War weary


My neighbor John Doe deployed to Iraq about 9 months ago, and while he is gone his father has been living in his house. This evening as Devan napped, I sat on the couch and watched a younger man exit the house and head across the street to our door, wearing only a thin long sleeved shirt in the 12 degree weather. Our door-bell ran and when I answered the man was obviously drunk.

“You must be John Doe’s brother,” I said as I opened the door, “You look so much alike!”

“Nah, Elizabeth, it’s me- John Doe, I live across the street, right?”

I am telling you that even as he said this and I realized it was true, that I still barley recognized him. He had lost major amounts of weight, his face was drawn and tense, and he looked nervous as he awkwardly stood on the porch.

“Listen,” he continued “I just bought something important online, and you know, I just accidentally put in your address and I just thought you could look for it, and send it across…”

I replied that I would of course do that even as I thought to myself there is no way I believed his story, as our addresses really aren’t that similar and it seemed obvious he just wanted to talk. So I noted that he looked thinner and he blamed the food, and explained he was just here on leave. I pointed out he was drunk and he admitted he was and said he would likely stay that way the next two weeks and then looked up at me and said “I have to go back, you know.”

And then it was just silent.

What can I say to that? I finally mumbled “I’m sorry…” and after another awkward pause the conversation turned to our new baby, and why we were moving, and other small talk before he apologized again for the mix up on the package and darted back across the street.


I was in Italy when we first went to war in Iraq and I remember my heart sinking as I watched the news. It’s been years now, and things are quite the mess. And even though most evenings I hear of all the casualties on the evening news, its hard after awhile for that number to mean something. 150 civilians killed at a Baghdad pet market…and my day goes on as before. I don’t profess to know what the answer is, pulling out or staying- neither seem like a good solution. And the cost is so high, but something that is so separate from the daily lives of most Americans.

When you drive around town you see a lot of bumper sticker “We support our Troops.” And it is a good sentiment, I feel that way too. But what does this mean, really? A good sentiment in my head isn’t worth crap to the men who are over there in the midst of a horrific situation. How do you support the men who come home with traumatic brain injuries, and Post-traumatic stress, and those that drown themselves out with alcohol in the two precious weeks they have home to relax and regroup? I don’t have a point exactly, it is just on my mind right now. I wish there was a clear solution. But there isn’t, and so many Iraqis and American soldiers are just really suffering, and it makes me really sad.


2 responses »

  1. We have a couple of friends that have been deployed multiple times. Just as you destribed your neighbor… they came back a lot skinnier… and not until their last trip were they upset about it. Now they are home safe and sound, dealing with the trauma and stress but adjusting to civilian life. I think it takes time (that time is different for everyone) but it also takes support of friends and loved ones… hopefully John Doe has that support.

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