Tag Archives: Iraq

Stupid War!

25 May

Tonight, in my tiny hometown of Eupora, MS, there was a candlelight vigil for a fallen Marine. It was held at the local high school football field. And since this is a place where everybody knows everybody, I’m sure most of the town was in attendance. The marine, Corporal Justin Cooper, was killed in combat in Afghanistan last week. His body arrived home yesterday in a flag-draped casket accompanied by fellow Marines.

Justin was 22 years old. Before this tour in Afghanistan, he had already served two tours in Iraq … at 22 years old. Part of the reason this hits so close to home for me is that my youngest brother is also a soldier. He is in the Army National Guard and has already served one tour in Iraq. He and Justin are the same age. They walked across the field together at graduation, received their high school diplomas on the same night.

After graduation, Justin attended one semester of community college before joining the Marines. My brother, who had already joined the Guard, enjoyed only a few days of summer vacation before heading off to boot camp. From there, he was immediately sent to his AIT training. And after a few days of being home again, he was called to report for training camp, as he was to leave for Iraq in a little over a month. He was only 19 when he was called up for his first tour of duty.

He is on alert to be called to active service even now and will most likely return to Iraq within the next year. Every time I hear of a military death overseas, I think of my brother. I hope that he never gets that call to return to Iraq or Afghanistan, or possibly Iran before this whole thing is finally over. This latest tragedy makes the reality of war all the more real. My thoughts are with Justin’s family, with the people of my hometown.

It’s a close knit community. A tragedy that befalls one family affects all of us. Eupora is a small, Mississippi town with little opportunity. Many residents once found work in several factories that littered the town. Factories that are now gone, replaced by cheaper labor overseas. The unemployment rate is high, and so are the suicide and poverty rates. Many of the boys here become soldiers simply because there is nothing else for them to do. They all feel a sense of pride in making something of themselves, in serving our country, in protecting our freedoms. They all have seen things that would scar many of us for life. They all have families who worry about their safety when they are away and who grieve deeply when they never make it back.

Justin’s body will be laid to rest tomorrow afternoon, Memorial Day, a day set aside to commemorate U.S. men and women who have given their lives in military service to our country. So tomorrow, Memorial Day 2008, please take a few moments to pray for our service men and women and their families. Take a few moments to think about the freedoms that these kids (most of them are just kids) give their lives to protect. Take a few moments to think about what you were doing at 22, and then think about these kids who are spending their youth fighting unpopular wars, leaving behind family and friends, never sure if they will see them again in this life.

Related: Fallen Marine heroic, selfless

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Could I Ever Have Said Enough?

18 Oct

There is something that has been weighing on my mind a lot recently, brought to the forefront by the re-emergence of a guy (I’ll call him B) I used to know. Thank you MySpace. This guy is someone whom I never knew very well, but was always nice to me. I also knew his brother (J), again not very well, but he was always nice to me. I haven’t seen either of them in years. B is serving his second tour in Iraq, God bless him. And J, well J is no longer with us.

This is the part that I can’t get off of my mind. The last time I saw J was probably about five years ago, and about two weeks before he decided to take his own life. Some would say it was a random coincidence that I bumped into him that day when I did, I would disagree with that sentiment.

I had gone out to lunch with a friend when she noticed a guy, who was at this particular restaurant alone, constantly looking in our direction. He looked familiar, but not instantly recognizable. I asked him if we knew each other, and he told me who he was. I remember being somewhat taken aback because I hadn’t seen him in several years, and even then it was just in passing. What happened next is something I will probably never forget.

He began to open up to me, about his life, how bad it had been going, and how he had just moved back home to make a fresh start. He said he knew I had been through a lot in my life and wanted to know how I was able to not let it get me down. We talked a little about joy, and about peace, and about the source of that joy and peace. But I only said a little, and he had to leave, and I thought I would bump into him again. But I didn’t. And I never will. I’ll never get the chance to say all the things I wish I had said, and I may never know if the few things I did say ever made a difference.

Now, there is his brother, who has opened up to me a little in an e-mail. Not much, but just enough to make me believe that this too is not a coincidence. I want so badly to tell him about the last time I saw J and to tell him all the things I never said to his brother. I just don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I have the right words. And I worry, a lot. I worry about IED’s and roadside bombs. I worry that I might miss this second chance.