An Unknown Soldier

I met them over a long Saturday barbecue, parents quietly proud of their boy. It took nearly the whole evening for it to come out.

Their son had wanted to be a soldier since he was five years old. He enlisted after college and is now with Special Forces in Iraq. His father is politically conservative, and their son loves arguing opposing views with him. “Just to bait him,” the mother says.
Does she worry about him? “Yes, I can’t help it. But God keeps showing me that I have to give my worries to Him.”

Phone calls from the young man are bounced around the globe so that they appear to come from anywhere but Iraq. Web mail is very slow because it is censored. But they have a code worked out. The family home is Baghdad; the two-lane highway nearby, the Tigris; and, “I wish I could look toward the hills and see the ironwood in bloom,” denotes east or west, with other hints for north and south. Thus the parents generally know where their son is tasked with an Iraqi unit that once served the Saddam regime and is now involved in counter-terrorism.

He wrote once to his parents, “Most of these men have probably committed atrocities. But they are brave soldiers and very skilled. I do not question their loyalty. I put my life in their hands everyday.”

More recently he described the loss of a buddy who was killed in Afghanistan. “I wanted to get away, just be by myself. But after a while my men were all around me. One of them said, ‘We don’t know why you Americans fight for our freedom. But your grief is ours. We are with you.”

The Iraqis sat quietly with their comrade and mourned for the loss of a young American they did not know, who was killed in a land they had not seen.