Saturday, June 23, 2007

Distance and Daddy

Cameraman shoots the rising smoke cloud from a truck bomb in downtown Baghdad

I’m well over halfway through this trip to Iraq. My six-week stints seem embarrassingly minuscule compared to the 15 months that the U.S. soldiers are doing. I spoke with a Peruvian contract guard the other day and asked him how long he had been “in-country”, and he replied that he’d been here a year already. “How much longer do you have to go?” His answer was two…two years.

A lot is reported about the loss of life and limb that occurs here, and the western world is just now hearing about veterans returning home with various stress-related disorders. I believe that the greatest aftermath of this war is yet to be reported; the tens of thousands of broken families as a result of fathers and husbands being deployed away from their homes for so long. The ripple of countless children growing up in single parent households will be felt for two generations or more in the United States.

U.S. soldiers earn a very meager wage, often just a micron above the official poverty level. A great many of them are young, under 22 years old, and have wives, pregnant fiancées, babies and children left behind at the posts where they come from. The difficulties of keeping fledgling marriages together and healthy under normal circumstances are immense. The soldier goes away for over a year and they become insurmountable.

To the military’s credit, it goes to herculean efforts to keep the communications channels open between soldiers and their families, counseling is made available at both ends, spouse support groups are established, all in an effort to save military families. Good intentions and great effort, but I don’t believe that it can succeed in keeping military families together under such dire conditions of prolong separation.

No comments: