I was sitting in Firehouse Subs with my kids. It was a hot day, and we were out shopping, just killing time out of the house and out of the heat. We’d stopped for lunch and, as my boys laughed and pretended to be firemen in their little plastic red hats, I picked up my phone and started reading the news, as I am prone to do basically any time I’m sitting down.
It was way down in the news feed, basically just a tiny little blip in an otherwise busy news day about politics and Iran and Greece. But it sucker punched me. I saw the photo first, and I recognized it.
“It” was the front of the recruiting station I last saw February 10th, 2002. It was still dark when our shuttle pulled out of the parking lot, headed to Knoxville that chilly Tennessee winter morning. The glass wasn’t shattered then the way it was in this photo. The headline screamed at me:
I looked up at my boys, who’d just said something I didn’t follow, and were staring back at me, waiting for my appropriate laugh. I smiled and gave the obligatory “haha”. My daughter was not fooled. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Mmm. Nothing. How’s your sandwich?”
“Is Dad okay?”
I wanted to cry right there in the middle of Firehouse Subs over my “Hook and Ladder," but instead I did nothing. I looked at her for a moment and finally said, “Dad’s fine.”
“Who is it, then?”
Such an aware child, this eleven year old little girl is.
If only all of America were like her. Happy. Carefree. But oh so aware and in tune with what’s going on around her. So innocent and yet … so beyond her years in her understanding and awareness of the things that don’t touch her and still have the power to destroy the very thing she loves most.
If only ALL of America were like her. Marked in very personal ways by the wars that have raged since before she was born. Affected by the danger lurking around in our country in the form of Jihadists and underground terrorists. Aware that even in her own backyard, even in her own neighborhood with her father just down the street, even at his heavily guarded work surrounded by his fellow Marines … even there? He’s not safe. And part of her knows that.
She’s 11. There’s no reason an 11-year-old should immediately assume that her father has been hurt because her mom is reading the news. And yet? She did.
We’ve never hidden things from our children. We’ve shielded them from the horrific details, but we’ve always been open and upfront about the world around us. My mother would say that’s wrong, that kids should be kids. They are kids. They run and laugh and play just like the other kids. But they are more aware than most grown-ups of the world around them. Our children are our future, and they are living in what will be their past. It’s important to me that, when they grow up and they run this country, they remember it for what it truly was- a dangerous and terrifying place that was protected by the men and women in uniform. The men and women that our country, right now, really don’t care about.
As I scrolled through my news feed over the next few days, I saw a lot of people post about the shooting as more details emerged. But those people were all military affiliated. I saw one, JUST ONE, post from a civilian who is not related to a service member about the shooting.
What I saw from everyone else was complaining about Donald Trump’s hair. Complaining about Hillary Clinton’s money. Complaining about the damn Confederate flag and Scott Disick and the Kardashians and a whole hell of a lot of people talking about the split between Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton as if their world’s had just been shattered.
But the terrorist attack on American soil that killed five service members? Not high on the list of things to get worked up over.
It’s devastating to me -- a Marine wife, a Marine daughter, a Marine sister, a Marine myself. It’s heartbreaking to see a country so well loved by the military and so unloved in return.
There is no reason my 11 year old child should be more aware of a tragedy than the adult population of this country. God bless her and her brains and maturity, but holy crap, America. Step up your freaking game.
Learn the names of those murdered. Look at their faces. Read their stories. Know them. Ingrain their images into your brain and stop talking about how this terrorist’s friends and family described him. He doesn’t matter! His life? It didn’t matter past the moment he chose to open fire on unarmed men. Men who were husbands, sons, brothers, fathers. They mattered. They matter.
And you should know their names.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan
Marine Corps Sgt. Carson Holmquist
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Skip Wells
Marine Corps Staff Sergeant David Wyatt
U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith
Katie Foley is the Editor-In-Chief of Many Kind Regards and an independent author. She is a work from home mom to three crazy elementary kids and wife to an active duty U.S. Marine. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Photos courtesy Twitter and Facebook.