On a glorious late spring weekend, we van pooled 17 mostly blond, mostly pony-tailed 12-year-old girls to a soccer tournament Down East. Singing, laughing, talking make-up, tan lines, hair styles, even soccer strategies, these girls were at the top of their game.
We hit Jacksonville ready to run the other teams off the fields, nervous, excited, the world revolving around our tournament bracket schedule.
Passing the Camp Lejuene perimeter was the most sobering moment of the trip. “What are all those sheets doing hung over the fences?” the girls asked.
The Marine base is mostly surrounded by chain-link fencing. Last spring, every surface was covered with hand-painted, decorated bed sheets from family members declaring their love and wishes for safety to their loved ones serving their tours in Iraq. The sheets were collages of hearts, flowers, endearments, and tenderness. This was a town bound together, taking life a day at a time, praying, helping each other out, waiting.
There seemed to be a wartime etiquette for sharing the bed sheet wishes. Most messages were brief and bold, lots of elementary school artists’ graphics. They were displayed along the highway entrances for all the world to see. There were gaps on the walls and fences. I imagined the “Welcome Home Daddy” and the “We Miss You Mom” banners came down when the fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, safely returned.
While we bounced around town with that wonderful soccer-girl energy, I kept thinking about those other families. Were they having as much fun at Golden Corral?
Were they in line with us at Wal-Mart, stocking up on water, flip flops and sunscreen? Toes in the sand, when they looked out to the Atlantic Ocean, they could only have had one thing on their mind.
I thought of those bed sheet banners yesterday. On the radio, the Pentagon reported that a soldier was “slightly injured.” Is slightly injured like slightly pregnant or mildly cancerous? Does the phrase “only slightly injured by a bomb” calm the listener, reassure the worried parent, spouse, or child?
Bring them all home.