Letter From Iraq
For October 13, 2005
Jerry Simmons

Sometimes we get caught up in the daily rush of
things and forget about what really matters in life. I
believe one of those things that really matter is the
loneliness of our military men and women stationed in a
foreign land. I was not in the military, but I have lived long
enough to have at least a sense of what it means to be
lonely and away from home and the life left behind. Never
have I had anyone shooting at me with the intention of
killing me, so I don't know how that feels (although years
back, there was an irate father threatening to shoot me. The
story of this incident is related in our latest book, A
Sawmill Scrapbook, Volume 4. The fear in my heart that
night should have been enough to make me swear off
females for the rest of my life!).
         A dear cousin had a son serving in the Marine Corps
in Iraq. Like every other mother with a child there, she
constantly prayed for him to come home safely. Those of
you with a loved one in the face of danger know better than
I of the anguish one feels not knowing what might happen.
Recently he did come home after a stress-filled year for
         Between the media portraying George Bush and the
military as heathens killing innocent people, and the hawks,
who believe we should hold nothing back to get the war
over with quickly, one doesn't get a real sense of what the
ones in the midst of the battles feel. The loneliness, the heat,
the fear of being killed and especially the deprivation of
being with their family, all combine to place pressure on
these young men and women beyond the frustrations we experience in our lives in the safety of our own homes.
      I asked my cousin if I could share one of her son's letters with the readers here, so they might get a feeling of what goes on in a marine's mind far from home. It's a short letter, but it kinda says a lot in a few words.

Here is the letter

     June 10, 2005
     Thank everyone at the church for all the things they sent me. Everything was divided up between me and my Marines and we all thank you. It has gotten miserable (sic) hot here and between the heat and the bad guys everyone here is at their breaking point. But we only might have 2 1/2 to 3 more months. It could always be worse, so I am thankful. I look forward to coming home and sitting in a peaceful, cool, dark room alone for a day or two.
     You and your church don't realize how much we Marines appreciate you all thinking of us. Thank you.
     I love you,

     Today as I was reading over Howard's letter once more, if there was a way to send him and his marines some cool air, I would forego the a/c for myself and send it posthaste. The cramped quarters, the aloneness and the homesickness is something I can't do anything about. But some creature comforts can be shared, if only in small ways. Please understand this is not a stand for or against the war. Let's just not take for granted the people doing their duty for this country.
     I don't care what your political persuasion is, I hope you have compassion for the men and women in uniform doing their job in the name of the United States. Write a letter; send a package of useful things; pray for the men and women there; most of all, pray for our leaders to do the right thing - and the best thing.

     The photo accompanying this article is of my great uncle, Owen Neal Simmons, in his World War I uniform. He gave up part of his life to the cause of freedom and suffered one of the tragedies of war by breathing mustard gas during a German offensive. He survived, and he lived a long life afterward; but he always had trouble breathing. War lends itself to the curse of human suffering and many in harm's way today may well be affected the same or worse.
     The picture is courtesy of my cousin Meta Bell of Flomaton, whom I have never officially met, but hope to someday.
     By the time you read this, the Model A show will be over. As I write, on Friday, I am hoping for a big crowd and a nice day tomorrow.
     Y'all come see us.

Owen Neal Simmons ca. 1918. He had problems breathing in later years, a result of a mustard gas attack by the Germans in World War I
photo courtesy Meta Bell)

This page last modified on Friday, October 21, 2005