As you are reading this, Christian will be in the belly of one of those military planes on the way to some forsaken location in Afghanistan. I have been told those planes are not exactly luxury liners – not even peanuts or bad movies to keep you company. Just the noise of the engine, the chatter of your friends and your own thoughts. It’s a long way from North Carolina to Afghanistan to have to spend it thinking.
It’s awfully cold in Afghanistan this time of the year but Christian is equipped with the latest in warm wear or so he tells me. I answer that he better have state of the art clothes if it’s true that each soldier going to war is costing the taxpayers 1 million $ a piece. He smiles widely and says that, as far as he knows, he is only worth half a mill. I look at him quizzically. “You know, that is what my family gets if..” and the rest hangs in the air while I look away, resume my business of rearranging cookie plates and mumble that he shouldn’t even go there.
But why shouldn’t he? Whom am I to say to a 23-year-old who enrolled for a better opportunity in life that he has no right in thinking about his mortality, while he is about to embark on a tour of duty that might be the most difficult thing he will ever have to face? This aseptic war, now entering its 10th year, hasn’t touched the majority of Americans, unless its expense can be attributed to helping the economic downturn. But, really, what sacrifices did I have to make or anyone I know? Despite being strongly opposed to it, I never once took my butt to a peace rally.My life has always been far removed from anything to do with the military and, had I been an adult in the ’60’s, I would have probably given Jane Fonda some serious competition, or so I like to think.
Christian, whom I met through my full-time sous chef and part-time daughter Charmaine, has become the face I put on this war. He is my personal investment in making sure I know what is going on and don’t skip the articles on Afghanistan and Iraq and I do participate in the debate. Because I want him to come home in one handsome piece, and be invited to his wedding (Chris, if you are reading, I am making the assumption you will make an honest woman of the ‘Maine one day) and find out what else he is going to do with the rest of his life.
Christian is my commitment to push my representative to work hard and ensure that he and his fellow Marines come home within the timeframe that has been set. It’s the least I can do while I watch Charmaine’s life unfolding between a phone call and an e-mail and a care package she always seems to be putting together for her boyfriend. If he needs the courage to face circumstances that couldn’t be more far removed from our everyday life, she needs the strength to keep on being cheerful, optimistic, encouraging and organize her life around a temporary absence.
Since the first time I started asking myself questions and opened a book on the Middle East, I have been keenly aware that this is a quagmire I will most likely won’t see resolved in my lifetime. But I wish everyone had a Christian in their lives to remind them that Afghanistan and Iraq and Yemen are not meaningless dots on a changing world map.