A mother’s perspective on the war
A few years ago, when the movie “Black Hawk Down” premiered, I asked my son, Ben, to take me to see it. He had read the book and had already seen the movie, giving both rave reviews.
At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch the film while sitting beside him, knowing full well what my emotional reaction would be to what we already knew was a tragically true story. But like all parents, I wanted to support what interested my child. And, admittedly, I was hoping to have an opportunity to talk with him afterwards, offering him another perspective on military conflict – a mother’s perspective.
As we sat there in the movie theater, I had difficulty following along with my usual critical detachment. Those fresh-faced young men wearing Army fatigues and neat military haircuts reminded me of my son. And unlike the usual war films depicting self-assured heroes charging into the maw of death with gut-wrenching courage, these soldiers were young, brash and painfully unsure of themselves.
Just boys. Like my son, Ben, who would be going to Egypt soon for another military deployment.
While watching the tragic story in Somalia unfold on the 40-foot cinema screen and surround sound, my mind flashed on memories of Ben growing up:
His fascination with Mattel’s GI Joe that resulted in a collection of more than 30 action figures that he knew by heart – each “soldier’s” name, rank and weaponry assignment.
The many evenings our family watched episodes of M.A.S.H., laughing at the crazy antics of Hawkeye Pierce and Radar O’Reilly. Ben- too young to understand the black humor and social commentary on war – enjoyed his parents’ laughter.
A 5-year-old Ben wearing the cowboy outfit he wanted for his birthday – complete with hat, fringed chaps and vest, lead-and-chrome-plated six-shooter with leather holster, wearing a tin sheriff’s badge. He wore that Wild West uniform every day for a month, playing the hero fighting imaginary “bad guys.”
And then there was Ben’s Star Wars era, defender of Good against Evil on a galactic scale.
As I sat in the movie theater, watching those young actors pretending to be the real-life soldiers, it was easy for me to see a playful little boy, filled with imagination, in all of them. And it was easy for me to imagine the aching fear in the hearts of all mothers as they hand their children over to serve our country in military duty.
I was able to brush aside my unshed tears of fear for my own son – after all, the U.S. wasn’t at war at the time of “Black Hawk Down,” the movie.
But now our country is poised to go to war. At any moment, my son could be called up to face extreme danger. And I know what every parent of a soldier deployed to the Gulf is feeling at this very moment.
My prayers of comfort and support will be with every one of them.
Ironically, however, I also support the anti-war protesters, because I believe it’s critically important that the feet of the politicians, who’ll send my son into harm’s way, be held to the fire, making certain every soldier’s life will not be lost to anything less than a heroic cause. And as the mother of a son in military service, I need to know that every American soldier who answers the call of duty issued by our country’s leaders be seen as a hero in the world’s eyes, as well.
You see, from this mother’s perspective, my son will always be a “little boy” hero fighting imaginary bad guys with his tin badge courage – doing the right thing.
Debra Pardee lives in Grass Valley and is the copy desk chief of The Union.
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