“Why are we even still sending people over there?”
That’s the question I ask the most of those who support the war efforts in the middle east. It’s been interesting as a peace activist to see the progression of common answers to this question, most of them evolving into responses that seem to offer no end in sight. The more people who evolve to pose this question, the less the end justifies the means.
There was a moment of reflection on the side of the road between my mother and I, watching the motorcade file through the intersection ahead. I turned off the ignition and explained that almost a decade of war had occurred between these two tragedies. My mother seemed to have an epiphany and posed the same question that peace supporters like myself had been asking for quite some time. “Why are we even still sending people over there?”
I didn’t have an answer, and I’m not sure that there is one. All I could respectfully say was “That is a really good question.” Osama Bin Laden was killed nearly 2 and a half years prior in May of 2011. Rebuilding a region from the ground up that the U.S. had helped tear down had been well underway. It seemed obvious that even the most die-hard Red State Republican like my mother had run out of excuses to continue supporting the war effort, and more importantly, we had both simply been so preoccupied in our own lives that that we had nearly forgotten that Americans were still being sent overseas to fight in a war to begin with. Without drone strikes happening in our backyard, IED detonations, rocket propelled grenades knocking holes in buildings, and gunfire, it’s easy to forget that sort of thing is going on elsewhere. Even news stations have reverted back to celebrity gossip and the war on Christmas instead of focusing on our progress in the war on terrorism. It was impossible to ignore the reality as we sat on the side of the road watching vehicles pass and flags waving that our country was still at war.
When I was just over a year old, my mother married Jefferey Moyer, a Marine and Vietnam Veteran. I spent my childhood playing catch with him, calling him “Daddy,” and thinking of him as a war hero. He committed suicide when I was ten years old, dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound alone in a hotel room. I have memories of his arms bearing the scars of previous attempts at suicide. Even at his own hands, many years later, I view his suicide as a casualty of war. Over the years my mother got more comfortable talking with me about his “war sickness” and PTSD. There were nights when she woke up to him with his hand over her mouth telling her to be quiet and stop snoring or she was “going to get us all killed.” As my mother and I were witnessing this funeral service, I thought about the day I answered the door to a Sheriff with bad news, receiving an American flag promised to me in his will, and placing his ashes underneath a maple tree at his service. I thought about the years of heartache and healing it took my mother and I to be survivors of a veteran suicide. Today, suicide is the primary cause of death in active military personnel. 69 percent of veteran suicides are over the age of 50.
My grandfather on my mother’s side, Julian White, was a veteran of World War II. He was an airplane mechanic and came home from the war to live the rest of his life as a farmer and outdoorsman. He had recently passed away peacefully at 92 years old. My mother coming out west and going on the fishing trip was a bit of a tribute to him and his love for being on the river with us. Something about seeing a military funeral made it closer to home that there are consequences to our politics of war and peace. It was the first time since 2001 that I had ever heard her question our motives for being at war.
As the procession slowly began to pass through, I thought about how the wars that had touched the men in our lives eventually came to an end, and how this one has carried on much longer. I thought about how many soldiers would survive this war and return home only to die by their own hands. We pulled away from the shoulder, passing the families lining the road in a show of support for family and friends of Cody Patterson. Three other soldiers lost their lives in the explosion that killed Cody on October 6th 2013. Twenty Three American soldiers have died since the day three months prior to writing this piece when my mother posed the question, “Why are we even still sending people over there?” How many people can answer this, and more importantly, how many of you can ask it until there are no logical answers left?Feature Photo: H Dragon/Flickr