Madeleine is the founder of our Military Support Network. The following ran in U.S. Today.
My son's home from Iraq, but still I worry
Commentary By Madeleine Tavares
Three months have passed since my son's squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment returned from Iraq. But my son is different from the "man cub" who went off to war 15 months before.
When he left for Iraq, my son was a well-trained but innocent 25-year-old. When he returned home, his walk was more confident, evidence I'm sure of the difficult tasks he had undertaken. But behind that ever-present wry smile was now a sad and soulful look. Oh, he was jubilant to be home, yet I'd see a level of detachment etched on his face, mixed with a sense of loss for friends who did not make this return journey.
The sad stories of his experience have come out very slowly, surfacing from somewhere deep in his soul. In sporadic intervals, he has confided to me his grief when his driver was lost to an IED in Balad. Or the time when he was packing up the effects of a fellow captain killed in combat and how he could still smell the personal scent of his friend in the room. Or the harrowing experience of rocket attacks on Christmas Day 2008, which killed a newly arrived ER surgeon.
Events like these were everyday occurrences for him and his fellow soldiers. And each day brought a new challenge. One day he'd be sleeping in the desert on the firing line with the howitzer guns of his field artillery battery. On another day he'd be talking business with local sheikhs as part of a civil affairs unit. Or capturing al-Qaeda insurgents from irrigation ditches.
Iraq has changed my son and others like him forever. He finds it hard to tolerate whining, and many little things are not as important as they once might have been. Families have been changed forever, too, as I was so profoundly reminded by accounts of the dedication ceremony last week of their regiment's Iraq war memorial at Fort Hood, Texas. Families of the fallen heroes, 15 from my son's squadron alone, came to honor their lost loved ones. It was a grim reminder of the realities of war. For 15 months, I had prayed that my family would not be asked to make that same sacrifice. Because my son's service is finished later this year, I am relieved beyond measure that his duty is done.
I am grateful as I listen at church each week to the reading of the military prayer list that his name is no longer there. While the fear for his safety has ebbed away, my vigilance is not yet over. For him, the war in Iraq is finished, but I now watch for the signs of emotional turmoil and a war within.