by Cindy Norris / Military Families Speak Out –
My Son Cannot Afford My Silence
SHAWNEE, Kansas — My son, my only son, is in Iraq.
My son is an exceptional young man. He joined the Army Reserves at age 17. Troy will turn 21 next month. His tour of duty has been extended. He will be celebrating his birthday in Iraq.
I manage to deal with my worry by not watching the news. I don’t read the newspapers. Beyond my family and a few dear friends, I have been quiet. I searched the internet for companies that would deliver to an APO address. I found MFSO (military families speak out) and their “Bring Them Home Now” campaign. When I found them, I realized my son could not afford my silence. It was then that I wrote to my Congressman, Dennis Moore. I wrote at 2 o’clock in the morning. I had just packed a box of medical supplies for my son and his unit.
Troy had been dehydrated and then rehydrated with IV fluids.
I admonished him for not drinking enough water. I learned then that cough and diarrhea were almost a constant there. They had a little First Aid Station, but they were out of nearly everything. As a Registered Nurse, I am passionate about those in need having access to basic medical care and supplies. However, I had never expected that need to come from The United States Army.
My son said they were lucky. The supply lines in the north were strong. They had gone down south on mission. Those guys further south, were having to make it on 2 bottles of water a day. He could not imagine how they were surviving in the heat with full armor. Neither can I.
Yesterday I sent antibiotics to Iraq. I had an email from my son. He said he thought he had strep throat. He was symptomatic. His roommate had it last week. “Mom, don’t worry. I’m OK” he said. As a healthcare professional, I know that left untreated, strep can have serious long-term consequences. For instance strep can take up residence in your kidneys and cause renal failure requiring life-long dialysis. I cannot tell you that there were no antibiotics available for him. However, I was not willing to take that risk and assume that there were.
In July 2002, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that there were 300,000 vets waiting six months to see a primary care physician for the first time. It doesn’t look good for Troy that the Army will be any better at providing medical care for him once he is home.
My son’s first call home in April, was a desperate call. He said, “mom, send food, send anything.” His grandmother and I packed up snacks and mailed them off. His next call home was almost just as desperate, “Mom, I need food, I mean real food — not snacks.” Since then, he has continued to receive food from his family on a weekly basis. He is lucky. My son gets most of his mail. I know he has food, and toilet paper. He receives food and supplies from his family in California, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, and Kansas. He shares with his unit and those who are not so lucky..
I worry about him as any mother would. I don’t just worry about his health and his nutrition. I worry about his spirit, his mental health. He had opportunity to see some of what the Air force has there. He could not understand why “the Air force has real food, water, beer, and even F’n swimming pools. The Army is surviving on MREs and sweat.” I don’t understand this. The explanation I was given, that “the Air Force has always had more,” is not good enough.
I gave your office permission to forward the letter I wrote to you on to the Army, the President, and Mr. Rumsfield. I received a call asking me if I would give your office permission to give the Army my son’s name and SSN. They wanted to investigate. I could not be assured that there would be NO negative repercussions for him. My answer was then and remains a resounding NO.
My son does not call home to complain. There is much he does not say. He’s a good son. He doesn’t want me to worry. He doesn’t know that I wrote to you. He doesn’t know that I am here today.
This exceptional young man, my son, was recruited by West Point while at The Defense Language Institute. He left here proud to be an American soldier.
My son has been betrayed by a severe lack of planning by this administration. This administration knowingly and willingly sent him on a reckless misadventure. Bring him home now. Bring them all home.