As with so many people in the U.S. today, I am especially thinking about the state of the world today, this 9/11 anniversary.
I work with homeless and "at-risk" youth in LA, and have been doing so for the past 21 years, as the Founder of the Children's Lifesaving Foundation.
There is a core group of these children and families, in one of our programs known as our Vita Network, many whom have been with our agency for over a decade or longer. We have shared birthdays together, holidays, made sure they have been provided with housing, summer camps, college scholarships, new clothing, and toys and extra money during the holidays. They are truly, in essence, our extended family.
R. and his family are definitely one of those core families. I have known him since he was a little boy. HE was tutored through elementary and high school at our Learning Center and received his first college scholarship from us two years ago. I do not want to say too much about them for security reasons, because R. is going to be one of the very first Marine units to be deployed to Northern Iraq at the very end of the month.
He has already, at age 22, spent over nine hot, exhausting months in Afghanistan, (hottest day on record-144 degrees!) and we prayed and wished for his safe return. He has been home, back in the US, less than a year. He is and has always been one of the kindest, most loving young men I have met in my lifetime. I just had the joy to spend a day with him before returning to his base.
And now he is leaving again, at the end of the month. For Northern Iraq, where this vicious gang of terrorists is preying upon what and whoever crosses its path, regardless of race, religious affiliation or background.
I see the recent atrocities recited as if they were highlights from a horror film reel, and I am aghast -- at both the way in which our media culture has been processing these assorted tragedies, and the fact that our R. is going to land dead center into this brutal mess. And as the "enemy," the worst kind to these savages: A US soldier.
I just wanted to take this time to tell you, R., and all the other extraordinarily brave young men and women possibly being shipped off to the Middle East in the coming weeks: We all love you. And we will all wrap you in our gratitude, our prayers, until the day you return to us. To friends reading this, there has to be more we can individually do to help make this horror end. I have no answers, only a deep longing and craving for compassion at this time.