Saturday, September 04, 2010

Another One

The word passed quickly through school one afternoon last week.

We had lost one of our former students in Afghanistan.

The school health aide stuck her head inside my classroom to ask, " Did I remember .. (we'll call him " J)? I think he had a crush on one of your daughters for a while."


The name was so familiar, but there have been quite literally thousands of kids in 22 years of teaching.

I racked my brain.

Dammit. I needed a picture. I remember faces not names. It's the face that brings back the memory for me.

I pondered what it means to spend an hour a day with a kid for 180 days and then not be able to remember his face a few years later. He had to be a low flyer, under the radar kind of kid.

The jocks, the cheerleaders, the student government go-getters, the really smart ones, the really bad ones, the really funny ones ... they tend to stick easier to my memory circuits.

Who was J ... and what does it say about me if I can't remember his face 5 years after he left the school?

I needed that damn picture and at least for that day, there was none.


The next morning, the yearbook advisor sent me a photocopy of the picture page with J on it.

There he was, just a couple pics from my own daughter ... surrounded by kids I knew by name, yet I could not recall J, until I was able to see his face in the grainy black and white photocopy.

Oh yes.
I remember.

A very quiet kid.
In a high school, mixed in amongst the bad ones, the good ones, the outgoing ones, the athletes, the scholars, the criminals ... there are the quiet ones.

Mostly, they go through the whole high school experience barely rippling the surface. You know they are there at the time, but you may not notice when they leave.

Such was the case with J.

Now he was dead at 23 ... a victim of a Taliban ambush.

Later in the day, an email came around with a photo and a few quotes from J's Facebook site.
The picture showed J, a little older, but not much different from the yearbook photo, with an incredibly cute three year old baby boy hugging his neck.

In the quote, J expressed his decision to not pursue a military career. He said he just wanted to make it home safe to raise his "beautiful baby boy".

That won't be happening now.
And for what ... Afghanistan ? Afghanistan with it's tribal, medieval, culture? It's leaders with multimillion dollar homes in Dubai?

Afghanistan is not a country... it's a region ... a patchwork of peoples locked in tribalism and primitive cultural traditions.

We needed to be there for a while after 9.11.01.
We don't now. Time for the Afghans to succeed or fail on their own.

There's nothing Afghan worth the life of a quiet kid from a small town in Florida.

Nothing.

It still bothers me that I needed a photo to remember the person J was.

It bothers me more to think his three year old son will have no memory of his father when he grows up ... only a picture of a stranger.

31 comments:

LibraryGirl62 said...

I agree...

The Florida Blogger said...

Give yourself a little grace, FC. I do agree that we should have been out of that region a long time ago.

threecollie said...

I'm so sorry, FC.

Dani said...

I hate this.

May God watch over his sweet family and baby boy.

Buford Nature said...

I believe the overpopulated, barbaric nations of the world are hopeless. I agreed when we invaded, but no longer agree with being there and will never again agree with sending soldiers to other nations.

I lost a brother and many classmates in Vietnam. I used to ask returnees what they thought about us participating in anti-war demonstrations and refusing to serve there. They said we were the smart ones.

I'm 62 now. I didn't get this way by being a Universal Soldier.

kevin said...

Buford, did you vote for Obama? I doubt that J was a "Universal Soldier". Just a kid trying to do the right thing. I feel sorry for his family, but I hope they are proud of his service and sacrifice.

Out of respect for FC, I'll withhold other comments.

lisa said...

Its one of those things that you see way too many kids coming through and you unfortunately cannot remember every single one! I was always told that I wasn't remembered because I was one of the good ones that didn't kick up a fuss or cause trouble, it seems like the ones you remember are the ones that have been trouble makers or the ones that are highly successful and very involved in all aspects of the school. It is very sad, but our troops are to be recommended for being willing to fight for our country rather we agree with the cause or not.

Miz S said...

That's a heart-breaker, right there. And just one of many heartbreaks.

Tree Hugger said...

Am in my 23rd year of teaching!! So true how quickly one forgets names. Thank goodness I can still remember faces.
Totally agree on all points. The White House is clueless. . . .

robin andrea said...

What a sad story, fc.

Freste said...

(tips hat and nods)

ImagineMel said...

Amen. Rest in Peace.

amarkonmywall said...

You're making my heart ache here. I hate this. And you're so right- it's far past time we stepped out of this insidious business over there.

cndymkr / jean said...

This breaks my heart. I hope that little boy knows that his father was a hero.

kevin said...

Stepping out of this "insidious business" means J and the rest died for nothing. Afghanistan is not about helping Afghanistan succeed or fail on their own, it's about finding and killing Osama Bin Laden. Helping with the infrastructure is just more efficient than trying to beat them into submission, just ask the Russians.

I agree with FC's assessment of Afghanistan but the reason we're there has not changed.

Florida Beach Basics said...

more about J
http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20100905/NEWS01/9050319/1086/Titusville+soldier+dies+in+Afghanistan

Ericka said...

i'm sorry that you're hurting.

look at the numbers, fc. how many students pass thru your door? that you remember their faces, and care, sets you apart from many.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Teaching really connects you to the community in ways that resonate close to home, both its joys and sorrows.

S N B said...

I'm so sorry.

Island Rider said...

Sigh.

Sayre said...

So many... I have a cousin in Afghanistan and a brother about to go to Kuwait. He reassures me that everything will be fine, but until he sets foot back on American soil, I will worry about his homecoming involving a large box and a flag.

I was a quiet one in high school. I would not expect anyone to remember me, much less a teacher who's seen thousands of faces, most much more memorable than mine.

Floridacracker said...

As a little background, I am not a Dove.
Not by a long shot.

Nor do I sanction or tolerate disrespect of anyone in the armed services of the United States.

I also understand the historic, strategic advantages of American power projection.

I see it's limits too.

Three of my nephews, all brothers, served in the invasion of Iraq. My oldest best friend Kevin (who I may have pissed off)also served there.
Right now another nephew is in Afghanistan.
Each of the nephews was a babe in my arms at some earlier point in their lives ... a Christmas party, a family reunion, etc.
So, I have had, and still do have "a dog in this fight."

It has been almost a decade since we got to Afghanistan ... we dropped a strategic advantage early on due to Iraq and that has cost us.It took me a while to come to my conclusion that it's time to STRATEGICALLY drawdown and let the Afghans fight their own civil war ... because that is what it is.

Thank you for your comments ... and in some cases, your restraint.
I value them all, agreement or disagreement.
Comments breathe the life into a site like this ... thank you for taking the time.

This will be my last comment on the subject however. The post was really supposed to be about J, not policy.
I stay away from politics and religion here at PF for a reason.

There's a million sites out there blubbering about those topics.

HERE is where I blubber about Florida's amazing wildlife, wild places, and a Labrador named Bear.

Time to refocus on my mission.

Island Rider said...

No apologies needed. When the war gets personal, all restraint flies out the window with memories and photographs. It is very likely that soon I will have a son involved in some kind of combat, war, conflict, peacekeeping whatever you want to call it. My gut wrenches with the thought at the same time that pride fills my heart. Blubber away. And pass the tissues.

kevin said...

Post something about BBQ.

Deb said...

I have wanted to post on this, but I don't want to say anything controversial, and war is definitely controversial. So my heartfelt condolences to K's family, and my silent prayers that more families won't have to go through this heartbreak.

Aunty Belle said...

FC, real real sorry. For that fine youngster, for all his kin, for his teacher.

Kimberly said...

FC, I'm very sorry to hear this sad story, and am sorry to hear your personal pain. I'm sad for the man's family but am ever so grateful for his sacrifice. I do hope his family is proud of him, as I am. I was born and raised in a military family. My father was a career Colonel and my brother enlisted in the Navy. I was born during one of my father's many tours to Vietnam. It's a crazy life that many do not understand. However, those in the military are wonderful, brave souls who deserve all the respect, honor, and family care for those left behind. War is certainly controversial, and I will not use this forum to speak on my views. However, I wish all the best for this man's family, friends and former teachers. Hugs!

Felicia said...

I'm so sorry for your loss--and I know you feel the loss, even if you had a hard time pinning the name to a face. As another teacher, I can relate to that. I think you're right--Afghanistan is a messed-up place, but unless we come up with a sure way to fix it, our being there right now is only going to make things worse. I hope life offers more promise to your current batch of students.

Anonymous said...

My son enlisted only because of 9/11. He is currently stationed as special forces in Afghanistan. There is no resolution in Iraq, death in Afghanistan, and God for bid, our next pitch for Iran.

Native Mom said...

That was a very touching post.

KatyBug said...

Excellent tribute to "J" Dad. I love you.