I have a mission

by , posted on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 7:23 am

My son called the other day. Like most moms I was glad he called, but unlike most moms I am part of the few, the terrified, the band of sisters known as military moms, who are really, really, really glad when their sons call. There are no words to express the relief when you hear that familiar voice, even though you are hearing only every tenth word spoken over a terrible connection from a remote outpost in Afghanistan.

And it had been a while, as my son’s unit was under a communications blackout due to the recent loss of several soldiers. The reason for the blackouts are simple: no one wants a soldier’s family to accidentally find out about their soldier’s death because of some other soldier’s facebook status update or sharing of news with others back home. The best of reasons to impose a blackout, but still tough on a mom when there is sudden and complete silence. So a huge relief to hear that voice.

The conversation I had with my son was, as all these calls are, difficult to follow. I asked how he was, he said good, good, just fine, then said something else in a couple of sentences that broke up so much I couldn’t tell what it was. Then he said they’d been on blackout, had a very, very bad week, had lost a guy for the first time at their remote outpost. Said he’d not known him terribly well, but still very bad week. I said I was sorry, couldn’t think of much else to say.

Then I tried to do what you try to do on these calls, gave him some trivial happy news from home – we were all fine, his nephew has learned to say “grandma,” his nieces are having a great summer vacation, etc. Not sure how much he heard.

I asked him if he needed any special items in his next care package. He said, no, nothing special. Then he said “Hey Mom, are you still involved in that group sending care packages? Reason I ask is there are a couple of guys here who don’t get anything. If I give you their names can you get them a package?”

“Oh, yes, absolutely,” I answered, “send me their names – rest of their address should be like yours, right?”

“Yeah, just like mine,” he said.

Then, “I have a mission Mom,” he said, “Sorry but I have to go now. I love you. Take care of yourself.”

And with that my heart plummeted.

Phone calls are rare and I did not want to put two and two together and come up with my son was given a phone call at 5:00 a.m. his time and right before a mission because it was a particularly dangerous mission and someone in the chain of command thought he should talk to his family first.

I struggled mightily against coming to that conclusion, said he should take care of himself. He jokingly said something to the effect that he was too handsome to die and that I should not worry.

But of course I did, I went about my business for the next fifteen hours or so, trying to be normal, with a large part of my brain engaged instead in trying to reject the idea that my son was out there somewhere on dangerous mission.

So I obsessively checked his facebook page and my email, and was rewarded approximately fifteen hours later with a status update on his facebook page. A nice one, wherein he described his unit meeting with a cute kid who for a pleasant change did not throw rocks at them. It gave him hope, he said.

I have more reason than most to want us out of Afghanistan, but that’s a long post for another day.

Today, I’d just like to ask that anyone reading this give some thought to those guys in my son’s unit who do not receive care packages from home. I don’t know why they don’t, either my son didn’t say or the terrible connection kept me from hearing why. I do know that there are soldiers who join because they come from foster home backgrounds and have no families and nowhere to go when they turn eighteen, there are soldiers from poor families who can’t afford to send packages, and there are soldiers who come from troubled homes. Regardless, it doesn’t matter why, the thing is that packages from home are a huge event that makes everyone happy when one arrives, whoever it arrives for. And I just can’t get my head around what it must feel like to be deployed in this kind of setting and get nothing from home.

So I’m going to add those names from my son to the list of “that group I’m involved in” Netroots for the Troops, and will beg, plead and encourage anyone reading this to go to this recent Daily Kos Diary and contribute – among other things, we are still short of cash for our upcoming care package packaging at the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas, but there are other ways you can help.

Thank you very much.


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2 Responses to “I have a mission”

  1. Jennifer Laesch says:

    Thank you for allowing us to feel we are part of your family. Everyone should feel like a part of the Military families whether they have a brother, sister, parent, uncle, or grandfather that is serving or already served. Let’s all get together and contribute. If you would like to contribute, anything, please call me 630.809.6595 or email me jjlaesch@gmail.com and I’d be happy to pick up items and get them to Downtowner and mail to her son’s troop. Soldiers are ususally in need of socks, deorderant, gum, magazines, beef jerky, small tubes of toothpaste, handi-wipes, etc.
    Let’s all do our civic duties and take care of our soldiers.
    God bless Soldier Bennett and Sgt Laesch and all our troops!

  2. Downtowner says:

    Thanks Jen!!! What a sweetie you are…and I know you know how this feels, as yours is a military family. I have been volunteering for Netroots for the Troops, and their event is coming up soon, but more locally I have recently offered to volunteer for Fox Valley Troop Support, a wonderful group which sends out packages monthly to our men and women who are deployed, and who do other great things to support local military families.

    Their website is at http://www.fvts.org They are truly wonderful people who have already sent my son one care package. If anyone can volunteer locally, or wants to contribute locally, I’d encourage them to do so here.

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