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Soldier Mom
Waiting, Worrying, and Hoping
New Feature Column: U.S. Soldier Mom's Perspective
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/09/2007 6:53 PM ET
When you are the mother of a soldier, when your child is in a war zone, the nightly news can look very different. Your first reaction is always, how will this affect my child today? Will he be in more danger? Unfortunately, you can't just worry about tomorrow. The long-term picture can put your child in just as much, if not more, danger. My son is currently serving in Iraq. This is his fourth deployment in six years, his second time in Iraq. After college, my son enlisted in the military. Now six years later, I have reached the point where having my child in a war zone has become a part of his normal adult life. Since he left college, he has been training to be in a war zone, or he has been in a war zone. This is not what I imagined his life would be like when he was a kid, when I was taking him to swim team practice, piano lessons, and science camp. This isn't even what I imagined when he enlisted in the military. He enlisted before 9/11, when the world was a very different place.

Today the actions of someone in Iraq -- a politician, an insurgent, an ordinary citizen -- might change my son's life forever, or even end it. The actions of someone in the United States -- a politician, a military officer, an ordinary citizen -- might change my son's life forever, or even end it. The stakes could not be higher. The decisions they make, may not just change the next election, they may change my son's life forever. This changes the way you look at the nightly news. You are not just a citizen worrying about what this means for our country, what this will mean for the world. It is much more personal than that. But you are still a citizen and you do have to worry, not just about your child, but about your country, the world you live in.

When you first learn that your child will be going to a war zone, you worry. There will be a lot of rumors going around about when he will be leaving and where he will be going. The information changes almost daily. They are going, and then they are not going. In the end, they always go. You will hear, he will be here and then he will be there. You find self, looking at a map of country, trying to pick out the names of the cities, you learn geography in a way you never did in school. What is the place like -- a city, a remote village, desert, mountainous? What does the highway, the river near the town mean? Do they like Americans? What are the people like? What do they believe? How will they react when they encounter your child? What kind of danger will child be in?

You worry about your child, has he been trained well enough for this mission? Does he have the equipment he needs to do his job and stay safe? Is there anything you can buy, anything you can send, that will make him safer? You feel helpless, there isn't a lot that you can do. You know your child's strengths and weaknesses; you worry about how this war will change him. When he is first there, every battle you hear about, every soldier killed, send fear through your heart. You wait for the phone call, the knock at the door, telling you it was your son. But now, I have been through this several times, he has spent years in a war zone. He went this time, into a war zone, more realistic about what he would experience. I knew what to expect. I know that when things go silent, when I don't hear from him or about him, he is alive. If he were dead, I would have heard, there would have been that phone call, that knock at the door.

You still listen, you still search for every scrap of news on Iraq, on the province, on the town where he is at. But you filter that news from a place of less panic. Often I hear from my son daily in emails. I am able to filter these news events through his perspective on the ground. Other times, I will go for weeks hearing nothing from him, left with no input from him on what all this means. We find our shared perspective a valuable resource to both of us. He can't always see the larger picture bogged down in the day to day details of living and working in a war zone. From him, I gain valuable insight in how an event or decision will, on a practical level, affect the troops on the ground. What I will try to do here, in this column, is to show you what the news looks like to a mother of soldier on the ground in Iraq.

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


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