Saturday, August 22, 2009

Plague of the Unknown

As you know my second son (SN2) is an infantryman in the US Marine Corps. He was actually trained as a mortar man and when needed he mans one of the 60mm tubes (the Mk 244 I believe, I was a swabbie and I leave all this hands on killing stuff to the professionals) but like all Marines, he is an infantryman (Rifelman) first. Back in May he deployed with his unit to Afghanistan and is currently somewhere in the Nawa District of Helmand Province. A hot and hary place. Lots of killing going on there and in other nearby districts, lots of IED's and various booby traps and mines left for the Marines to find.

Not a good place. I mean, if you were a Drug Lord and wanted to vacation there and see where most of the world's Poppy comes from then this is the place. But, not if you are a parent of a Marine Infantryman sent there to "Make Peace or Die" (which is the motto of the Battalion my son is assigned to).

We have not heard from him in more than 30 days and we are tense and of course, worried.

We have had many sleepless nights here in the Swamp (++). A couple of times a day, every day, I do a Google and Bing search for the latest of what is happening there in the AF. I also search for photo's and pictures that are released from either the military or the many news agencies that have embedded reporters and photographers. Looking for pictures or video of SN2, anyting that would show him and confirm to us that he is still Ok. I have found the occasional photo of his actual unit; sleeping in holes dug into the hard earth looking not unlike open graves, another of them carrying a wounded comrade to a waiting medivac helo, and another of most of his platoon strung out along a long canal firing their rifles at an unseen enemy.

Some nights are worse than others when we hear in the news or find a posting about fatalities from the AF. "4 Troops killed in Southern Afghanistan" was one such just this last week. There was little else in the actual AP report, two killed by gunfire and two more in an explosion, all Marines. We watch the street all day and night worried that the next car to pull up our street is the "Official Use Only" government car with a CASREP and a Chaplin onboard. New's this bad is always delivered in person. Late at night I lay there trying to sleep, I am one of those that hears everything when I sleep and when it's a car on the little road I come up out of snooze to DEFCON2. Which of my neighbors are still out I think, doing a quick mental inventory of cars in the driveways on the street, could it be someone out for a late night snack? Was it someone simply lost and was just going around to get back on the Pike and out of town? The car drives past our house and turns down the Rabbit Run. I return to DEFCON4, close eyes, sleep comes eventually. Until the next drive by that is.

So, for the next day or two I scan every little bit I can off the Web, checking for names on causality reports. These ones this last week were from the North Carolina unit and I feel relief, my eyes tear and I have to pause to control the emotions that overtake me. I weep not just for the loss of more fine Americans but because of the guilt I feel, because the names mean, they were not mine. Guilt. Yeah, the guilt from thanking god it was some other parents son that was killed. And I hope and pray for all the rest of them over there. Not just the Marines but the Army guys too. And yes, the many Navy and Air Force personnel as well, they all have skin in this game.

I know they all can't come home and my shame and guilt is that I don't care so long as just this one does.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

++ Note - The Swamp is the local term for the geographic area here in Pennsylvania that I live and Blog from. In a future post I will elaborate. JvT2


Buck said...

My heart goes out to you and yours, Jimmy. And my thoughts, too. Godspeed for your son.

SuzieQ said...

From NC, saying a prayer for your son and all the other sons. My younger son is ex Navy.

JimmyT said...

Buck, Thanks for your thoughts. I hope for the best over there.

Suzie, thanks for dropping by and for your prayers. The NC unit (the 2/8 Marines) has been hit very hard over the last 5 or 6 weeks. My son is in a unit from California. Thanks again.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

virgil xenophon said...

Jimmy T/

It's always different when you're the parent instead of the child. I now that when I was at DaNang I was not as diligent about writing my poor mother as I should have been and I know I caused her many sleepless nights. Of course, that was in the days before the internet, satellite/cell phones, etc. But while it's theoretically easier now to stay in touch because of advances in tech, the psychology is still the same--and for young guys keeping the parents abreast of goings on is, lets face it, just not a high priority for most no matter how closely knit the relationship is. Between the pace of ops where the days may drag, but the weeks (and even months) fly by and not wanting to upset anyone on the one hand about the rough stuff, but hating to talk about general BS on the other, it sometimes is easy to put off things--at least I found it to be so. Small consolation to you and his Mother,of course, but I'm afraid it's just the nature of the beast. I know that I myself only realized just what I put my parents through when I became a parent myself--some things
will never change--and youthful nonchalance about death and dying is--unfortunately for we parents--one of them.

There now--just knowing that makes you feel a WHOLE LOT better, I'm sure, right? :)

Some things just have to be endured.....easy for me to say, I know...I don't know how my Mom stood it.......was a WHOLE lot easier for me doing it than her worrying about it. Sort of like coaching vs playing. I've been on both sides of the equation and playing is MUCH easier on the gut than coaching where you die a thousand deaths every second just watching helplessly in a close game. As a player? Hey, no biggie, coach, we'll take care of it...

I hope for the best for your son. When he gets home on leave hug him first, then slug him next for not keeping in touch. THAT'LL let him know you love him, but are STILL ticked off at him for what he put you thru...that he'd better listen to his parents as well as his CO. LOL! :)

JimmyT said...

VX, thanks for the advice, it helps to comiserate with those that have been and are going through the same process. I was bad about calling when I was on deployment back in the '70's but I wrote a lot while on cruise.

I will bust on the Young Corporal when I see him next, for sure.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Reese said...

I read your post fresh the other day and didn't know what to say. Those above got it right-- what I wanted to say to you, a virtual stranger.

VX goes beyond. I forgot what it must have been like for my parents and girlfriend while on deployment in the Eighties.


JimmyT said...

Reese, thanks for the thoughts. Still no word. Holding up ok though. Thanks again.

BT: Jimmy T sends.