Getting On with Life...and Coming Out Firing
© David Volk

News item: After days of ignoring the presence of Cindy Sheehan just outside his vacation home in Crawford, TX, George Bush had this to say about Sheehan’s demands that he meet with her and tell her what “noble cause” her son, Casey, died for in Iraq:

"I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life ... ... I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy. And part of my being is to be outside exercising. So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so."

Dear Mr. Bush:

My wife never went to Iraq.

Although she is a reservist, she was fortunate enough to stay stateside and work at a military medical facility for what was supposed to have been a one year call up. Then one year stretched into 15 months, 18 months and finally two years. Granted, she never went out of the country, unless you count five months in Alaska, but the stateside facility was far enough away that she often spent two or three day stints away from home. And when she finally did get a two day break, she spent much of the first day recovering and the better part of the second preparing for her return.

I can’t begin to understand what upheaval the husbands and wives of reservists who have been sent overseas are going through, but I know that my wife’s absence took its toll on our marriage. Even though she finished active duty almost six months ago, we’re still struggling to regain our sense of balance.

My mother didn’t die in Iraq.

She suffered a stroke in her car in an airport parking lot. Although the airport had a security force patrol the lot (thanks to the Office of Homeland Security, no doubt) around the clock, the crack team of old men in golf carts never saw her sitting in a hot car until a passerby discovered her at the end of the day. She died three weeks later, never fully recovering consciousness.

I can’t begin to guess how long it will take the relatives of soldiers to recover from the untimely deaths of their loved ones on battle fields far, far away, but I know it will take my family years to recover from my mother’s death and she was nowhere near any fighting. And we had a chance to say good-bye. Military families don’t.

Still, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to hear that you’re going on with your life. Although my family has not been able to do so, I would like to commend you for your ability to bravely look life in the face and say “bring it on” after the death of more than 1,850 loved ones. Of course, these people, they weren’t your loved ones, but that’s just so much nit-picking. They were somebody’s loved ones and indeed, even though you never bothered to attend one of their funerals, it is commendable that you are such a superior individual that you’ve been able to move on when their families haven’t been able to follow by your example, pull themselves by their bootstraps and get on with it.

I’m also relieved to hear that you’ve returned to living a balanced life. I know it can’t be easy, what with their being a war on and all. I know the fate of those 140,000 troops in the field must weigh awful heavily on you not only during your five week vacation, but also when you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., during your two hour exercise sessions and when you climb into bed around 9 p.m. or so.

Yes, the American people do want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions….and maybe if you actually spent less time vacationing, a little more time listening and a hell of a lot more time working, you might actually make some once in a while. And then maybe, just maybe, more than 1,850 families might be able to move on and 144,000 families would be able to return to living more balanced lives.

Disrespectfully yours,

David Volk