All day today I have thought about how profoundly fortunate our family is that Ben returned from two tours in Iraq safe and sound. Many families have not been so lucky, and today I have wept for them and those they have lost. Yesterday there was an exquisite essay in The New York Times Magazine on the Lives page titled "Ferguson: Remembering those you didn't even know." "Ferguson" tells the story of a young marine who the author, Michael Norman, had just met in Vietnam, being killed in an instant before the author's eyes. "So I took Ferguson home with me," Norman concludes 40 years later. "Who else was going to remember him? Who else among us knew him and could carry his good name, his reputation, the memory of him as a marine? Remembering was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another."
How many of our men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan at this very moment have had, or will have this same experience? Unseen and unheralded, they go on with their missions.
On May 23rd on the front page of USA Today there was an article entitled "Friends, comrades live in the hearts of Iraq veterans." The article is continued on page 5A with pictures of the fallen and those who remember and mourn them. Their faces tell the story. I look at those faces and wonder at a president who would veto the new just passed GI Bill. Congress must override his veto and reject his profound callousness toward the members of our armed services and their families. Every act the congress takes that pertains to members of our armed services must be an act that honors those who return and those who do not.
Monday, May 12, 2008
The New GI Bill (HR5740)
I just received an e-mail alert from IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) which said that a small group of congressmen in the House are trying to block passage of The New GI Bill (HR5740) which would help send our returning troops to college. I am sad that these kinds of alerts need to be sent; that there are those who would send our soldiers to war and deny them the benefits they need (and have more than earned) when they come home. I want to add my voice to all the voices supporting this Bill. Please urge your Representative to vote YES for the New GI Bill (HR5740).
Home at last!
The book tour was a whirlwind of readings, interviews and conversations not only with those who came to the readings, but also with the wonderful media escorts in each city who made sure I made it to everything on time. A thousand thanks to Barnes and Noble at 55 Old Orchard Center in Skokie; Anderson's in Naperville; Tattered Cover in Denver; Colorado College in Colorado Springs; Elliott Bay in Seattle; Books Inc. in San Francisco and Book Passage in Corte Madera. What beautiful places to share The Warrior!
Ben and I made a visit to Fort Carson to read from The Warrior and talk with military family members and post personnel. A special thanks to Ann Edinger, who set up the reading, to Doris Chandler, who's been getting the word out about The Warrior since last fall, and to everyone at the Grant Library who made us feel so welcome. This visit was particularly touching to me because I had the chance to meet two soldiers who served with Ben over the last few years. I could see their respect and affection for each other, and I knew as I watched them talk, that though Ben will soon be a civilian, he will always be a Green Beret. It is so moving to me to know there are men and women who, though they love their families and would rather be home with them, volunteer themselves to serve with the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force on our behalf. No matter how one feels about the war, it is a privilege to meet these men and women and their families and to be able to thank them.
The book tour and interviews have brought me in touch not only with family members whose lives have been affected by this war, but also with Vietnam and WWII vets and their families. When you send in your stories, please let me know if it's okay for me to post your message on the blog. And those of you who I met "on the road" who shared with me your thoughts and feelings about your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, nieces and nephews, who are serving now, or about to be deployed, please write in with updates. It was an honor to meet you all.
From our readers...
I have received many e-mails responding to the poetry segment last Friday, May 9, on The News Hour. (I only post your messages on my blog if you have given me permission to do so. ) I'd like to share this one with you as it was very touching to Ben and me:
Dear Ms. Richey:
Thank you for sharing your poetry with the public and with the viewing audience on PBS. I saw the interview with you and your son Ben this afternoon on public television, and I was moved. I was heartened to see that you and your son are willing to sit together and discuss such deep issues so candidly and with such mutual compassion. I have rarely seen military families willing to engage on the air in this type of healing dialogue, perhaps because the media are so reluctant to focus on resolution. I suspect and hope that there are other families out there who are trying to build similar bridges, and I know there are certainly many more families who would benefit from this show and your poetry.
My father is a WWII veteran with Alzheimer's, and he has very little short-term memory left. A few months ago he told me a story about his tour of duty as an airplane mechanic in the European theater, a story that I never heard him tell before. He recounted the story as if it were yesterday, so vividly and detailed as if it came from some clear pool rather than the tangled memory of his disease. I sometimes think this and other war stories of his are the result of post-traumatic stress, even though they are sixty years after-the-fact. I hope your son and other veterans of the war will never have to experience long-lasting memories such as my father's. I feel that the work and writing you are doing will go a long way to make this possible. Thank you again.