JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — A few months ago, a reader from Mansfield, Ohio, wrote seeking some reassurance from me that her daughter would do well here at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurs to me that others might also be wondering about the wellbeing of your sons and daughters here.
As one of their many chaplains, I’m in a unique position to assert that America’s sons and daughters, all things considered, are doing well. Most of them even continue to do as you, their mothers, have taught them. They work hard, they exercise, and they’re careful about what they eat — which is more than I can tell my mother.
After working 18-hour days, they volunteer to do more. They load our wounded onto aircraft, load school supplies onto trucks for Iraqi children, and give valuable blood platelets that will heal not only their brothers and sisters, but enemy combatants as well.
After working long hours and volunteering more, I see them set aside time for worshipping God. They stand alongside me in our chapel, where they sing hymns they learned from you. I see their baptisms, and watch their Bar Mitzvahs. Amidst it all, I listen to their confessions and hear their sobbing as they seek to do the right things that you have taught them.
They even do things for their families that you did for them. I see them record a bedtime story on a DVD to send to their children thousands of miles away. I sit with them as they plan homecoming vacations. They pull pictures of your grandchildren from their wallets and exchange them among their friends. After a busy workday, they pose for a picture to send you in a homemade Mother’s Day card.
They do all of this in the most difficult conditions. I know, because I have a front row seat to their courageous actions.
I watch one of your daughters — a 90-pound nurse — storm from a med evac helicopter. Her steps are sure as she walks with a pistol strapped to her side while holding the hand of a patient without a leg. And Mom, she doesn’t even flinch when the radio blares to call her again.
I watch an Army staff sergeant who holds the hand of every single dying soldier on her shift. She doesn’t have to do it. She holds an administrative position. She does this with angelic determination because she will not let anyone die alone.
I watch your son — a young airman — wipe spattered blood from his boots. It is the same blood that, moments before, dripped from a soldier that your son refused to let die on his watch.
For all of these heroic acts, I watch them shyly cross the stage in our Town Hall, humbly accepting the medals they deserve, but resisting the title of hero.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Pollyanna.
I know many of them are stressed beyond reason. They need your prayers. They need to sit down at your kitchen table again and hear you say that you love them. I pray that day comes soon.
On this upcoming Mother’s Day, you can be proud of them. Your sons are doing great, Mom. Your daughters are standing up. I’ve been proud to serve with them.
And to my mom, Dolores Witham, yes, I’ll be home for Mother’s Day.