A soldier's mother fights alongside her son

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:05 PM

Charles F. Trentelman

Both parents send a child into the world, but it is harder for the mother. She grew that kid in her body. That’s a bond.

Which is why, when my friend Sylvia Newman sent her son off to war, I was afraid for her.

When that son, Seth Pack, was horribly wounded, I felt for her.

And as I watched the amazing way she responded, I admired her.

Her struggle is that of far too many mothers. Feeling completely inadequate to write about it, I asked Sylvia to.

So without further ado, I give you one amazing mother’s look at motherhood, and war:

“Author Elizabeth Stone said, ‘Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.’

“My son and heart were blown up by an IED in Afghanistan July 1, 2011, and I spent the last 10 months by his side as he recovered.

“I did what any mother would do, what many mothers have done, are still doing and will continue to do.

“When I left Walter Reed in April, I left other moms and wives who had already been there a year, some two, with no end in sight. Their dedication is amazing and, for some, came at great expense.

“Though I don’t have any way of knowing, I imagine that for every mom who was thrilled her child joined the military, there was a mom who was not.

“I was one of the latter. I thought that joining the military was for ‘other people’s kids.’

“Seth had a scholarship to Utah State — what business did he have joining the military? What an arrogant view. For whose children did I think it was their business?

“In Geraldine Brooks’ book ‘March,’ Margaret March must go to Washington, D.C., to tend to her husband, wounded in the Civil War. Her thoughts echo some of my earlier thoughts: ‘It was folly to let him go. Unfair of him to ask it of me.

“ ‘And yet one is not permitted to say such a thing; it is just one more in the long list of things that a woman must not say. A sacrifice such as his is called noble by the world. But the world will not help me put back together what the war has broken apart . . . I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore.’

“Most of the time I am not bitter like Mrs. March. Thankfully, the world is helping us put back together what the war has broken.

“I think volunteering to fight for a cause that you believe in is noble. While I grieve for our wounded children, there are worse fates than this.

“While I long for peace, it is not enough to be anti-war; we must be wise enough to determine what is worth fighting for and what is not.

“My greatest hope now is that Seth and his comrades’ sacrifices will not be in vain, that the powers that be will ensure that some good comes from the terrible losses endured.

“And, because it is Mother’s Day, I will hope that the mothers of Afghanistan and their daughters have better lives because of the sacrifices of our children.

“And that is my point. These soldiers are our children — not other people’s kids.”

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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