Veteran’s Mother’s Heart Speaks
By Georgia Stillwell
My brothers and sisters in peace, I wish I could tell you that since my son has returned to civilian life our family is whole and happy, but this is not the case. My 21-year-old son is homeless, unemployed and on January 11th in the early morning he drove his car over an embankment. Anyone who has seen the car says he shouldn’t have survived the crash.
I remember the day I got the phone call…my son was back in the states, I fell to the floor sobbing, thanking the Creator that my son was alive. Little did I know at the time that all that returned was a physical shell. My son’s spirit and soul must still be wandering the streets of Iraq.
You’d have to know my son—this child turned man. My son used to be a sensitive guy. I remember when he wanted a kitten because dogs scared him. We went to a farm and he picked the scrawniest, ugliest, smallest kitten there. My son slept with that cat until the day he left for boot camp.
Is this the same person that used to hold my hand as a teenager or throw his arm around me when we were out in public?
Is this the same person who always made sure we said goodnight to each other and expressed our love? Who, when we were apart, talked on the phone as frequently as possible and always ended each phone call with, “I love you?”
Is this the son who held me in his arms as we cried together at the airport when he was leaving for Iraq? Where is my son?
George Bush: Give me back my son!
My son wouldn’t look me in the eyes when he first returned from Iraq. He always seemed nervous and jumpy. Riding in the car with him he weaved from lane to lane avoiding any road debris. Toll booths made him crazy. He didn’t sleep at night and seemed on edge. Alcohol was becoming his way to induce sleep.
Fast-forward to August 2005. I hadn’t heard from my son in a while. He had been slowly pushing away everyone that loved and cared for him. We live in different states and it’s hard to track him. In August, I found him. He looked like a skeleton. He looked so skinny. The soldier’s body was long gone. His eyes held sadness. He asked for 20 bucks for food as he had none in his refrigerator. He only visited with me for a half hour even though I had driven 300 miles to see him. He took off. I went home. The phone calls became less and less. Days turned to months. I didn’t hear from him at Thanksgiving, not a word at Christmas, New Year’s passed without a sound.
Then came the dream. Mothers are bonded to their children. We know their hurts, their pains, we feel them even when they’re thousands of miles away. On January 9th the dream came. In the dream there was an Iraqi, my son and me. We were attached through ropes. Suddenly my son was hoisted in the air and his body slammed against a beam and he couldn’t breathe, he was choking…I will never forget the look in his eyes. I woke up unnerved and unable to return to sleep.
The next morning I called my son’s ex-girlfriend. They had been dating since their sophomore year in high school, but he had recently x’ed her out of his life. She stated my son had been arrested over the weekend for fighting. My son has only had one speeding ticket in his entire life; certainly not violent.
Then, two hours later, my mother called. When my son returned from Iraq he bought a car with his combat pay, my mother cosigned. My mom stated that the bank had contacted her about a week ago and he was behind in payments. The car was up for repossession. I was becoming increasingly worried. When I got in to work the next day I had an emergency phone call from my sons ex-girlfriend. She told me through her tears that my son had driven his car over an embankment. She saw the car and said she couldn’t believe he survived.
She had talked to some of his friends who told her that he was crying that night and talking about the war. Whenever my son gets a few beers in him his friends tell me he talks about the war. They describe it as “crazy talk.” He wants the blood of the Iraqis he killed off his hands. He then left and drove his car at high speed over an embankment.
I have spoken with my son twice since then. I didn’t go see him at his request. The first time I spoke with him I began crying, telling him how much I loved him. His response, “Whatever.”
During the second conversation he said he feels better. Does he feel better because his body feels bruised and broken? It now matches his insides.
George Bush is going to give us his state of the union—well this is the state of my family. People say to me he volunteered, he knew what he was getting into. My son was still a teenager, he had no idea what he was getting into. Can anyone really comprehend war unless they’ve been there? The war has come home. It is coming home with each soldier.
My son’s body survived Iraq…nothing else.
Georgia Stillwell is a member of Military Families Speak Out.
—Truthout, January 31, 2006