I wrote this almost two years ago. Even several years down the line I tinker with all my pieces, but this one is basically intact. Many of my political viewpoints have turned 180 degrees since then, but my emotional stakes in the war in Iraq - and my pride in my sons & the troops - have not. I'd really like input on my pieces. Feel free to let me know what you think. APOLOGIES I'm not here to discuss whether or not we should be in Iraq - it's been covered ad nauseum, and really quite beside the point for this particular rant. I'm here to comment on the people who are doing the fighting for America, and how they are often perceived here at home. I'm writing to you because I'm absolutely incensed. I'm shaking so hard I can barely type. But I owe some people an apology...and here's why: A customer standing in front of me in the convenience store this morning was chatting with the clerk. As I waited to pay for my soda, I heard the clerk say something about Iraq. Being the mother of two Marines who served in Iraq, my ears immediately tuned in just in time to hear the customer say "Marines!" He made a disgusted noise and continued, "Of course they're guilty! Why should we bother wasting our tax money on a trial for any of those murderers? They've been killing babies since Vietnam. They need to fry them right now and just disband the Marines! They're violent - Neanderthals dressed up in uniforms. If they were intelligent, they'd be in college, or have real jobs - not out slaughtering innocent people for fun. The whole military is full of nothing but animals. They're occupiers, fighting an illegal war, anyway." It is here that I must say to you all, that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't handle it better. I'm sorry, frankly, that I didn't punch the son of a bitch. That would have been more natural. After all, my sons are "Neanderthals in uniform". They must get it from me. I spend part of my time in a virtual world with other Marine Moms and Dads. We are bound together by the Red and Gold colors of the United States Marine Corps. Our own red stands for the heartblood of mothers of warriors, and the shining gold exemplifies our sons and daughters' selfless service to an entire nation. We have an eclectic yet tightly-knit community. We are Conservative and Liberal, from both blue states and red; we don't always see eye to eye on things political and spiritual. Yet always, our bond of love, pride and gratitude for our loved ones and what they sacrifice is strong and unshakeable. I owe this remarkable family that I love so much my second apology. I let you all down. I'm sure you would have been better at handling the situation than I was. I know two certain Gunnery Sergeants who helped guide my sons into the Corps. To me, they are the epitome of truly outstanding Marines. They've always been kind to me even when I might not have deserved it, took time to help when others might have been impatient. They know that I'm often too emotional. But they also know that I'm truly honored to be a peripheral part of this great Marine Corps Family. So to you, dear Gunnys D and H - my third apology; for letting you down, not "sucking it up and carrying on". I know you would have handled it much more smoothly. It's to my sons, and all the Marines Past, Present and Future that I owe my fourth apology. I'm sorry, Marines. I know you could have taken the whole situation in stride. You would have turned to your training and been able to ignore the whole tirade. You probably would have even laughed yourselves sick at that man's sheer gall. But it was in that line at the store that I uttered my first apology. It was directed to the man who stood in front of me, carelessly speaking against my sons and all the Marines I hold so dearly in my heart. The apology was also directed to the rest of the Americans who do not believe in the heroes that have given everything they have to give for the country and people they love so much. "I'm sorry." "What?" he said. I repeated "I'm sorry". He looked at me with a puzzled expression. I shook my head as I said, "I'm sorry you feel the way you do about Marines. I have two Marine sons." His expression began to turn into...what, I'm still not sure, but it looked too closely like the start of a contemptuous sneer for my liking. My voice started to shake. "It doesn't even occur to you does it, that our Marines have done nothing wrong - they just do their job. You think they're guilty of murder just because they're MARINES." His mouth started to move, but I put up my hand and stopped him before he could talk. "I don't know why you said what you just said, or why you feel the way you do - but I know one thing. My sons and every Marine I personally know has more intelligence, honor, courage and decency than you'll develop over your whole miserable, unimportant life." By this time I am ashamed to say, I've totally lost my bearing. Tears are pouring down my face. I said thickly, "There's more worth inside the sorriest Marine than there is in the man standing in front of me right now." He started to say something, but again I interrupted. "Your level of sheer ignorance about the Marine Corps make me sad. The fact that better men than you could ever be, have died so you could stand here and talk about them is even sadder. But the saddest thing about you is...you're not even smart enough to know just how right I am. I'm so, so sorry for you." There was absolute silence in that store. I know everyone was staring at me like I'd just grown three heads and wings. Hell, maybe I had. I rubbed my eyes and turned to what I hoped was the door, blinded by tears of frustration and pent-up rage. Like the coward a Marine is not, I fled to my car. I ended up leaving without the damned soda I came to buy. I don't even know if I set it down, or it ended up on the store's floor in a huge mess. So I failed not just the people who expect me to behave better than that man in the store, I failed to even accomplish the tiny mission I set out on. This whole morning just sucked. Good Lord. Maybe it's human nature to believe in guilt before examination, rather than innocence - maybe it's too easy for some to think the worst of people they don't even know. Personally, I find it easier to think the best of someone before I think the worst. Our Dogs of War have given everything for the sheep they love so much. And what do some give them in return? Betrayal. Betrayal from some in the media who hide behind them in order to keep the right to speak out against them. Betrayal from many of the American people who seem to believe that when the military trains for war, they lose their humanity. That somehow, known terrorists get a pass for deliberate slaughter of innocents, but certain young & heroic Americans are branded guilty before they are tried in courts of law - found guilty by a public who won't show even a shadow of thankfulness for the freedoms these same men afford us all. Hell, sadly enough they are often used by politicians from both sides, who seize the chance to further their own agendas and careers. What's happened to our society that our bravest young men and women are branded as animals - and yet terrorists get sympathy? Have you people lost your minds? Our warriors deserve our trust and confidence. They've earned it. Don't think so? That's your right, I know. It's also my right to think you are drowning in bullshit. Our sons and daughters, our fellow Americans who serve do their jobs voluntarily. They are not forced or coerced to do so. We could not keep the free society we have if it were not for men and women who selflessly make the choice to serve. But now we could be facing a problem seldom seen in this country - a possible lack of willingness to put oneself on the line. Not by the idea that certain wars might be just or unjust. But by the perception among the ranks that when push comes to shove, they will be hung out to dry for political gain by their own leaders. Or worse, that they might be judged by their fellow Americans to be unworthy of thanks and support, no matter what they face, or where they fight. I've decided I can learn a thing or three from people like that man, perhaps in a way I never would have envisioned when I first fell apart in that tiny Stop-n-Rob 'Em. First, I can usually count on people who are least worthy of our freedoms to be the most careless when applying them. Second, it's not a good idea for me to leave my house at 0630 with no caffeine beforehand. And third...I'm never going to understand some people and their embrace of ignorance and hatred, no matter how long I live. It is my fervent wish never to do so. Carry on, America. Whatever you decide about wars and those who fight them, you're still safe and comfy here at home to make those decisions. You aren't out there facing what these troops have faced. And you presume to know enough to condemn them for what you cannot possibly imagine? I'd say you should be ashamed, but I wonder if some people even are capable of feeling that emotion anymore. Meanwhile, some of the best and brightest of America are defending you so you won't have to do it yourselves. Why? Some days, I really don't know the answer. And then I realize that they are heroes simply because they do it - whether we deserve it or not. And this is our reward to them? To the man I met in the store this morning - I hope someday you fully know the shadow you've cast on your own soul. May God forgive you. I don't know that I can as quickly as He. And to our troops - thank you all for having our backs. I'm truly sorry so many Americans have stabbed you in yours. - Lori H.