My son and I
My official photographer for the past year has been Anthony Tortoriello (atortphotography.com) however, this beautiful photographer, has created a portfolio of images online that warrant being shared by everyone. I only choose this particular picture to emphasize her passion, believe me, there are some absolutely gorgeous photos at www.alisecuaphotography.com/gallery. Thank you Alise.
Alise calls this photo "Farewell", but I must call it "The Soldier's Achilles Heel" as the boy not recognized, the soldier not named, represents the very reason our men and women are standing to protect us in lands very far away - - but so very close to each of us. If you are one of the lucky ones and your son or daughter, husband, wife, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend is not perpetually wearing a uniform, you still understand the passion of our nation's great military - - Today our Armed Forces have what my son refers to as an "over capacity". They are at 200% retention - - where our current government and leaders are publicly urging and even promising that our soldiers will come home - - the soldiers aren't leaving. More and more men and women who signed up for 3 or 4 years are resigning and re-upping in order to finish a personal goal, or a personal mission they don't feel is up to the government to mandate.
My son stands in Iraq tonight. He holds a rifle in his hands at all times. I'm told that if he doesn't have it he must be on leave and hold a written pass to excuse him from not being armed. I'm told also that he wears something else, something not military issue: his smile. Baby boy as I call him, Spc. Reuben Stringfellow, has this thing that can't be explained - - he seems to love his duty, he knows his time is almost up. He struggles with the decision whether to re-up or come home; and although I believe his mind is made up, and that come Christmas we will hold our soldier forever in our arms and home - - having lent him to the world at large, and more specifically to our country, he will return.
This decision is not an easy one to make. Military personnel pulling from one side, lovers, friends, children, parents, and others pulling on the other - - most of the ones resigning have less family back home it is true. Most of the men and women deciding to protect me - - don't have a mother like me. Those that choose to stay behind or "over there" and protect my daughters..don't have daughters; their families and the military are one in the same.
The next time you happen to be in an airport - - oh, and you see that little boy laughing and running between his father's uniformed legs, please pray for that man. If you see a woman, hair tucked up, tears held back, as her little one hugs her goodbye but can't get their little arms around her because Mommy is wearing 40-50 pounds of extra gear - - say a prayer for her; it's the hardest most heart-tearing decision she will ever have to make; but she made it for you.
To my son, to the men and women I see and don't see who choose to love me and choose to protect me - - Godspeed and much love. Thank you.