Friday evening, Mrs. Dada and I became engaged in conversation with our neighbors after spotting their 8 or 9 year old daughter Samantha outside. She was in her front yard playing with Tommy, a younger brother, practicing his passes, catches and drops of a football between them.
I have to confess, Samantha is like the daughter we never had, and little Tommy could have been our son. I've enjoyed this family since they moved in across the street a year ago. The pleasant sounds of these children who allocate so much of their time to outdoors and play add a welcome supplement of vitality to the neighborhood. They remind me of many pleasant hours spent outside with neighbor kids of my youth.
So upon espying one another, we waved. "Hi Bob!" Samantha hollered. "Hi, Sam!" I returned. We'd agreed some weeks ago, she could call me Bob instead of Mr. Dada, if I could call her Sam. We hadn't seen each other in awhile, hence, I crossed the street to see how they'd been. How school was going. If that move to Hawaii they'd been anticipating was really going to happen. (It had been dangling like the proverbial carrot on a stick before them for a couple of months now.)
"We're moving at the end of this month," Sam confessed somewhat excitedly.
Bittersweet were my thoughts as we discussed the details of their plan.
"It rains a lot," she said matter-of-factly.
"Yes, but you'll practically be at the beach all the time!" I said with envy. "And another nice thing, you can't get lost there 'cause if you take a long enough ride, you'll always end up where you started," I added.
"Cause it's just like this," Sam observed, pointing with her big toe to a large spot on the sidewalk made from a raindrop that had just fallen. "Only bigger."
"Yep," I agreed.
Exchanging football tosses with Tommy as we spoke, Mrs. Dada and I were soon joined by the parents. They're a military family. Moving is an integral part of their modus operandi. As is war.
We had a nice visit about the kids, their impending move, Hawaii, and Iraq. During this last subject, neighbor told us of an experience there he'd had one day while on patrol. Of a young girl about 8 or 9 years old who didn't obey their repeated commands to "Stop!" as she continued to approach their patrol vehicles. My neighbor, with a quick check with his NCO in charge, was given the 'green light.'
At a distance of 40-50 yards, with a short burst or two from a large caliber weapon mounted on his patrol vehicle, my neighbor wasted the young girl. In an instant, 8 or 9 years of life was extracted as her limp, lifeless body collapsed to the ground. I don't know how much, if any, of the horror I felt I was able to conceal as I glanced at sweet Samantha, his daughter of similar age, as our neighbor looked at Mrs Dada and asked, "What would you have done?"
But the story didn't end there -- it has a happier ending, fortunately -- for an instant after the child's lifeless body slammed into the desert sand, the American patrol watched the unfolding drama as the woman who'd just lost a child picked up the lifeless remains of her daughter that were but seconds ago vibrant with youth. Stunned, the GI's watched as she proceeded toward the patrol with the body in her arms.
As if watching a slo-mo replay of what had just happened, the woman, undaunted, resumed what had been her daughter's approach of the GI's. And again, warnings to "Halt!", to stop, went unheeded. Convinced the woman may be finishing the mission her daughter had fallen short of, our neighbor once more received his NCO's okay to splatter this woman. In a second, the order was carried out -- as I glanced at my neighbor's young wife.
I don't know if the patrol ever reconned the scene to see if explosives were on or attached to the body of a young Iraqi girl that caused an American patrol to end her life that day. But in some perverse mindset, it is what many of our GI's are doing to keep their fellow soldiers and, ultimately, American families safe from terrorism.
In some small consolation, the young Iraqi girl who may have died needlessly that day didn't go to eternity motherless! Yet being motherless may be the fate of her siblings, if any, left on this Earthly plane. I guess that's the nature of war these days; of "liberating" people.