There was/is a war, and she was made to go. She made it home safely (where too many others did not), and there ought to be more or maybe not, but in either case, there isn’t a parade. And it’s ok because it has to be. It’s ok because, in the end, it’s better to be quiet. She will find her life – maybe sooner, without the distraction of too much noise.

All this takes time, and I don’t like that part. …not so much.