It took twenty days for his body to get here from Vietnam. In that time we grieved and tried to come to an acceptance that he was gone. He was only twenty years old and the most out-going of our group. We all loved him.
When we got word that he was here, we waited for his mother to call and let us know when we could go visit. It’s been over forty-seven years so those memories are fuzzy. I think his body lay in state for three days or so, giving time for all friends and family to arrive for the burial.
On the night before they closed his casket one final time, his mother took a medal he had given her to hold while he served his year in Vietnam and she pinned it on his chest. She spent time alone with him, just the two of them. She said it was just the two of them in the beginning; it would be just the two of them at the end.
My son was twenty-one when he got deployed to Iraq. They gave us five days to get ready for his departure. In that time he made a will, a DNR, and a Power of Attorney, giving me legal rights to all his affairs. He asked my advice and I told him not to be rash; he was always one to rush into things without thinking it through first. I told him I had raised him to be a man and he needed to rely on his ability to do what needed to be done. I told him he had to come home to his son. He had to come home to me.
CNN carried the war in great detail back then, so much so that the Pentagon asked them to tone it down. The enemy knew all our moves; all they had to do was watch TV.
We watched also, so when they captured the first group of Americans, my worries increased one hundred-fold. I prayed my son would know what to do if he was captured; I steeled myself for the worst. I remembered the strength of that one mother so many years ago and wondered if I could be as strong.
My son came back from three deployments, alive but changed forever. He witnessed things we could never imagine. Real things, not the kind of stuff you see on TV or on violent R-rated games, but real, ugly things one cannot shrug off as fiction.
Many of his fellow soldiers did not return. I tell him to pray for their souls. I pray for them too. I also pray for the mothers who pin medals on lapels and spend one last moment alone with their sons.
Mine lets me hug him anytime I want.