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« ’Top Model,’ Meet ’Top Nun’ | Main | Wiping Tears From Her Eyes »

August 28, 2008

Rifles in the Living Room

This isn't a plug for the NRA. No, it's a story about two young men who slept in my living room last night and left for Afghanistan today. Two young men I didn't know before yesterday. One is my roommate's brother; the other, a fellow enlistee who has lived most of his life in rural Texas. 

Last night, they arrived at my front door with six enormous military bags and two black gun cases. So, at 10 o'clock p.m., our tidy feminine sitting room morphed into a bunker. The guns came out (unloaded) and we three girls got fake shooting practice amidst the red throw pillows and decorative candles. (Good thing the neighbors couldn't see.) Then my friends and I made up the couches for them and did our best to make their last night in a home as pleasant as possible.

Today I returned home to heavy metal music blasting from the stereo in my dining room and two 20-year-olds downing two piles of pancakes, as if they were storing up for the (at least) four months that they'd be away.

The doorbell rang. It was their taxi driver. In minutes, my typically subdued dwelling became a flurry of fatigues, duffel bags, and aftershave.

"How do I put my belt on the right way?" one asked the other. Apparently, male Air Force officers have to be careful not to put their belts on the way female officers do.

It was almost time to leave, so, not knowing what else to do, I pulled out my camera.

"Your mom will want a picture," I told the one who hadn't been able to see his mother before he left. He posed awkwardly next to the stairwell.

The other took his turn, smiling a little more naturally than the other.

"What's your mom's email address? I'll send her the photo," I told him.

"She's dead," he responded.

He wrote his sister's email on a packing slip, and shook my hand.

"Nice to meet you," he told me.

I told them to make sure to come back. They promised they would, as if the alternative had never crossed their minds.

As they dashed down my porch steps in a flurry of gray and green, obviously proud of the uniforms they were introducing today, I almost choked back a few tears for two young men I didn't even know 24 hours before.

As they drove off in the rain, I thought about my two brothers. And then I thought about the mother who didn't get to see her boy off, and the mother who hadn't been there in a long time.

Please pray for Chris and Anthony as they head to Afghanistan. War in the Middle East may continue to confound, but there's nothing complicated about two idealistic young men who--like all those who have gone before--are itching to fight for our freedom.

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Thank you for this post. I am in a history class studying the United States' relationship with the Middle East with a current events portion, and while our policies and practices may confound me, the courage of our armed forces never cease to do me proud.

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