have courage. take heart. bear witness.
With luck, our parents have a chance to see us as almost no one else can—as infants, then as children, adolescents, and, finally, as adults. This can give mothers and fathers a kind of panoramic x-ray vision that penetrates the present moment to reveal the layered history embedded within us, as well as the potential yet to unfold.
John Geddry, eldest son of Mary Geddry, was deployed to Iraq twice as a Marine assigned to Weapons Platoon, Fox Company. He was awarded a meritorious combat promotion and left military service as a corporal. To those in his unit, he was a fellow Marine and, possibly, a close friend. As his mother, Mary cannot help but see John as the boy he was—as well as the man he is now—and wonder, with that mix of dread and hope that pierces a parent's heart, how his military experience will shape his life in the coming years.
Recorded in Corvallis, Oregon, December 2008.
"I saw these transports, laden with troops, crossing the border into Iraq. And it was such a raw feeling to know that I had a child in that, and he was going to war. It wasn't play acting, you know—he was going to war. And I was just slain. I mean, it was just not something you expect."
"Sometimes I'd get twelve Google alerts a day. It was like torture, but you had to know—you couldn't not know. I would think, "Oh, my God, it could be my child," and I would throw up in the bathroom. And then, slowly, as the day wore on, you'd realize that it wasn't your Marine. And then you'd realize it was somebody's Marine and that my good fortune was someone else's misfortune."
"I had been doing everything I could to educate myself about the effects of war on soldiers. I had met a lot of veterans, and they had shared experiences and difficulties that they'd had. The benefit of that, for both of us, was that I wasn't totally unprepared for what had happened to [John]. Although I was still totally blown away at how much he had changed."
"All of a sudden, he couldn't keep a job. He couldn't get his life together. And things fell apart for John so much that he had to come up and live with Mom, which was really hard for a big macho Marine who'd led men in combat and made split-second decisions and done all the things that he had done."
* * * * *
"I was able to talk him into going to the Roseburg VA. They have a spectacularly wonderful inpatient treatment for PTSD, and it's turned everything around for him. I mean, it's still a huge problem, but he finally understands a lot of what's happened to him. And, more importantly, about two weeks after he'd been there, he said 'I'm learning to love myself again.'"
"We owe it to them to take those stories, whether they're glamorous and glorious or not. We sent them there, you know? We are collectively responsible for everything they did, everything they witnessed, and everything they suffered. And we owe it to them to just listen and not put our own picture over the top of it."