The opportunity came along to visit with a woman whose daughter and son-in-law are in the armed forces and both have done two tours of duty in Iraq. I didn't ask her what they did or which branch of the service they are in.
She is an old friend, someone I have known since early childhood. Back when Bush invaded Iraq, she was one of the vocal supporters going as far as to participate in pro-war demonstrations opposite the anti-war demonstrations that cropped up in our hometown. The anti-war group was on the one side of the Main Street bridge and the pro-war group formed on the other side.
The two groups chanted and shouted back and forth at each other. I remember driving down Main Street one afternoon after work and having the two sides shouting at me. I remember looking left and right and seeing so many familiar faces on both sides, including hers.
Small town America split and me driving down the middle. Most people were driving down the middle. The whole thing remains a powerful literal metaphor.
We visited today at length. Both of kids are back in the states right now and are fine. I asked if they'd have to do another tour and she said she didn't know. It looked like a two year rotation thing to her and if that's the case the kids could return to Iraq next year.
I told her I hoped we had the mess wrapped up by next year. She thoughtfully, and sadly, shook her head in the negative. "I hope so, too," she said quietly. She said the kid's attitudes are good. We agreed a positive attitude was for the best and that in reality, you have little choice but to have a positive attitude.
Her demeanor was somber and reflective. There was none of the fire and passion in her affect I had seen that day years ago on the Main Street bridge. Her kids are okay. Their attitudes are good. They're career military and knew war was a part of the deal.
There's no conclusion here. And I have too much respect for my friend and her kids to ask obvious and rude questions. While we visited, she was cradling her first grandchild from another of her offspring. Mostly the three month old slept in her arms waking once in a while to grasp at her grandmother's breast and stretch.