The War Hits Home
Reflections of a family member of an Iraq-bound soldier
January 11, 2005
By Mary Shaw
My dear friend's nephew will soon ship out to Iraq. After seeing
her nephew during the Christmas holiday season, my friend shared
her thoughts with me regarding his impending deployment. Her powerful
words speak for themselves. With her permission, I am sharing her
sentiments below, in her own words. Her name is withheld to protect
her nephew's identity.
It is high time that America's chickenhawks wake up and see the
tears in the eyes of America's families. If this war is really as
necessary and as righteous as our president would have us believe,
why do we not see Jenna or Barbara Bush signing up for combat duty?
Will George W. never have to feel the pain of sending a loved one
off to battle?
Here is how war affects the millions of Americans who are not
as well connected as the folks in Washington:
Mary, I am writing this to you as it is helping me to deal with
My feelings on the Iraq war are as clear as water. I'm clear on
the fact that the nephew I have loved for 22 years is doing his
duty and faces the reality of his mortality by going to Iraq. He
is my brother's only son, and he has two sisters - one older and
one younger. He is an uncle of two little girls. He is my mother's
second grandson. I ask - why must he go to war?
I worry about his safety. I worry about how the war will affect
him later. I have a brother who went to Vietnam, and I have witnessed
the devastating effects that war can have on the life of a young
My nephew came to visit over the holidays, and I pray it wasn't
to say his last goodbye. He is young, intelligent, handsome, and
funny. He has not experienced much in life yet, and I can only hope
that he has a full life ahead of him in spite of going to war.
As I hugged him, crying, all I could see was that cute little
boy with big eyes and a warm heart. He was the record holder in
wins for his high school wrestling team. He was nicknamed "The Rock"
because of his athletic ability, striking good looks, and charismatic
personality. I watched him grow into a man, and I can't love him
more. He is an incredible person, too young and too loved to go
off to war.
He joined the Army after he completed his third year in college.
He joined to help pay for the remainder of his college education
and for the promised sign-up bonus to pay off the $6,000 in tuition
bills he still had from his first three years in college. I don't
think he or my brother ever thought he would be shipped off to a
war, especially one that is wrong!
He doesn't believe in the war. He is going out of obligation.
He is afraid, but he doesn't want to abandon the image of being
"a man." His ability to follow through impresses me, even though
no one in my family believes in this war or in his going to serve
in it. I admire his desire to do what he is obligated to do.
He doesn't want to go. I offered to take him to Canada, or hide
him in my basement. I told him that I wanted to kidnap him. I told
him that I have good friends in low places, and that I would take
him to Canada myself. I told him that whatever he wants - I will
move heaven and earth to keep him here. Unfortunately, he didn't
take me up on any of my offers. Then I made one final offer: If
he needs armor or ANYTHING while over there, I will get it for him.
I made him promise to e-mail me and take pictures to send to us.
I want to know that he is safe every day; but I know he won't have
the time to contact us that often. I think that my family is going
to have many long nights ahead of us, and lots of worry. Missing
him for six months to a year is just not acceptable to me.
During our visit, he made us all laugh with tales of family and
friends. I hugged him as much as I could without being annoying.
I asked him if he could call home, and he joked that he would find
Osama bin Laden and ask him to borrow his cellular phone because
he has to call home. We laughed, but in my heart I thought, "Oh
my god! He is going off to the 'world without regard for life,'
and I may not see him for, well, you know. I gave him money for
Christmas, and cried in silence.
He watched CNN with us, and we heard the reports of 15 more marines
being killed. His cousin is a marine, and is there - in Falluja
- now, and my nephew said he hoped that his cousin is not one of
the latest casualties. I am proud of them both. I only wish I had
been able to sway my nephew into allowing me to change the course
of his life by trying to keep him safe and alive.
I'm sure my nephew is to us like every other soldier is to his
or her family. The way we went into this war was wrong, unprepared,
unplanned. The way we continue to fight the war is wrong, with no
plan for success. How can you win the war against terrorism if the
real, true enemy and chief terrorist is a country away? You end
up losing too many young men who have not even started to live.
My nephew better NOT become one of the over 1,500 and counting.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. Her
views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have
appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.