I wrote the following on April 10, 2003. Back then I used to write a weekly column for a local newspaper. I cut it down a little so I could share it with you for the Fourth of July 2013. The price of freedom is never free.
After three months of sporadic emails, almost non-existent phone calls, and sparse letters, I came home the other day to find a package in my mailbox from my Marine son fighting in Iraq.
I was stunned and delighted to find a padded brown envelope addressed to me. Inside wrapped in a Ziploc freezer bag, I found a foreign-made throwaway camera, dusty with sand. The bag was opaque and brittle from use. Everything I send to him I wrap in these bags. His life is so Spartan that I am glad he finds uses for them.
I sped with the camera to have the photos developed and waited there until the tech handed them to me. I opened them immediately.
Pictures of helicopters, sand, and Hummers - then I flipped to a picture of my son holding an M-60, and it hit me so hard, I started to cry.
A man looks up at me from these pictures. He rarely smiles. He points to things so I can see what he sees. He looks older. He looks fit. He has gained weight and muscle. In every picture there is an M-60 or an M-16, and I realize it is what keeps my young warrior alive. This is what will bring him home.
More pictures – of him, of his friends, some whom I know from backyard picnics and Saturday night’s spent at my house while they watched movies. Other young men smile at me though we have never been introduced. A wife, a mother would appreciate a copy of these photos, so I scanned them and sent them to the Marine Key Volunteer so she could identify them and send them to the other families in my son’s unit.
I carry those photos with me from room to room in my house. I store them in my purse so they can go with me wherever I go. They are reminders that he is alive and well.
I rush home every day and look in the mailbox anticipating another package, but all I find are bills and junk mail. But what I really want is to rush home and find a six-foot Marine waiting for me in the living room, a smile on his sweet face.
PS: My son has since served two more times, 2005 in Iraq and 2010 in Afghanistan.