I remember sitting on the edge of the couch watching the exchange of gunfire. I was in sixth grade when the United States lead the Coalition Forces against Iraq. My mom, my brother, and I had just returned home from Wednesday night church. Dad sat in the burnt orange arm chair, watching a man in uniform address the nation.
“What’s on, Dad?” We usually made it home in time to catch the end of Roseanne.
“Quiet,” he commanded. And so we stood there, halfway between setting our stuff down and putting our coats away, and watched the man in uniform. Under the cover of night the strike began. Bombs and missiles were raining down on Baghdad. Tracers from the anti-aircraft guns lit up the infrared TV cameras with a green glow.
After a few minutes we stopped standing there and sat down, letting everything else go unfinished. I didn’t put my Bible or my coat away. I didn’t make my lunch for school the next day. I didn’t even take my nightly shower. I just sat there on the end of the couch–the usual place I had to claim when my whole family watched TV. Part of me was intrigued. This was every G.I. Joe battle I ever imagined right in front of me. And that also scared me. This was for real. Those bombs and explosions meant concrete crumbling, children crying, people dying. I couldn’t sit there and smile that Saddam was finally getting his. I could only sit there with a grim expression, unsure of what to think. War isn’t something you process in sixth grade. Unfortunately, it’s not something men in uniform–who have long since left the sixth grade–process either.