Sand blew across the parking lot. It seemed we had found the edge of the world, but for our oldest son, Nathan, and the other Marines stationed there, the colorless landscape of 29 Palms was home.
Each Company, dressed in desert camouflage, lined up for roll call. Their gear was packed.
Within a few hours they would be leaving for Afghanistan.
Their just-completed training had been as intense as the blazing, unforgiving sun they would soon be facing.
Those of us who made the trip to see our loved ones off gathered on the hot pavement.
An older well wisher wore a white baseball cap with “Korean Veteran” embroidered on the front. The faded tattoo on his forearm was so blurred it was hard to tell what the original design had been. His weathered hand wiped away the tear that had escaped against his will.
He could still remember the taste, sight and sound of war and now wished he was young enough to join his grandson and the men he now saluted.
A young woman rested her hand on the side of her rounded stomach knowing her husband wouldn’t be home for the arrival of their child.
She knew other wives who had been down this long good-bye road before, but also realized it is a lonely road.
Our children watched as their older brother stood at attention waiting for his name to be barked out during the final roll call.
John, my husband, understood the routine. Although he is a Marine, he had never been on the battlefield.
This was all new for me. My stomach hurt; I couldn’t breathe.
My mind was filled with things I wanted to say, but the only words that managed to tumble out were “I love you.”
It would be a long eight months.
“These are the faces of war that the media often misses. Not just those who serve, but the families that stay home and wait, watch and worry,” I thought.
There was a somber reality that many of us felt, but no one dared utter as each Marine responded to his name.
Not all those who answered the roll call will be coming home alive.
“I hope it’s not my son,” I fervently wished knowing the mom on either side of me was wishing the same thing.
While you don’t want it to be anyone’s son, grandson, nephew, brother or husband, the reality is our freedom comes at a hefty price.
That price was brought home to us when John clicked onto the Internet last week. The news was numbing.
Four soldiers of the 2/7 Marines had been killed, but the names had not been released.
Anxiety mixed with fear every time the phone rang. Forty-eight hours later we received an e-mail from Nathan. He was fine.
By the end of that week, seven Marines from 2/7 had been killed. Our hearts broke for those who had lost their sons and husbands.
Having a child serving in the military is not easy, but I know that mothers have worried for their sons since the birth of our country.
If it weren’t for the sacrifice of others, we would not be waving the American flag, watching fireworks or lining up along parade routes this weekend.
The real celebration for our family will be when Nathan and those in the 2/7 return safely to the U.S.
When the bus full of exhausted Marines, anxious for a familiar embrace and the promise of a home cooked meal pulls into the depot, we will be there – at the edge of the world on soil that is still free.
7/2/08 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent