I was not raised in a military family. My dad was in the Navy, but with the exception of a few uncles nobody else followed suit. Dad kept detailed photo albums of those years with every buddy named in each picture. They are in a box in Mom's basement along with his uniform and Navy manual. I like to sneak down there when we're home, sit on a plastic tub and look at the remnants of an era gone by and the only evidence of a part of my dad's life that I know little about.
I'm not sure if what I know about combat and the military has come from movies or the nostalgia that sweeps over me when I open those boxes and pull out the brown photo albums with each snapshot secured by a black triangle in every corner. Newly made friends at basic training smiling in front of tents with their arms wrapped around each other. A stray dog adopted by men who were just boys a few months earlier. Living at home with a mama who woke them up for school with the smell of bacon and eggs and now learning how to use a scope and rifle.
This is what I know about getting ready for duty. Young men in black and white photos.
Is it that nostalgia that makes me think children were off limits in the rules of war? Does the musty smell of another time make me believe that honorable men did everything they could to leave the future out of the carnage of the present? Was just the opposite true and I didn't know?
Today's conflicts and wars show no signs of rules. Bombs hitting elementary schools in Gaza, shelling and poisonous gas in Syria, a passenger plane scattered in pieces in the Ukraine, thousands of people forced into the mountains with no way out in Iraq.
The eyes of traumatized children staring into the camera.
A reporter asked some six year old boys in Syria what they wanted most. "Peace," they said and collectively wept for none of them had a father still alive. A little girl in Gaza picked through the remnants of her home, crouched down and clutched a rock. "All my grandparents died today," she cried with her head in her tiny hands. "All of them."
In the newest conflict in Iraq we are air lifting water and food to a mountaintop where thousands are stranded. Are we the good guys? Weren't we the bad guys for a decade? Bombing a country day in and day out where civilians surely bore the brunt of the modern weapons of war in the name of democracy.
In our own country where thousands of immigrant children made a harrowing journey to escape the violence of a drug culture fueled by Americans, we scream at the desperate with their backpacks of worldly belongings to get the hell out of here.
A daily onslaught of despair fills the news and my stomach twists in knots at the brutality of these times.
PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod. My constant prayer over and over and over.......
.....because if I stop for one minute I think my soul will be crushed by the burden of bearing witness to what we are doing to the most innocent among us.