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EndNotes

Posts tagged: Afghanistan

The numbers…the faces…the lives

We have suffered and lost enough of our soldiers. The war in Afghanistan drones on. The 2000th casualty has died. When will it end - this longest war?

A package waits to be mailed on my dining room table for a nephew who serves in Afghanistan. Filled with Halloween candy and love, it will make its way across the world to a land I cannot even understand or imagine.

Our mindfulness as a nation about this war seems lacking as acute suffering continues – in fatalities, injuries and separation of loved ones.

(S-R archives photo: The grave of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Harris is seen through an American flag as the the sun rises over Georgia National Cemetery Monday, May 28, 2012, in Canton, Ga)

Monkee bites: one more damn thing to worry about

My nephew recently deployed to Afganistan. So this is one more thing to worry about while he's there. Fresh from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “If you were to list all the dangers faced by U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan, your list would be long, but would it include monkey bites? It should. The U.S. Army recently examined this risk and found that in just four months, 10 service members were bitten by monkeys. And there may have been more, unreported, bites. Most monkeys were pets owned by Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan civilians, so the risk of being bitten could increase as U.S. forces work more closely with these Afghan people. Monkey bites can spread rabies, tetanus or other bacterial infections, or B-virus infection to humans. Bites can be minimized by enforcing military policies that prohibit pet adoption and animal contact, and secondary infections can be reduced by providing better training to military health care providers on how to treat animal bites.”

Holding our breath…again

It has been 15 months since my nephew arrived home from a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Tomorrow his brother leaves for a nine-month stint in Afghanistan. I have three sisters, no brothers. And among us we have 10 sons, no daughters. And our closest experience to family in the military was our father who served in WWII. We are not accustomed to these vigils of worry with our children living in such violent circumstances.

 The Peace Corps had a slogan a few years ago: “The Peace Corps: the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I knew the first time I heard it, that it was not written by a parent. Every mom knows that parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And that tough part is not the diapers, the colic, the endless responsibility or even the teen years. It is the letting go.

 To raise a child, to love them more than you love your own life and then to step aside as they make their own choices, is tough.  We cannot save them from emotional or physical hurt. We cannot live their lives for them; we cannot protect them when life throws them deep grief and loss. We can simply bear witness to their journey, their choices. 

On the phone this morning, we chatted, that nephew and I, that 30-year-old man who has chosen to serve his country through the US military. This man who is just as he was a child: kind and gentle and thoughtful. I promised to call his mom often. I promised prayers without ceasing and regular care packages of whatever he wants. And I will end each message as I always have: “Brad, sending you all my love and Aunty Cathy kisses!” I didn’t cry until he hung up. 

The countdown to our reunion begins…

(S-R archives photo)

Only silence

What motivated a US soldier to kill Afghan civilians over the weekend?

The victims were mostly women and children, who slept. 

As a teen I would ask my dad about the Viet Nam war as black and white footage played across the evening news.

“It’s complicated,” he’d say, and give succinct summaries of the day’s events.

 As we listened to the radio report of the Afghan civilians who lost their lives at the hands of an American soldier, my teen-age son asked, “Why would anyone do that?!”

 As I fought back my tears, my only reply… was silence.

(S-R archives photo:An aerial view of Kabul city is seen from atop a hill as a street dog walks in Kabul, Afghanistan)

A moment… to honor his service

We continue to read about them each week – soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It is good to pause, to honor, to read their story and hold their loved ones in our hearts. Sgt. Tyler Holtz, 22, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was serving on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. Holtz is survived by his father, Andrew Holtz of Capistrano Beach, Calif.; his mother, Karen Holtz, and his three brothers, all of Dana Point, Calif.

Do you know a family waiting for a service member to return home? How do you support that family?

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at endnotescolumn@gmail.com.

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