Archive for Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fort Hood aftermath raises family memories

November 12, 2009

I work with military families. I come from a long history of men in my family having served both here and abroad. My memory stretches back to uncles coughing and spewing from having been “gassed” in the war.

My cousin Joey went off to war in an Army uniform. He left his dog Spike, a miniature collie, to live with us. My older sister married an Air Force man, whom she met at a CSO in St. Louis. I never saw him in uniform, but I did see his brothers in uniform when they came home to his funeral.

It was the first time I saw a grown man cry. His brothers sobbed with heaving chests and rivulets of water that coursed down their faces and splashed onto creaseless uniforms, splattered on highly polished black shoes. Later, one of his brothers showed my brother how to get such sheen on a pair of black shoes.

My brother became a reservist in the Army, serving monthly and in the summer time. My mother had his picture, in uniform, on the desk. When he came home, she put the picture away and I never saw it again. She came from a long line of Quakers, peace loving, antislavery, civil rights folks who abhorred violence. She loved her country and she loved her son; war did not change that.

I have nephews in the Armed Forces — one in the Air Force, now discharged, and another in the Army, active duty in Afghanistan. My life with these men — no woman in my family has yet served — informs me and reminds me of the fragility of life, the duty that each of us has in serving our country and the cause of justice in some way.

I was taken back through these memories in the aftermath of Fort Hood. It is doubly painful to know that a man, trained in the mental health profession, has broken so badly and taken the lives of those with whom he was trained, those who trusted him and relied on him to defend them when they served in harm’s way. Yet, he so quickly and with apparent intent, put them in harm’s way.

I cannot imagine the terror of their final moments. I cannot imagine sitting in a room, filling out papers for deployment, becoming the target of such violence. And yet, it was their colleagues who responded to end the violence and take care of the wounded. It is what a soldier is trained to do.

And we who are trained to take care of those who serve will try to offer some light in a tunnel of darkness, to obtain some internal peace in the midst of chaos and to find meaning in the meaningless. It is what we are trained to do.


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