|September 26, 2005|
My Son in Iraq: I Know That It Happened Because I Heard It
A BUZZFLASH READER
The day started pretty much like all of the others since my son had left for Iraq. I automatically woke up to surf the major news networks at 3 A.M. to see if anything newsworthy had happened in Baghdad while I had slept. It seemed as if it had been a quiet night and there were no new reports, so I turned off the television and went back to sleep. The phone rang and I woke up in a nanosecond, which was a trait that I had mastered since the first call I had gotten in the middle of the night from a war zone.
"Hey Mom it’s me." Something my son always said every time he called, but this time his voice sounded unusual. He had a really serious tone in his voice and the automatic gunfire in the background was loud and more constant than usual. My heart began to race and I took a deep breath.
"Hey, I'm trapped on a rooftop and I don't think we are going to make it out of here, so I just called to tell you that I loved you and that I am thinking of all of you." The gunfire in the background was so loud that he had to pause, and then he continued. "We were out on patrol and were just getting ready to return to base and a bunch of our guys got overrun and so we went to help them, but when we got close we got overrun as well and had to retreat to this rooftop."
I could hear yelling in the background and then big explosions. The phone then seemed to be put on the ground and there was more yelling and automatic gunfire, but this time it was my son who was doing the shooting. My son picked up the phone and in an out of breath voice said, "I really don't think we are going to make it out of here alive. If we wait longer to get off this rooftop there is no way we can make it back because we do not have enough ammo and it is getting dark. We have called in air support and it has not come yet, and if they do not come in a minute we are all going to be dead. Just tell everybody that I love them and if I do not call you back within four hours that means I did not make it."
"We love you too son and we are proud of you—you are a good man." About that time, a jet flying over interrupted our conversation and it sounded as if it was right over the earpiece of the phone. I had to move the phone away from my ear, the sound subsided and then I heard loud explosions and a helicopter and massive firepower.
"Hear that! Hear that! There are jets and helicopters flying over."
There was more automatic gunfire that I could hear coming from his position and I heard the distinctive high pitch of a mortar round coming in and I knew they were getting mortared, but the mortar missed. I had learned to identify the sound of incoming mortars in previous conversations because mortars were a usual event at the camp where my son was located. The jets flew over again and I could hear them in the background roaring and bombs exploding and again we had to abandon our conversation.
"This is kinda cool in a f***** up kind of way. I have to go-love you."
"I love you too." And that was it; the phone went dead.
I looked at the clock and knew my husband would be walking to his office so I immediately called him. I managed to tell him about the phone call before emotions took over and I could no longer get a word out. I could hear the pain in his voice and he assured me that he had faith that our son was going to be ok and make it back to his camp--the alternative was just to unimaginable.
"I feel so helpless" he said.
I scrambled to turn on the news to see if there were any new reports and as usual there was nothing, not even an update in the news tickers. I was becoming a seasoned veteran of the news and had learned that what I knew as the war was never reported anyway, but this time it just made me mad. I yelled at the television in a custom that we had labeled "interactive TV" and I wailed.
I went outside to look at the sky and the sun was rising over the Bay, and I marveled at the beauty, thinking about how at that minute my son could be dead or dying, and I let out a scream. I thought about going to my neighbor’s house because I saw a light, but we had just moved into the neighborhood and I did not know them very well. So, I just sat and cried. I went inside to look at the clock and it had been about an hour since I had talked to my son, but it had seemed like forever. The phone rang and I got up to answer it.
"Hey, Mom, we made it back and are all alive! We managed to get helicopter support all of the way back and they cleared the way for us. I am sorry if I scared you, but I did not want to die in this place without telling you goodbye."
"That is fine, don’t worry about scaring me. I am just so glad that you made it." I said.
"Hey, I have to go. I will be fine and I love you." And that was it. Another day was over for our son and just beginning for us. I began to shake all over, but I knew it was just a reaction to the moment and would soon pass. I called my husband and told him the news and called our other son to only find out that he had gotten a message on his phone from his brother telling him goodbye, that he was proud of him, and was glad to have him as his brother. I could tell by his voice had been crying too.
I watched the news off and on for the rest of the day and checked the Internet stories to see if there were any reports of the battle that I had heard taking place in Baghdad and once again as usual there was nothing being reported--yet another fact that we had become accustomed to; but we knew there was a war going on; we were living in it.
We would not have known that our son was thinking of us without the ability of instantaneous communication from the battlefield, which has been a great thing for our family. We were given the gift of knowing, on that terrible day, that our son was thinking of us in spite of all he was experiencing. And though the news was unnerving, the alternative of not knowing for our family would have been worse.
Teri Mackey is a student at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, Sonoma State University. Her report also appeared in the June North Bay Progressive.
Related Article: Where military goes, so do the cell phones (Mary Mitchell/Chicago Sun-Times)
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