It’s the 4th of July and you know what that means: Twilight Zone Marathon on SciFi channel! Because nothing says I Love America! like back-to-back shows with pervasive 1950’s themes like escaping nuclear holocaust, or astronauts returning to earth only to discover that war has wiped out humanity. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Seriously though, this celebration of our nation’s birth seems like an appropriate time to update everyone on how Ken’s son Danny is faring during this, his 3rd tour of duty in Iraq. Danny didn’t join the military specifically because he loves his country so much. Like the majority of soldiers serving in this war, most joined to take advantage of the promises made to them during the recruitment phase: Money for college, a chance to learn a skill (however unmarketable those skills turn out to be in the civilian world), pride in a job well done. Danny joined the Marines in 1996, well before 9/11, because his life needed some direction and because he’s a tough motherfucker. You have to be tough to be a Marine, no doubt about it.
Danny did two back-to-back, 6 month tours in 2005-2006 at Al Asad Airfield in Western Iraq. During that particular tour he worked in supply, which was a relatively safe position, although that was little consolation for his loved ones back home. Danny’s wife was also stationed in Iraq during part of that time so they had each other, a real plus for a Marine couple (if you can call being stationed in the same war zone a plus for any marriage). Much to our relief (and specifically, his father’s), they both returned home safely in the spring of 2006 and spent a month visiting friends and relatives around the country. Six months later, in August of 2006, Danny’s wife was redeployed for another 6-month stint in Ramadi. Then Danny received the news that his 3rd deployment would start one month after her return back to the states in February of this year. But this time he would be riding in a convoy every day. In Al Anbar province. A much more dangerous assignment and a greater source of worry for those of us back home. Danny’s a tough motherfucker alright, but was he tough enough for IED’s and RPG’s?
This has also been a rocky year for Danny’s marriage, as it is for so many marriages affected by separation and stress. Just a guess here, but I imagine a marriage between two intensely driven Marines is probably hard enough during peacetime, but this war and the constant deployments tore theirs apart. Shortly after his deployment last March Danny received a Dear John email from his wife, and the question became: Was Danny tough enough to deal with threats to his emotional health, in addition to the threats to his life? Yeah, Danny’s a tough motherfucker, but is he tough enough for this?
Danny’s doing well, I’m glad to report. His buddies have helped him gain some perspective on the situation and he’s set some very healthy goals for himself to complete after he returns in September. He’ll be training to be a Drill Instructor, which will ensure a stateside assignmment for 3 years. He’s going to buy his brother’s Jeep. He’s planning on buying a house. He’s looking ahead. That’s what tough motherfuckers do. They change course when obstacles are thrown in front of them.
Danny calls his dad frequently, but sometimes Ken’s not here and I get to talk to him.
How’s it going over there?
Great. We’re doing a lot of good things here. Things you don’t hear about on the news. We’re rebuilding shit and it looks real nice. The people are happy we’re here.
Are you staying safe?
Oh definitely. It’s not so bad really.
That’s how our conversations go. The conversations Danny has with his dad are different; they’re man-to-man conversations about the scary shit: About the insurgents his unit killed that day. The body parts he saw. The vehicles they “fired up.” Things you don’t tell the women folk back home. Things a gentleman Marine doesn’t discuss with a lady. This is touching to me.
Every day is a source of anxiety and concern for us, but mainly for Ken. Having a child in harm’s way every day is an exercise in faith that your child will be spared the worst. We don’t like this war and we want all of our soldiers home, now. It’s not something we discuss with Danny and I have no idea how he feels about this war. It doesn’t matter – he has a job to do and that’s what he’s going to do. He’s a tough motherfucker and we’re proud of him.
Happy 4th of July, Danny.