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I don’t know why, but last night as I was searching through channels to watch something on TV and came across HBO’s documentary Baghdad ER. I had seen the show before; in fact, it is very personal to me. I felt drawn to watch it again, perhaps because I had been preparing a talk on Mary and her suffering as the Mother of God, who also lost her son.
You see, my son Michael was a recon Marine who served in Fallujah, Iraq. Needless to say it was a trying time, one full of fear that stretched the boundaries of faith.
During that time I belonged to a group called Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley, founded by Paula Zwillinger, another Marine mom. It was a great support for those of us who had sons serving during the war in Iraq. I will forever be grateful to the friends I made during that time in which we shared our hearts with one another, as it seemed the rest of the world lived on.
I wish I could say the tragedy of war did not touch any of us personally, but it touched us very closely, and even continues to do so through those who came home injured or suffering from posttraumatic stress. In the past two years, two of my son’s friends committed suicide because they were unable to readjust.
A few moms I became friends with experienced the ultimate sacrifice. One of them was Paula’s son Bob Mininger. Bob died as a result of an IED while serving in Fallujah.
Toward the end of the documentary, a badly wounded Marine is brought into the Baghdad ER. It is Bob. We are with the doctors as they try to save his life, and as they tell him it is okay to let go. It is heart-wrenching to watch, but at the same time comforting, especially to Paula, who called it a blessing. It allowed her to be there with her son, and it reassured her that he was taken care of and didn’t die alone.
Bob was not the only Marine we knew; there was Mike Glover, a close friend of my son, and many more, more than 3,000 who gave their lives there.
The Baghdad ER was continually busy, the medical staff heroic as they treated the men and women who came in wounded. Toward the end of the documentary one of the doctors says something like, “I hope we are giving the people of Iraq a new life. If not, this is insanity.”
That line really hit me last night as we see the unrest in the region and as I remembered the many who died and were injured. It is hard to reconcile. I try to take solace in the fact that no matter what mistakes our government made, these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
I remember when my son was serving, people would say to me, “So many people are praying. You have to have faith that he will come back all right. You have to trust in God.” But our faith is more than that. Bob’s mom prayed, so did Mike Glover’s. No, our faith asks us to trust even if our sons did not come back alive or uninjured. It asks us to look at the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the suffering of Mary, His mother, and still trust in the goodness and love of God. That is faith.
As we approach the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, please remember the mothers of those who died and continue to die serving our country, that they may always cling to the mercy himself, knowing his love for us.