Dear Mom and Dad,
Just another day in Iraq, waking up wondering if today is the day I get to meet the Maker at this fuckin’ place.
I put a bullet in clip with HOMIS written on the side of it. Was thinking about you guys today, wondering what you’re doing.
I couldn’t sleep last night. The mortars just wouldn’t stop. It’s almost comforting, hearing the outgoing rounds blast out of the 120 (120 mm mortar round HEDP) (High Explosive Dual Purpose).
I lay in my bed thinking about being a little kid again. Where did the days go? Life is different here. I would try to tell you how, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.
I miss my baby girl. I will kill them all to come home to that sweet, innocent little baby. My heart is so cold, and she is like a spark burning deep in my chest. How will I ever tell her what I did here? I tremble at the thought of holding her. She is the only thing that scares me in this world. My breaths shorten at the thought of her.
Please don’t hate me for what I have done. I had no choice. I wished and prayed they would just stop and give up. I think to myself every time I pull the trigger, “Why don’t you just stop. Please. Don’t make me shoot you.”
But after awhile it turns to hate; the thought of one bullet not going through his chest upsets me.
Hope all is well. Maybe I will get to come home soon.
I’m sorry that it has taken me a few days to get back to you: I have been traveling this week, and life got away from me (much thanks to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I might add, the number one exemplar of “chaos theory in action”).
I have pondered this letter often, however. After four years of working with the men and women who, like you, once served in combat, I still find myself surprised at how unprepared—how reluctant, even—I can be to experience the dramatic shifts in thought and emotion that you and so many of your brothers and sisters experience, sometimes hour by hour.
To feel at one moment a love for a child, a nostalgia for a family time, then to feel at the next a hatred that can easily conceive of killing, only to be followed by a sincere, pain-filled desire for all the hatred, all the killing to end, all of this happening day after day after day, on a busy city street in an Iraqi city, at a quiet kitchen table at your home, enduring another sleepless night: I have no clue, Winston. I have no clue.
I do mean this: thank you for trying to give me a clue. I don’t like knowing what I have to know as a result of your having done so. I don’t like the gut shifts that occur within me as I read this letter, the psychic handball marked “raw emotion” that ricochets inside me, wall to wall to wall, the soul-imploding pain that I only dare to imagine to imagine as I consider, dear God, what if this were my son writing me this?
I’m sorry, Winston. I know that you volunteered to serve. But I, as a citizen of this nation, sent you to the Middle East with the promise that it would all make sense in the end. Nobody sent me to jail for refusing to pay the taxes that go to support the military.
I’m sorry that we, as a nation, are still not only struggling to make sense of it all, but, even worse, are struggling—why??—with the (what seems to me to be the obvious) notion, based on justice and mercy, that we owe you and your brothers and sisters. We asked you to give up your youth, give up the innocence that we still so easily cling to as we sip our morning, bad coffee and check out the local weather, all so that, indeed, we can make sure that we avoid the freeway jam to get to work, only then to pour ourselves another cup of even-worse coffee and gossip about the previous evening’s cable TV fare.
Thank you, Winston. I wish we all were living lives more worthy of the suffering that you and your brothers and sisters continue to endure, even last night, even now.
It continues to be an honor to work with you.