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Lee Ann Sides: War through a mother’s eyes

By Lee Ann Sides
Special to the Salisbury Post
As America and parts of the world hail the death of Osama bin Laden, I, being the mother of a U.S. soldier, am at a loss to describe how I feel.
I am grateful for the death of a man who could be described as evil personified. He killed thousands of people including nearly 3,000 in the 911 attacks. My initial reaction was one of joy, happiness for all the families of 911 victims and others who finally have a small amount of closure.
But my sonís reaction sobered me. ěTheyíll just replace him,î he said.
Jason has been home from his third deployment about two months ó a very difficult one that included three broken fingers and the loss of nine of his fellow soldiers from his unit in a helicopter crash. He kept working through all of it, firing an M240H from the door of a Blackhawk helicopter despite the broken fingers on his firing hand and doing his best to hold up his brothers who were experiencing a fellow soldierís death for the first time. One of those soldiers was his roommate and a fellow door gunner.
During his first two deployments, he was engaged. This deployment, there was no fiancČe for him to talk to, and I heard plenty of stories that gave me a renewed perspective on what soldiers really go through. Iím grateful for the support group I have around me. Jason tells me stories. I donít react. Just let him get it out. It has to go somewhere.
Then I have my rants, cries, etc. with other people in my life who help me cope. My heart broke at the news of the helicopter crash. I cried for my son, his strength and courage in the face of something so close. I never met any of those lost, but I wear a T-shirt that bears their names.
I share my sonís concerns. Retaliation is a real possibility now. After spending a month on base post-deployment and nearly a month on leave at home, my son returns to a unit that already has orders to return to Afghanistan. Thankfully, Jason will be joining another unit in July. But there are still so many in harmís way.
We have lost so many ó 1,560 American soldiers in Afghanistan, another 10,468 injured. Some 303 soldiers from North Carolina have been injured, 49 dead.
In the province where my son was stationed, 356 soldiers lost their lives.
These statistics came from a website dedicated exclusively to statistics about the war on terror, www.icasualties.com. A chilling discovery.
Osama bin Laden was one man ó human, just like the rest of us. He did not kill thousands alone. Al Qaida is made up of many like him who have been taught by extremists, some since they were very small. Children as young as 12 strap on bomb vests and act as suicide bombers. Al Qaida has prepared for this time, and they will not stop.
I pray we donít lose any more, but the sad fact is we will. I am grateful for all the hard work and time that went into finding and taking him down. Bin Ladenís death makes the sting of those lost a little more palatable.
My heart says, ěEnough.î I see tiredness in my sonís eyes and I share it, an emotional weariness and a knowledge that I canít touch the places where all the things heís seen lie. Some things even a mother canít fix.
But though I am tired, I remain vigilant. If he deploys again, I will be there, just as before. I pray for all those deployed and those who may fall victim to retaliation. Though I celebrate bin Ladenís death, I know one thing. This is not over. An ABC News report spoke of a poster hung on a wall in Afghanistan meant for members of Al Qaida. It read, ěAnother lion will take Osamaís place. We are all Osama.î

Lee Ann Sides lives in Rowan County.

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