The Cost

My Lil Blue started school yesterday. He’s excited because this year he gets to use a binder and erasable pens. Big stuff, right there. Also, they no longer get bussed to and from school. No, no, that’s for babies. Right now, I walk him to school and back. But at some point I’m going to have to let go and let him do it on his own.

As I was walking behind him and his best friend, I looked up at them and realized they are big kids now. That happens a lot lately. Lil Blue will say or do something and I’ll think, “in a few years he’ll be grown.” It makes me a little sad, a little nervous, a little happy, a little curious… Who will he become? What will Grown Up Blue be like? All I can do as a parent is give him as many tools as possible so that he doesn’t turn out to be a jerk. The hardest part is letting go and accepting that I can’t control every bit of his life.

One of my biggest fears is that he’ll enlist in the military. Not because of any political or philosophical belief. I am a pacifist who wholeheartedly supports our troops. That may be a contradiction, but what can I tell ya? I’m a contradictory kinda gal. No, I don’t want him to join the military simply because he is my child and I don’t want him to be killed. Yes, I know that sounds irrational. He could be killed doing anything, even crossing the street or driving. I know, but who said anything about parental fears being rational?

So today, my very good friend The Rev posted this article on FB(via AlterNet) about a father who lost his 20-year-old son in Iraq in 2004. The father’s name is Carlos Arredondo. His son’s name was Alexander S. Arredondo and he was a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Twenty days later, on Aug. 25, a U.S. government van pulled up in front of Carlos’ home in Hollywood, Fla. It was Carlos’ 44th birthday and he was expecting a birthday call from Alex. “I saw the van and thought maybe Alex had come home to surprise me for my birthday or maybe they were coming to recruit my other son, Brian,” he says. Three Marine officers climbed out of the van. One asked, “Are you Carlos Arredondo?” He answered “yes.”

“I’m sorry, we’re here to notify you about the death of Lance Cpl. Arredondo,” one of the officers told him. Alex was the 968th soldier or Marine to be killed in the Iraq war.

I can’t imagine the pain this man must have gone through. And is still going through. In his anger and grief, he set the military van, and parts of himself, on fire.This wasn’t the part of the article that made me break down though.

After his recovery, Carlos began collecting things that reminded him of his son and putting them on his pickup truck. He began going to anti-war protests. He wants people to see his truck; to see what the true cost of war is.

The part that made me actually cry is when the article tells what’s inside the casket that Carlos has put on his truck.

He has placed some of his son’s favorite childhood toys and belongings in the coffin, including a soccer ball, a pair of shoes, a baseball and a Winnie the Pooh.

Regardless of what you feel about the war or soldiers, these are people’s babies. When you look at a soldier, you may see a brave man or woman defending their country. You may see a baby killer who is promoting our country’s imperialistic ideas around the world. I, personally, see a person who for whatever reason has chosen to do a job that I absolutely do not have the balls to do. And I respect and appreciate the work they do. But it doesn’t really matter what any of us see when we look at them. Because when their parents look at these soldiers, they see their baby. They see their little princess. They see their baby boy. They see the first steps they took. The first lost tooth. That time they hit a home run. Teaching them how to tie their shoes and how to slow dance before their first school dance. They see those funny toothless smiles. And those tears that break a parent’s heart.They see every homemade card and art project they’ve saved over the years, hidden away in a drawer or a box in the closet.

These are the things I think about when I read stories like Carlos Arredondo’s. And when I see pictures like these:

I have no political or social comment. No advice. No wisdom. No words.

All I have is my deep sorrow and sadness for this parent who lost his child. I can’t hope he gets over this, because he never will and probably doesn’t want to.

I do hope that one day, he can wake up and not have his first thought be one of indescribable pain.


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