Thursday, October 05, 2006

Operation Homecoming - a message to you from the author

This is my story about when I went to meet the author..
I went to the Smithsonian's National Book Festival last weekend. Normally, I may not have went to something like this, but the author of "Operation Homecoming" was doing a signing and lecture on his new book. I really wanted him to sign a book that we were giving as a birthday gift. The book was created by the National Endowment of the Arts and it's a collaboration of writings from authors, troops, and their families to show the emotional side of war and focus on the effects that the war has on families/friends supporting the troops.

I had to work that morning so after that I went out to go buy a few copies of the book before I got there. Of course I was sporting my USMC shirt and my yellow ribbon pin that I wear everyday so the booklady was drilling me about the who's and the what's behind my shirt. I kept it simple but on my way out of the bookstore I got all excited cause I caught a glimpse of some Playboy cards. Although I realized maybe I shouldn't have had quite the happy reaction being that I was in the only bookstore in Dupont Circle. (not that there's anything wrong with that!) My husband told me he's been playing a lot of Texas Hold Em so I bought him a few packs to make the game a little more interesting.. After that I ran out the door, kind of embarrassed after buying those cards and avoiding the cashier asking me to go get MAI TAI's (the Old Man's favorite thing to yell!) and ran to the train cause I was running late for the signing.

I had to wait around for quite a while cause I missed the author the first time around, but I guess it was kind of for a reason. I got around to the side of the lecture tent to hopefully catch him before he left, but that meant that I was basically standing there facing everyone in the audience. His lecture was amazing. He read a few excerpts from the book and cracked a few jokes, but by the end of the lecture we all couldn't help but be in tears...

The author was explaining that the book basically had two points. The first was to tell the stories of the troops in Iraq and the other was to tell how the families were feeling and coping back home. Prior to now, there really wasn't anything ever published like this. Everything has always been so political and censored.

He said how impressed he was by the bond that the troops have and the sense of camaraderie across the board, despite all the jokes and digs they make at each other stateside. (the Old Man is the king of all that…Aren't Ready for Marines Yet (ARMY) or the Puddle Pirates..some of 'em are kind of funny..) He said that the one recurring theme he found in all the thousands of writings from the troops was that in the end, all the guys over in Iraq always had each other's back. All of them were far more concerned with each other than themselves. That's just amazing to me.

The other thing he was talking about was how surprisingly emotional it was for him to hear from and meet the thousands of families of the troops overseas. He said that after meeting with so many families with nearly all the same worries and nightmares, there was a certain aura around family member who had a loved one serving during wartime. He was thanking us all over and over again for our support and our strength. As he was sharing some of the stories, I couldn't help but get all vaclempt. (but being in the front of everyone I kinda missed a lot..I had to do the whole 'Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day' thing to try to stop me from balling! haha) He read a poem written by a wife whose husband was deployed. It was short and cute, talking about the little things she missed. In it, she wrote a verse about how bad he used to snore but one day she recorded it so she could sometimes play it when he was gone. Then when the author met her after her husband returned, he asked her if she still missed his snoring. To which she replied, "Hell no!"

Afterwards, he hung out for a little bit behind the tent and I went over there to get him to sign my stuff, but all of a sudden I got really nervous. Partly because I was worried that when I tried to pull my books out of my huge bag, I didn't want the Playboy cards to fling out, but partly because after hearing him talk, he was like a guardian angel and I was nearly speechless. I just thought it was the greatest thing to see how genuine and concerned he is about things on the homefront and everyone over there in Iraq. I was trying so hard to think of what to say without sounding like an idiot and make sure I thanked him for being a part of this project and I wanted to tell him about my husband and I didn't want my cards to fling on his lap, but I went over there anyway.

I guess he could see I was a little shaken cause he immediately stood up and gave me a huge hug and told me that everything was going to be OK. He told me to tell my husband and our families thank you for his service and that he has the utmost respect for us all and that everything was going to be OK…

I didn't say one word that whole time. I just stood there, trying so hard not to cry. Then yanked out my books to get his autograph, said thank you and walked away…with my Playboy cards sitting safely on the bottom of my bag…

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