How often in our lives have we heard the phrase ‘sick and tired’ either from the mouth of our mothers or from our own mouths for our children? I remember a comedy routine by Bill Cosby when he was referencing his childhood and his mother was scolding him with the beginning of the phrase ‘sick’ and he finished the ‘and tired’ and said he doesn’t remember anything after that. It is a phrase uttered by mothers when they are just at the end of the line and fed up with whatever situation is going on with the family.
I am a mother of a soldier now veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I’m not a politician, lawmaker, general or leader of a country. I do not make the decisions to send soldiers off to war but I do see first hand the destruction that war produces – not only on the body but on the spirit of the soldier as well as the family and those who love them. And yes, I’m sick and tired of wars in our world. As with so many mothers it isn’t the labor of pain that is unbearable, it is watching one’s child in pain – whether physical, mental or spiritual that is the most unbearable pain of all. I can look at my son see gaping wounds in his soul that need to heal for they are festering wounds of the horror the war left behind. I know my son doesn’t see the wounds that his family sees. He believes if he just gets his life back in order everything will be okay as before his multiple deployments.
PTSD falls heavy upon the soldiers but it also falls upon the family and friends of the soldier. My son is a veteran of two terms of deployment in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was sent to Iraq at the beginning of the war, remaining 12 months; came home for six months, went back for 12 more months, returned home for a year and then was sent to Afghanistan for 15 months. He is now out of the military at his choosing because his young family fell apart while he was at war on his third deployment and his children needed him home. It was a painful decision because he loved being a soldier and the military life. He is the type of soldier the military needs but the destruction that he could not stop, the protection he could not provide was happening to his young family and he made the decision to leave in order to be more for his children.
For so many years I spoke out against the abuse of our soldiers by our government for treating them as robots and androids as though their lives and their families’ lives are expendable. A few years back I had the privilege to sit down with six other military families members to speak to Ohio Senator George Voinovich. I brought the picture of my son and his family and showed him that my son is not a robot or an android but a human being putting his life on the line for our country. I wanted justification for the multiple deployments that ignore the needs of the humanity of the soldier. I also had the privilege of being included in a conference call with Ohio Senator Sharrod Brown in which I asked him when all our soldiers are finally home from these wars and later into their lives when all the horror they experienced comes vomiting out of them – who will be there to help clean it up and to help them heal.
There are two losses from such wars – the physical loss of life and the loss of a part of one’s soul/spirit. The men and women from these two wars have experienced over and over again and again one deployment after another without having a chance to heal from the last deployment. It didn’t help that a representative from Ohio commented that the lives our young men and women was a small price to pay for this war. It doesn’t help that the military and society has this hang-up about seeking mental help – viewed as a weakness more than a definitive need. And it certainly didn’t help when the country was told to look away and ‘pretend’ there is no war and to go about our lives as though everything is just fine, while a certain segment of our society – the military suffered in so many ways.
Those of us in military families who have spoken out against the war are met with ugliness and destructive comments from our fellow citizens among which we are called unpatriotic and un-American. I’ve had friends tell me to stop speaking out because it would ‘hurt my son’s career!’ Really? He’s been thrown into the fires of hell with several deployments for a war that was a lie and I’m hurting his career? Of course none of them had a loved one in the military so I ignored their ‘concern.’ I had other friends tell me that, hey, this war isn’t as bad as Vietnam – there haven’t been that many deaths! I sat and wondered – well tell that to the mother and dad, or the wife and children of the soldier who just died or to the young mother of the warring country holding her dead toddler in her arms and tell them that this isn’t as bad as Vietnam.
As a mother I want to just explode and say to others who seek war, who seek to destroy our world that “I’m Sick and Tired!” Somewhere leaders and fanatic religious within our world have decided that children – our children are needed to fight ‘their wars – their beliefs.’ As mothers of the world, who are we allowing to take our babies we now nurse and turn them into killing machines? As mothers of the world, who are we allowing to convince our children that suicide is a good thing to promote fanatic beliefs? As mothers of the world who are we allowing to use our children as robots while ignoring the humanity our child?
Have we learned nothing from our past histories that violence and killing only causes more violence and more killings? Holy prophets of all the great religions have been sent to give the message of peace and love. Why do powerful leaders and religious fanatics seem to always turn a deaf ear to such messages and why do they seem to have such a fear of these messages? Even in what they call justified wars it often leads to more wars and more killings of the innocents.
As a mother, I want to take these leaders who want war and killings and put them into a room and sit them down. They will be forced to come to a conclusion or never leave the room. Basically a permanent time-out until matters are resolved. However if they insist that fighting is the only answer then they are to strip and be naked of clothing and weapons, along with no food or water; just four walls and a concrete floor. The room could be freezing cold or horrifically hot. There will be no bodyguards, no one protecting them. It’s not about making things nice for them it is about facing their decision and not using others to make it happen. War is ugly and if they choose to fight then so be it – but no longer on their terms of using others. They will have to face each other because mothers around the world have decided that our children are not going to be used by such people for their agenda of violence.
No I’m not a politician, lawmaker, general or leader of a country. I’m also not naiveté of the powers of evil within our world or the need for military presence. I’m an American citizen and a mother of a veteran who has had enough. There is a March for Life happening every year in our nation’s capital with the focus on the life of the unborn. I believe that if people take the time to march for the child within the womb, then they must not stop “marching for life” once the child is born.
I’m a mother who is just sick and tired of the fact that we fail to learn these many years the destruction that war does to a person, to a family, and to a nation and ultimately the world. It must never be a knee-jerk reaction but the very last resort and then think again. I’m a mother who is so sick and tired of those who feed into violence as the only solution to a challenging situation. It is time for mothers to state; ‘not with my child and mean it.’
By Susan Handle Terbay