This story was written on September 12th 2009 after waking from a particularly vivid dream. I stumbled from bed knowing I had to write it down. It was 0545 when I wrote it and then went about my day. I forgot about it for a long time and when I came across it again, even though I liked it, I had no idea what to do with it. Now, with all the veterans coming home from Iraq and with a blog finally up, I thought I would share it. 

                                            GOODBYE SON

He put his hands on either side of his son’s face and began to speak: “I feared this day would come, the day when my son left for war, ever since you were a baby lying and smiling in the crib. When your mother first held you in her arms I asked the powers that be that we would learn to live without it and that we would have learned something from the loss that has come before. Now we stand here and you are leaving. But let me first tell you what I learned from my war.”

“Fight hard, be brave, and do what needs to be done but hold on to your humanity. Remember that those you fight against are not the ones who started this war; they are merely pawns, like you will be. Even now some of the men you will face are waking up and kissing their wives and children goodbye, some will not return to see them again and those that do…they will not be the same.”

“Act in accordance with your heart, no matter what you see or experience there because you will have to live with yourself when you return. Be prepared for the reality of killing, it is not quick and clean like you have seen in the movies, it is loud with the cries of men grasping desperately to hold on to the last sliver of life. Some of those who die will be innocent civilians, women and children, and you will have to carry their memories with you until your dying day.”

“You will learn fear, then you will learn hate, but know that they are one in the same and let go of both. If you come home with hate and fear, it will destroy you with such suffering that you will wish that a bullet had taken you. If you bring it home, then your wife, children and grandchildren will have to bear the weight of it also. So you must be strong for yourself and for them and let it go. See God in every man, even those you must kill and know that he is part of you as well, and you are brothers.” 

“I am old and if I am not here when you return, remember that nothing will be the same for you. For a while the green grass will seem withered and dry, food will be bland, society will seem alien and will have no place for you. You will see the lies we have accepted as truths and rage will threaten to fill your heart again, don’t allow this. It will be your duty, this time to yourself, to find your place.” 

“Understand that to do what had to be done, you shut down parts of yourself that will be needed when you return, so find them again. Do not drown the memories in vice, or pride, or ego; accept them and move forward in living your life for yourself. No more terrible toll will be than that which you put upon yourself. Expect no understanding. People who have not had your experience and can only pretend to understand it. Ignore them and let their opinions and ideas about war pass over you like the breeze, there are no words that will make them see the truth.” 

“Most of all learn from what you have done. Look into the faces of the dead and know that it is only the vessel that is gone. We are all one in the same and they will always be with you, both friend and foe. The separation is an illusion; take solace in that when you think of the things you have done. God is in you and your enemy and you cannot kill the man anymore than you can kill God. Think on this until you know it without thinking and sorrow will not find you.” 

“When you return, consider your duty to society fulfilled and live for yourself and the ones you love. Continue to see God in all people, nature and things and act in accordance with that principle. Do good works, show compassion and love and help others.” 

“When you feel the weight of the world crushing down on you, know that I will be here even if you cannot see me. You only need think of me.  When the thin veil of life here looks bleak and hollow, take refuge in your friends and family but ultimately, you must find it in yourself.”