May 1, 2008

Politics and Social Issues

Left Behind

by Emily Fouquette-Hoffman

To B.C. and S.N.
B.C. I’m glad you finally got your butt home for good.

S.N. Bring your butt home for good already, I miss you, you need to meet my kid, and your wife needs you.

I love you guys!

I’m writing a book about my grandmother: a historical novel based on her experience as a nurse in the Royal Canadian Nurse Corps during World War II. The research is going pretty good. Then today when I was watching a D-Day documentary I started to cry…

How do we deal, the ones who are left behind? How and when did all of this happen? We studied all of the wars in school, and now it’s our turn. It is now my generation’s turn to be veterans! My grandparents were veterans, my uncle, but aren’t we too young to be veterans? Then all of the sudden it hit me. When I was younger, seeing and hearing stories about D-Day and other battles made me proud. My grandparents, it seemed, served in the ultimate war against the ultimate evil. Though I knew that they were in their late teens and twenties, it never occurred to me until now that this all took place when they were in the same stage of life that I'm in now. I see kids who can hardly vote, who sometimes can’t even legally drink, go to their graves, and it hits me right in the stomach. I’m married, I have a kid, I have a mortgage; and yet at twenty-four I’m still a kid, just like the ones at Normandy and Bataan.

One of my best friends has a purple heart, a twenty-five year old boy who I have known since I was fourteen. He now has bullet scars, which brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. I still remember him as a sweet fifteen year old kid. He went for his R&R in March, and when I didn’t hear from him for a while, I freaked out. It didn’t help that one of the kids killed in one of the latest attacks was from his regiment. He and I just got back in touch within the past year after not talking for about five years. We’d just been busy, each doing our own things, but I missed him so I looked him up. We’d missed a lot in each other’s lives: our marriages, my kid, his bullet wound. That’s why it scared me so much in these last few weeks, not knowing if he was injured. I almost lost him once, forever, and I didn’t even know it. He wrote to me in an email once, “I have almost died and I have watched people die.” The thought of losing him scares me so much that I can hardly even think about it. He’s not the same person he once was, obviously, and neither am I, but he’s still my friend.

Another one of my best friends always seemed to manage to call me from Iraq when there was a fire fight going on outside. That’s what it sounded like, anyway. I was so terrified she would come home in a box, and when she finally came home for good - unharmed - I was so grateful. I am proud to be friends with one of the few women strong enough to be a gunner on a hummer, but I still hated the fact that she was in Iraq in the first place. (I wanted to slap her for enlisting, except she can kick my ass.)

So how do the rest of us deal? The ones who didn’t join up? I love my friends, for their bravery, for the fact that they are fighting for us in a way. But I am also angry at them for selling their souls to Uncle Sam when they knew that they probably be sent overseas for what is, in my opinion, a stupid reason. When people say that this war is to free the Iraqis from tyranny, I tell them to take a look at the fact that the U.S. is allies with Turkey. Check out Amnesty International to see what kind of things that government does to the people who oppose it. The Turkish government can be evil to their people, but they are on our side while we “liberate” others in similar situations. How does that work again? I am not against the soldiers (let’s leave the raping and murdering bastards out of this because that is a separate matter to me), only the war.

I have even had a few jerks vandalize my car because they saw the upside-down American flag sticker on it and decided that it meant anti-America If they had actually asked, I could have told them that it really means America in distress.

Maybe I am so angry about the fact that people are fighting what I see as a pointless war, as I have stated above. My generation seems to have gone through so much already. Not that we are martyrs compared to other generations, but we have faced different and seemingly new challenges.

After 9/11 my mother, my grandmother and I discussed all of the different situations our generations have faced. I think 9/11 hit my grandmother the hardest of the three of us because it took her back to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We discussed how badly she felt about the discrimination of Japanese and Japanese-Americans, and how people also discriminated against Muslims after 9/11, instead of learning from the past.

We also discussed my mother’s experience with bomb drills in school, how they had to drill in case the Russians dropped the “Big One.” We compared it to all the current school shootings, specifically to Columbine.

The difference between the two situations is that my mother knew who the “enemy” was. It was black and white, Us vs. Them. My generation has no idea who the “enemy” is much of the time. Our drills were lockdown drills, and the “enemy” could be sitting right behind you in math class, ready to blow your head off. In a few years I will have to send my own daughter into that situation; wondering somewhere in the back of my mind if she might not come home.

That is what I mean about my generation seeing so much already. So when I hold my breath every time I see a new headline about dead soldiers, it makes me angry. It makes me angry that the government didn’t learn anything from the last war in the Middle East, which was less than twenty years ago. Yet it is hard for me to worry because I sometimes feel petty. I am not biologically or legally bound to anyone over there, so it makes me feel like my fears are comparatively shallow. I do not risk losing a spouse, child or other family member, just a dear friend or two. Yet I am not bound to them with a different kind of love and devotion, so somehow I still feel left behind.

Emily is a 24 year old mother of one. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and wife who does freelance writing. She is also studying Druidry and Gaelic, and working on two historical novels. She lives just outside Seattle in Washington State, and she can be reached via e-mail.