OPINION I am a mom who never wanted to have a gold star after my name.
Last month, after two years of requests, I finally received the Army's report on how my son, Patrick, died. Some of the information I already knew, through some of Patrick's brave soldier friends who were with or near him when he died. They told me much of what was in the report. They told the truth, and the government reprimanded them for doing so.
But having the information reported to me in detail on June 21 only increased the hurt — and my determination to stop other mothers from having gold stars after their names.
Patrick was a loving boy with a great sense of humor. He grew to be a strong man who was friendly to everyone, and he especially loved and cared for children. He raised his two children to be the same.
At 31, he was successful in business, earning a comfortable income. He was also a patriotic American who, after Sept. 11, wanted to serve his country. Against the advice of his Army veteran father and me, he joined the California National Guard Engineering Battalion out of Petaluma, being assured that he would serve stateside.
He was not trained as an infantryman. He was not trained to train Iraqi soldiers to be our soldiers.
Patrick was killed on June 22, 2004, outside of Fort Anaconda near Balud, Iraq. Iraqi soldiers he had been training killed him.
This government took my son, my most treasured gift, in a war we did not need to start. Now my life is dedicated to stopping mothers from losing sons, on both sides. You can help me with that.
I want to build centers for our veterans, who are having serious problems when they come home. I know our government should care for them, but that's not happening. The returning soldiers have physical and psychological needs that are being ignored and that will come back to haunt them and us in years ahead.
I want to see good alternatives to military service that ordinary citizens can contribute to and benefit from.
That's why I support the World Service Corps proposal sponsored by the People's Lobby. If Congress adopted the plan, by the time the World Service Corps entered its seventh year, one million Americans could be voluntarily serving in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, Head Start, Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, or state conservation corps.
Had this been in existence when Patrick wanted to serve his country, I believe he would have joined a nonmilitary organization, and he would be alive today.
Had this program been in existence for decades, there would not be as much hatred fired at our soldiers. There would not be as many soldiers coming home with serious needs.
Ask your congressperson to support the World Service Corps plan. Please help by visiting the Web sites listed below and giving whatever you can, to help make these lifesaving programs happen. SFBG
Nadia McCaffrey lives in Tracy.
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