After a holiday evening together, we were saying goodbye to my friend Sharon and her two young children when she handed me a big yellow magnet in the shape of a ribbon. Its slogan: "Support Our Troops."
"I'm giving these out to friends, for moral support," she explained. "But you don't have to put it on your car if you don't want to. If it ends up on your fridge, that's great."
I smiled and nodded, but her request gave me pause. What would it mean if I put that magnet on my car? What does it mean to "support our troops," especially when I'm wondering what being in Iraq has accomplished, and how we're ever going to get out?
I thought back to the day I learned that Sharon's husband was being deployed to Iraq. At the community pool, I'd asked Sharon how she was doing, casually, the way you inquire if someone is feeling better after an illness. When she told me Barry would ship out in a month, I thought she was kidding. I didn't even know he was in the Army Reserve. To me, Barry was a high school teacher studying to be a principal, and a caring dad to one of my son's good friends.
Barry's presence in Iraq became real when I heard about the Carolina-based reservists refusing to deliver fuel in Iraq, claiming their equipment was unsafe. In normal times - when they're home - these reservists live not far from me. Though Barry wasn't one of the objectors, I worried about the implications. What if they're right? What if they've been given third-rate equipment to fight a war with no purpose?