Sunday, June 26, 2011

Uncle Kelby Ships Out...Again: Keep Your Promise, Mr. President

Missy and Son, E, Say Goodbye (Again) to Kelby (
Growing up as the oldest of five girls, I always wished I had a brother. Then I met my dear friend, Missy and her hubby, Kelby. And our families became fast friends, all of us, and in what seems now like a moment in time, we became family. I can't tell you when that exact instant happened, but I know without a doubt one thing is true: we were all meant to be part of each other's lives, meant to be family.

If you're a regular around these parts, you've heard me talk about Kelby. Kelby was the one who decided that if I have a daughter that is as gorgeous as mine, I'd need to know how to shoot a gun. So when he returned from his last deployment, he took it upon himself to teach me how to fire not one gun, but a vast arsenal of weapons. With pretty damn good accuracy, actually. He's the one that started the dads versus kids Nerf war tradition. And he's the uncle who wants to take out anybody that hurts me or my kids, even after Tweenie accidentally punched him hard in the groin that time...thought he was going to pass out...ah, but that's another blog post for another time. The point is, he'd do anything for us, and we'd do anything for him and Missy. They're family.

So, once again, our family is sent off to Afghanistan.  Kelby just deployed again for eight months, and Missy has to watch her darling hubby head into harm's way less than a year since he returned. E has to see his Old Man go off to fight while he becomes the 12 year old "man of the house." Again. When I told the kids Uncle Kelby was to deploy again soon, Tweenie said, "What??? He just got back!" Little Man was outraged. "That's just not right, Mom. Why does Uncle Kelby have to go back again? It's not fair." To say he's loved around here is a vast understatement.

And I just don't know how Missy can be so incredibly strong. What keeps them all going is one simple thing: this is the last deployment. When Kelby gets back, he'll be ready for retirement. Just one more time, and never again will he have to leave his amazing wife for the 130+ degree temps, the MREs, the disposable toothbrushes and wet wipes in lieu of showers. One more trip, with the stories he keeps only to himself because he doesn't want to worry Missy. One more trip, and they can be done. That's the unspoken thought that keeps them going. But you'll never hear them complain. These are people who understand sacrifice, service to country, keeping commitments. Good, strong honorable people, who are being put through deployment after deployment, even after Osama is long-gone.

When he saw the tableau in the photo above, Little Man asked, "Why hasn't The President kept his promise, Mom? He campaigned on this. He was supposed to bring the troops home, but Kelby keeps getting sent back." I had no answer for my boy, who will miss the Nerf wars and wrestling with Uncle Kelby. I had no answer to give except what The President had to offer in his speech: he's bringing home 10,000 now, and a total of 30,000 by 2012.

Not enough. Just not enough. When my pal Mandi's hubby, Grant, has just returned stateside and they already have to star planning how to get the family through his next deployment (his battalion was relieved by Kelby's), a mere ten thousand is not enough. Ten battalions is not enough dads and moms, sisters and brothers, husband and wives,  and daughters and sons to bring home. This draw-down of troops barely brings us to pre-surge levels. Our Gal Rachel Maddow explains it far better than I could, as always:

2014 is too far away, and as Rachel said, we're only talking about a draw-down to below-surge levels. That leaves way too many of Kelby and Grant and their brothers/sisters in arms over there. It means too many repeated deployments for moms and dads. In a region that has been war-torn since time began, we are continuing to pour the majority of our resources as a nation into the coffers of warlords, building a black market economy in Afghanistan the likes of which has never been seen. It's time to call it a day and bring our troops home. I agree that much remains to be done. We've made things worse in the region, that's for certain. But let's leave the rebuilding to folks that actually know what they're doing: it's time for the U.N. to do the nation-building it is trained to do and share the financial burden with the rest of its members. Okay, so we'll still pay the majority of the costs and provide the majority of the personnel, but the costs won't be anywhere near what we're paying now.

And it's time to bring more than ten battalions home. Or even thirty battalions by 2014:

66,000 more to go. Now, I'm no Pollyanna - I realize that we'll probably have a permanent base there from now on. But 66,000 is not support forces. That's combat troop numbers. It's time to determine what our mission is for certain. And if it's time to draw down forces, let's see what that looks like financially. Here's how it looked in Iraq when we got down to support troops only:

Hell of a difference, huh? Now let's compare it to where we are now in Afghanistan: 
Uh, yeah. Exactly. Not seeing that nice downward slope yet. But it's time. Especially when we look at economic conditions here at home and where all that spending could take us. Particularly in an election year.

It's just time, Mr. President, and as my boy-o recalls, you promised. Take one more look at this picture:

That's their family portrait right now. And it's time that changed, Mr. President, not just for Missy and E., but for all of our families serving in Afghanistan. Bring Uncle Kelby home. And let's start putting our resources into doing great things at home: jobs, infrastructure, schools and teachers, health care, Social Security. Let's keep our promises at home, to this and the next generation.

Is bringing the troops to pre-surge levels enough? Do you have family and friend serving in the Middle East? Maybe you see it differently? (I am pretty close to my topic on this one.) Post a comment and put your two cents in here at Momma Politico.