Saturday, March 18, 2006

MOSTLY, I DON'T KNOW THEM


Try A Grilled Sub
Originally uploaded by O Caritas.

Mostly, I don't know them--or only peripherally. Maybe a lot of us don't. Maybe that's why we don't say more. Don't grieve more.

A waitress who worked with me at the country club last summer spoke of her brother's education and wedding being disrupted when his National Guard unit was activated. He was sent three times in all, and forced to cancel the wedding twice, but ultimately returned home safely. In the end, he married quietly, too superstitious to plan another gala event.

A neighbor encountered when I went out to get the mail mentioned that a nephew had gone, but I didn't hear anything after that. I don't think I asked.

Then, a couple of months ago, a friend called to invite my son to his going away party. He had enlisted in the army. Trevor worked with my son at his after school job at the sub shop. Think skinny, slouched, with long hair pulled into a ponytail and a great smile. They said he liked to smoke a little weed behind the shop during his break. Still, he was so responsible that the boss left Trevor in charge when he was off. His parents owned a tiny cluttered house near the shop where friends and co-workers frequently hung out after work. I remember the big flag hanging in the front yard.

After he graduated from high school last year, Trevor went full time at the sub shop. I don't think he saw a lot of alternatives. It's almost easy to see the appeal of the army. The travel. The chance to be someone else. Even the danger. He recently called my son to say he was graduating from boot camp. He boasted about the shape he was in, the muscle he'd put on, but didn't mention what would come next.

We found that out a couple of days ago when my husband ran into Trevor's sister. Her brother's heading for Texas now--and then to Iraq, she said, attempting a nervous smile.

His nineteenth birthday is still some months away.

26 comments:

Mary said...

This wrenches the heart. No words, or none that would serve any purpose. But thank you.

rdl said...

I got goosebumps. I'm moving to Canada if Luke has to go.

donna said...

I was visiting an old high school friend and they got a call from their son, who had just been called by one of his friends in Iraq. The friend was ok, one of their mutual buddies was wounded - and two guys in their unit killed by an IED.

My frined had just bought an H3 - because she thought it would be "fun to drive". Some people just aren't getting the real price of oil these days.

Amishlaw said...

A very poignant post, with the perfect headline. Patry, you already know this, but it can't hurt hearing it again, "You are one fine writer."

Sharon Hurlbut said...

This is so lovely, Patry. It's getting harder not to know them as things drag on, and I wonder how many personal faces it will take before we acknowledge the truth.

Cate said...

Oh, I feel so many things now--such intense sadness, anger, confusion. What to do? What can we do? What MUST we do?

I second Amishlaw: you are one fine writer.

Pearl said...

Another story from you that I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read. Thank you.

kasturi said...

you are indeed a fine writer, patry. i also 'felt' the depth of this post. A friend of mine's daughter, in her mid-thirties and expecting her first baby, is seeing her husband off to Iraq in May.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Oh Jesus this is sad. I detest that signing up is the only option available to some people. I detest that war is all about poor people fighting poor people to preserve the interests of the rich.

This is very sad. I wish Trevor safety.

zhoen said...

I was there for Gulf War I. I knew when this mess all began again what it would become, and I had nightmares. I cannot allow myself to think about it much, or I cannot get up in the morning. I know so many who are likely to be there, I know many who have gone, are gone there. I get so angry and frustrated and sick at all the stupidity and utter wrongness.

K said...

My first visit and this post went right to the heart.

Wonderful writing, and best luck to you all.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Not only do we mostly not know them, but our government sees to it that we forget that they come home in flag-draped coffins. Their anonymity is essential for this war to continue.

MB said...

Oh.

Oh.

And when they do come home they do not come home the same. And when they do not come home we do not hear about it.

Safety for Trevor...

Dale said...

(o)

Simply Coll said...

My 'mothers heart' shudders at the thought of such a young lad going to war. When is enough..enough.

Sky said...

Oh, Patry, what is the answer? How do we get them home safely and for good? I am so disgusted and angry with this administration. I think Congress is finally seeing the light now - or is it simply November's election the House is seeing? They are up for re-election then - the whole body of the House.

Yes, you are right - it is because America doesn't know them, before or after, alive or dead...it is ignorance that keeps us quiet.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks to all who left well wishes for the young man I called "Trevor."

To those who left kind comments about the piece, I thank you, too.

Maybe we could all vow to know one name, to hang one soldier's picture on the refrigerator, to write one letter...

Jean said...

The war is a tragedy. The governments forget that the soldiers are the human ones. The soldiers have a father, a m^re, a friend or a wife, friends. The soldiers are not objects. This is true for the two camps which are fought. It is necessary to make the war with the war. It is the war which it is necessary to kill, not soldiers.

La guerre est une tragédie .
Les gouvernements oublient que les soldats sont des humains . Les soldats ont un père , une m^re , une amie ou une épouse , des amis . Les soldats ne sont pas des objets .
Ceci est vrai pour les deux camps qui se combattent .
Il faut faire la guerre à la guerre .
C'est la guerre qu'il faut tuer , pas les soldats .

Patry Francis said...

Jean: beautiful words, whether in French or in English. Thank you.

colleen said...

Just the thought of someone that young over there...or anyone...brings a chill up my spine and a moistness to my eyes.

We sold our truck to a young man who had recently come back from Iraq and was having some Post Traumatic Stress symptoms and trouble with re-entry into civilian life.

But mostly I don't know them.

Fred Garber said...

Here are the lyrics to an old song " Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya"

While going the road to sweet Athy, A-roo, Ha-roo.
While going the road to sweet Athy, A-roo, Ha-roo.
While going the road to sweet Athy a stick in me hand and a tear in me eye.
A doleful damsel I did spy, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

With yer drums and guns and guns and drums, the enemy nearly slew ya.
Me darling dear you look so queer, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

Where are the legs with which you ran, A-roo, Ha-roo
Where are the legs with which you ran, A-roo, Ha-roo
Where are the legs with which you ran, when first you went to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

With yer drums and guns and guns and drums, the enemy nearly slew ya.
Me darling dear you look so queer, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

You haven't and arm, you haven't a leg, A-roo, Ha-roo
You haven't and arm, you haven't a leg, A-roo, Ha-roo
You haven't and arm, you haven't a leg, you're an eyeless, noseless, chickenless egg.
You'll have to be put in a bowl to beg, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

With yer drums and guns and guns and drums, the enemy nearly slew ya.
Me darling dear you look so queer, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

How sad it is to seee you so, A-roo, Ha-roo.
How sad it is to seee you so, A-roo, Ha-roo.
How sad it is to seee you so, And I think of you now as an object of woe.
But Peggy'll still keep you on as her beau. Johnny I hardly knew ya.

With yer drums and guns and guns and drums, the enemy nearly slew ya.
Me darling dear you look so queer, Johnny I hardly knew ya.

Patry Francis said...

Colleen: thanks for sharing the story of the young man who bought your truck.

Fred: A poignant song indeed. I've heard of the title, but never saw it printed out or contemplated what it meant.

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