Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plastic Veteran (point of view, fictional essay)

Uncle Sam said I had fulfilled my duty and could finally come home from the Middle East. I had read my wife’s letters religiously like the Bible and the pictures of my child, who was a baby when I left, became the images upon which I built my fantasies of home. It was somewhat anticlimactic to come off the plane to no cheering. I walked through the airport, got my bag and exited through the glass doors out to the curb. I remember the old days when you said your goodbyes and hellos at the gate, the actual place of departure. I realize there is a vague connection between the war I had been asked to fight in and this new rule. But, it was just a duck and cover routine like in the 1950s when we feared bombing, just a formality. Because… weren’t the terrorists ticketed passengers?
Anyhow on the curb I was hugged and mobbed and flashed at by cameras. Like an out of body experience I saw myself embrace my wife and start to sob into her shoulder but, I don’t know what I felt exactly.
The car neared our house and I saw the lawn fluttering with at least fifty American flags. My wife told me the Boy Scouts had come and staked those in that morning. There was a fat yellow ribbon tied around our spindly tree and a Welcome Back banner over the door. I guessed that meant me. Apparently my wife had planned an open house for the neighborhood to welcome me home. My family, friends and vague acquaintances came and went, smiling and congratulating me. Just glad to be home I think, I mechanically smiled and nodded, wanting to be alone with my wife and the darling little stranger who attached herself to my leg. She squeezed tight and kept repeating “Daddy” over and over again.
Finally everyone was gone. I gave a big sigh and turned to my wife with a grin and scooped up my daughter when the doorbell rang. So my wife opened the door to a family I knew I had never seen before.
“Sorry we are late- we won’t stay. We just heard about you and wanted to say welcome back. We moved here while you were gone.” The man with the goatee smiled enthusiastically and his wife did too.
Two little boys stood uncertainly between them and glanced up. The older one who was 6 or 7 was wearing camouflage pants and a plastic dog tag. He held out a piece of paper to me and a big chocolate bar.
“Thank you.” I said for the millionth time that day.
“Thanks to you for going out there for all of us” the wife said.
“Too bad he isn’t in uniform” my wife said to the boy.
“Oh- he would have liked that- as you can probably tell” the dad said.
When they had gone I looked at the paper. Scrawled in crayon it said “You’re my hero.” And there was the drawing of a soldier in uniform saluting the American flag. On the bottom it said “Freedom”. Also there was a small plastic army man taped to one side who had an impressive and unidentifiable piece of artillery resting on his shoulder. Hero. Me?
My uniform hung in the closet, clean and unwrinkled. It was hard to imagine what it had looked like days earlier. The folks at home would never see it with rings of sweat and dirt and blood on it. This war is complicated. It isn’t clear cut like the true fight for freedom that the American Revolution was. In that war everyone knew the cause. The colonies wanted freedom from the King and the right to govern themselves. Even the opposition knew that was what the fight was about. I wish it was that easy now because it would be more satisfying to serve and sacrifice if I knew all the reasons why, wouldn't it? Maybe there were no real reasons...what if I was a toy in some game?
Being home, not a lot has changed. America seems the same- so far removed from her all important struggle across the sea. I guess I am back to normal too....can't be sure if it ever even happened sometimes. Just about the only place that isn’t normal is the airport which still makes no sense to me.


Mark and Kiss said...

Hey, I turned on the radio on Friday, (really haven't listened in a loooong time, so I don't know how new it is) and heard a song about a soldier that was going home (to heaven, putting down his gun and hanging up his boots). It was so sad, it made me cry thinking about how real that song is for thousands of families, yet most of us don't even think about it or forget there is still an ongoing war. Like you mentioned, this war is not clear cut, very confusing...each life lost is a tragedy.

Terri said...

Most conflicts are over the control of resources. Apart from the high ideals of the American Revolutionary War, it still came down to who would have control of the resources on our continent. Iraq and the whole Middle East is about oil, and it is a shame that our government won't admit it openly. Can you imagine the grinding halt this country would come to without a sure oil supply right now? In time I hope we can cut ourselves off, but we haven't worked hard enough for that day because oil companies don't want to become obsolete. Yes, a crying shame, but I also know quite a few people opposed to the actions in Iraq who would be the first to collapse if we were suddenly cut off. Imagine no flights, unable to drive to your job, the soaring costs, especially in cities far from food production...imagine the impact on health care. We are mired in bloody oil, now literally. Good essay, Jo-lady.

Maribel said...

Arghh......what game are those "men in high places" playing with the lives of real men? I wonder, when it's over will the "winners" be satisfied or embark on yet another round? Whatever happens I'm sure there will be more losers then winners all around.

Kathleen and Stephan Seable said...

Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries
May 2008 Import Highlights: July 14, 2008
Preliminary monthly data on the origins of crude oil imports in May 2008 has been released and it shows that two countries exported more than 1.50 million barrels per day to the United States. Including those countries, a total of two countries exported over 1.20 million barrels per day of crude oil to the United States (see table below). The top five exporting countries accounted for 66 percent of United States crude oil imports in May while the top ten sources accounted for approximately 88 percent of all U.S. crude oil imports. The top sources of US crude oil imports for May were Canada (1.840 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.579 million barrels per day), Mexico (1.116 million barrels per day), Venezuela (1.030 million barrels per day), and Nigeria (0.851 million barrels per day). The rest of the top ten sources, in order, were Iraq (0.583 million barrels per day), Angola (0.464 million barrels per day), Algeria (0.440 million barrels per day), Brazil (0.318 million barrels per day), and Kuwait (0.263 million barrels per day). Total crude oil imports averaged 9.657 million barrels per day in May, which is a decrease of (0.264) million barrels per day from April 2008. Total crude imports for May include 0.033 million barrels per day for Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR).

Canada remained the largest exporter of total petroleum in May, exporting 2.265 million barrels per day to the United States, which is a decrease from last month (2.534 thousand barrels per day). The second largest exporter of total petroleum was Saudi Arabia with 1.604 million barrels per day.

Crude Oil Imports (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country May-08 Apr-08 YTD 2008 May-07 YTD 2007


CANADA 1,840 1,952 1,889 1,821 1,841
SAUDI ARABIA 1,579 1,453 1,531 1,574 1,402
MEXICO 1,116 1,259 1,207 1,461 1,469
VENEZUELA 1,030 1,019 998 1,232 1,103
NIGERIA 851 1,115 1,053 882 1,047
IRAQ 583 679 670 341 458
ANGOLA 464 579 468 680 581
ALGERIA 440 393 329 496 495
BRAZIL 318 201 209 152 170
KUWAIT 263 176 227 162 182
COLOMBIA 245 149 184 104 101
ECUADOR 162 160 194 201 200
RUSSIA 119 106 86 232 156
LIBYA 96 85 73 33 51

Total Imports of Petroleum (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country May-08 Apr-08 YTD 2008 May-07 YTD 2007


CANADA 2,265 2,534 2,478 2,462 2,432
SAUDI ARABIA 1,604 1,462 1,547 1,614 1,427
MEXICO 1,209 1,364 1,313 1,617 1,604
VENEZUELA 1,166 1,189 1,162 1,520 1,354
NIGERIA 909 1,221 1,104 964 1,100
ALGERIA 611 632 542 744 723
IRAQ 583 679 670 341 458
ANGOLA 476 591 478 692 596
RUSSIA 407 402 410 499 421
VIRGIN ISLANDS 336 340 339 287 340
BRAZIL 332 234 232 203 218
COLOMBIA 278 169 210 122 114
KUWAIT 263 181 230 168 190
UNITED KINGDOM 218 229 207 390 306
NORWAY 176 137 116 234 167

Note: The data in the tables above exclude oil imports into the U.S. territories.

Evidently Iraq is not a huge supplier of oil to the US. There were obviously other considerations concerning the war. But we should become more self-sufficient despite fear of spills and then get serious about alternative sources of energy. I'm not ready to ride my bicycle to Utah. The best the government can seem to come up with is ethanol; and that has created other problems. Let independent think tanks do the work and leave the behemoth government out of it (including global warming "cures") America began with the idea to limit the Federal government in our lives. Nowadays it seems too many go whinning to the government whenever there is a problem. If the people could break away from a world power like England in the 18th century, the people can meet the current challenges. Career politicians have too many conflicting motives. Quite frankly, I think we pretty much get the governance we deserve. We are more "colluders" than "victims." (Them is my two cents worth}