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Soldier Mom
War A Ping-Pong Game With Soldiers' Lives
Soldiers: "Real Americans W/ Real Families, People Who Love Them"
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/25/2007 2:33 PM ET
The first time your child is deployed, the letters home are all happy letters. They never tell you of the danger they are in, if they complain at all, it is about the food, or things they can't get. It isn't until they come home that they tell you about the close calls they had, the friend that died. But after multiple deployments, my son knows that I know the realities of life on a battlefield. Now he is more likely to tell me of the mission he just returned from, the successes and the failures, what worked and what did not.

The email he sent me this week told about the mission they had just returned from. They had secured and cleared a village; forcing the insurgent into the canals around the village, and away from the villagers for the battle. They were able to draw the insurgents into fighting them on their own terms.

They were able to do this, destroying no homes or built-up structures, like mosques. My son took great pride in that fact. He feels they are making progress, that they figuring out how to win this war. But my son is out in the provinces and not in Baghdad; an urban battlefield, where fighting insurgents is very different.

Every morning we awake to see new images of the violence that occurred in the city while we were asleep. And I fear that violence will get even worse as we move from the Sunni dominated neighborhoods into the Shiite controlled neighborhoods. That is a much more difficult battle for our soldiers.

Back in Washington, our politicians are having their own battle, deciding where they stand on the war. While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated the issue, the first troops of the surge had already arrived in Baghdad.

Soldiers are not ping-pong balls. They are real Americans, with families and people who love them. And when they die, we all lose the future potential they had to offer this country. At the beginning of the war, the president made the decision that the media would not be able to show the flag draped coffins returning from the war. Initially that decision annoyed me, for it seemed he wanted to hide the sacrifice our young men and women were making for their country.

But the side effect of that has been that the media now shows us photos of the soldiers, telling us their name, their rank, and often details of their lives. Instead of nameless flag draped coffins, each week we see real, young men and women, with faces often to young, who have died in this war. We are reminded these are real people who are dying.

The decisions made in Washington have real impact on the lives of our soldiers. Sen. Richard Lugar said, "We have the ability to require weekly updates from our diplomats and military commanders about the status in Iraq. We should be engaging the administration on almost a daily basis concerning the mission and needs of our troops?"

We should demand of the president precise explanations of his political and diplomatic strategy. We should conduct what amounts to a continuous audit of our economic assistance, to ensure that we are maximizing results."

The reality is that this president is going ahead with the surge; a non-binding resolution is not going to change that. Instead of picking sides on the surge issue, our politicians ought to spend their time making certain that the surge has a clear objective for our troops, that they are continuing to make progress in meeting that objective, and that our soldiers have all they need to achieve this mission.

My fear is that Congress will not provide oversight; they will simply pick sides and wait to see what happens in Iraq, hoping that when 2008 comes around, they were on the right side of the issue. The soldiers are not ping-pong balls, we cannot afford for those opposing the surge to be right, that it was a waste of soldiers' lives.

We need them to take action now; to make sure, right or wrong, this surge is not a waste of life. The surge is happening, and now we have to figure out how to make it work. My son's life, and the life of many other people's sons, depends on it.


Tracey-Kay Caldwell is the mother of a soldier, Democratic Party Editor of, and a freelance writer. She can be reached at


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