-DAY #1: Text Message, Sunday, June 19, 2011 @ 9:50 am-
Mom: Did you make it to your new base okay? Call when you can. Love you.
Son: Everything is good
Mom: Keep me posted! Let me know when and how we can communicate.
Son: Okay I will
Son: Hey the 3-71 Cav 3rd Brigade 10th Mountain left in Feb or March. Some guys are leaving late next month. It’s 50/50 if I go.
Mom: How do they decide? Did they go to Afghanistan? Kandahar?
Son: I don’t know how they decide. They went to Kandahar.
-DAY #2: Text Message, Monday, June 20, 2011 @ 9:19 am-
Son: I was told I would be going some time in the next 30 days
Mom: That soon? Are others going? Will you be able to give us a date?
Son: Yes there are others going. No date yet
Mom: How do you feel about going to Afghanistan? Do you feel prepared? Does it scare you?
Son: I really don’t want to talk about it right now
-DAY #3: Text message, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 @ 4:15 pm-
Son: I leave July 25th for Afghanistan
Mom: Can I come with you?
Hi, my name is Patty. I am the Mom of a 10th Mountain Division U.S. soldier. My 21-year old son graduated from his AIT (Army Intensive Training) on June 9, 2011. On June 18th, he re- ported to Fort Drum, NY. On July 25th he is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan.
3-days was all it took for my world to crash. 3-days was all it took for the U.S. military to change my son from the “new soldier on the block” to “the next soldier to be deployed”. I still have not wrapped my mind around the fact that my son is really going to Afghanistan. Only a few days ago I listened as President Obama publicly announced his “plan” to bring home 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012, leaving 68,000 to continue in this war that has no promise of end in sight. I had small hopes as I listened, that President Obama would hear the cries of a nation to bring their children home. I had small hopes that President Obama would see the desperation of a nation plagued by unemployment, loss of homes, lack of health care, declining educational insti- tutions, communities devastated by natural disasters, and bring the war dollars home. I had small hopes that President Obama would speak to a nation of people with words of encouragement and hope. I had small hopes that President Obama would say “Troops, job well-done. It is time for you ALL to come home.”
Small hopes, while small, are still hopes. Yet this morning, as I write this, my small hopes have become unstoppable tears. Tears for the more than 6,000 soldiers that will not be walking through doors to be embraced by their loved ones. Tears for the many soldiers wounded, whose lives will forever be impacted and changed by this “war on terror”. Tears for the thousands of civilians wounded or killed under the guise of imposing self-determination. Tears for the loved ones who sit by the phone waiting to hear the voice of their soldier. Tears for the loved ones fear- ful to answer that knock on the door. Tears for those that may still be lost.
As the President’s drawdown plan begins to permeate my life, many questions arise.
Mr. President, if you are really planning on bringing our troops home, why are there soldiers now waiting to be deployed?
I understand the theory of rotating troops. I understand the advantages of rotating the troops; rested soldiers have higher morale and are better suited to keep the enemy engaged. I also under- stand the disadvantages of rotating the troops; the strategy requires additional planning and man- agement skills. It also requires a heavier investment in personnel, training and equipment.
Mr. President, as U.S. soldiers return home, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the Afghan gov- ernment to fill their replacement? We’ve been there for 10-years, surely we have provided enough training to allow the Afghans to begin to defend themselves and define their own road to self-determination.
Mr. President, what do you consider victory in Afghanistan? Are you “holding out” on bringing our troops home until we have reached your definition of victory? How long can you continue to ignore 73% of the nation wanting the war in Afghanistan to end? How many more soldiers must sacrifice their lives for you to bring them home? How many more dollars that are needed here at home, must be deflected to a cause that fewer and fewer believe in?
And many other questions that still remain to be answered.
In the meantime, my hopes that became tears, quickly becomes rage. Rage at feeling helpless to make a difference. Rage at feeling hopeless that the people will ever be heard by a government removed. Rage that as a Mom, I can’t make the journey to Afghanistan with my son. I’ve been there through all of the other scary situations he has faced; sometimes to alleviate the fear, some- times to help heal the wound, sometimes to show the way, and sometimes to just hold his hand. Now I am being asked to stay behind. Now I am being asked to trust. Now I am being asked to wait as my son makes a journey to a land where outcomes are unknown.
I now start almost every conversation the same. My name is Patty, and I AM the Mom of a 10th Mountain Division U.S. Soldier. I now begin and end my day with the same prayer;
“Please help me find a way to be heard. Please let me find a way to help end this war and to bring them all home. Help me find a way to get up everyday and do what I have to do and to not be frozen by my fears. Please help me find a way to support my son.”
Hopes, while small, are still hopes. Tears while they become rage, are still empowering. I will not be quiet. I will not go away. I will not let the powers-that-be forget what is at stake. I will not let anyone forget that ending this war matters to me. I will not let anyone forget mine or anyone else’s soldier. It is time to bring them all home now!
Patty Bennett Mom of 10th Mountain Division U.S. Soldier & Member of Military Families Speak Out