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The envelope arrived a few weeks early. I suppose I'd been expecting something like that, but I'd not really come to terms with it quite yet.
The simple envelope was addressed to my eldest son, who was coming up on his 18th birthday. It was from the Selective Service.
It's now official. If at any time government officials decide a draft is mandatory, they can call on my son ... and all of his friends.
His friends ... who hang out at the house playing Xbox games, watching movies and eating popcorn, who hold hands with the rest of the family and say the blessing with us at dinnertime, who sometimes call me "Mom."
They're all just kids.
Perhaps this is troubling me so much because each time an e-mail arrives in my inbox from the governor's office announcing an order for the U.S. flag to be posted at half staff, I get a lump in my throat.
It has happened too many times.
As of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the federal government, 5,858 men and women have been killed in action in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom since Oct. 7, 2001.
They were just kids, too.
Each one of those 5,858 soldiers was someone's son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother.
I loathe the word "casualty," for there's nothing casual about death, especially when it happens while defending one's country.
Somehow it's easier to swallow a number like 5,858 than it is to read the details about one soldier's death. But visit the website militarytimes.com/valor and it's not quite as palatable.
There, faces and stories are posted with the numbers and it's a lot more difficult to understand just what our country is involved in.
In addition to the soldiers who have lost their lives, there have been 41,771 U.S. service members wounded in action.
Why are we still at war?
I know the three official reasons:
1. To eliminate Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
2. To diminish the threat of international terrorism.
3. To promote democracy in Iraq and surrounding areas.
Again, I ask, why are we still at war?
I understand the important jobs our soldiers do, and I'm grateful to them, more so that I can put into words.
I just don't want anymore of them to lose their lives while doing that job.