Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Daddy, Why Do You Have To Leave?

The closer I get to leaving Iraq, the more I think about the beginning. “But why do you have to leave us, Daddy?” my daughter asked tearfully after I told my children I’d be leaving them for a year, maybe longer. Her words broke my heart. I thought for a moment on how to best explain why I was being torn from them, and then the thought came to me.

I took them into our piano room and asked them each to sit down on the new, fluffy carpet. It’s a spare room that we never really use except to hear my wife play her beautiful Classical repertoire. As their anxious eyes looked upon me eager for an explanation, I sat down next to them. They had never paid such close attention to before, or if they had I didn’t notice it.

“Do you remember,” I began carefully, choosing my words so they’d understand, “several months ago when we went to the store and bought backpacks, school supplies and other gifts to send to the children in Iraq?”

“Yes,” they replied, nodding their little heads.

“Well, Iraq is far, far away from America. In Iraq the children live with their whole families in homes much smaller than ours.” Our home is modestly average, but palatial by comparison to homes in Third World countries. “In fact,” I added, “there is one little boy named Hasem.” I made up a name. “Hasem and his family live in a house the size of this room.” As I paused for effect I saw their eyes widen, and then they looked around the room in astonishment. “Can you believe it? His whole family lives and sleeps in a room this size.”

“How many kids do they have in their family, Daddy?”

“Oh, there are three children.” I suggested a number for my fictional family. “Hasem has a little sister too,” I added. “But, do you know what?”

“What?” they asked very intrigued.

“They don’t even have carpet. There’s only a dirt floor in Hasem’s house.”

“Really?” they tried to comprehend it. After seeing the puzzled look on their faces, I emphasized and explained dirt floors in detail.

“The most terrible thing of all is Hasem and his sister can’t go to school.” My son didn’t seem to think that was so bad, until I explained why. “They can’t go to school because bad guys—terrorists—try to blow up their schools and they shoot at the parents and kidnap their teachers, and…”

“Jeff,” the tone of my wife’s voice made me realize I was getting a bit too intense, although I had often talked to my children about bombs and guns in school and how they should respond to such a threat. I calmed down without looking at my wife or skipping a beat.

“Anyway, the President of United States asked all of the Dad’s in the Army to go to Iraq and help the kids and their parents. I’ll get to go over there and help the kids.” That answer seemed to placate them temporarily.

So that’s the reason, in the simplest terms, for why I’m here, living in something akin to a horse stable, on Christmas day far, far away from my wife and children.

PS Last year I donated money to The Greer Foundation for Christmas. Retired Army Special Forces Sergeant Major Steven Greer, a media military analyst and personal friend, started the foundation after seeing all the suffering children in war-torn countries. If you’re looking for a great place to donate and an honest, upright guy, click here.

1 comment:

david santos said...

Thanks for posting,

I wish you a good end of 2007 and a good year of 2008.