A soldier's mom encounters a protective wall of silence
Roman's lack of communication seems to say, 'Mom, Dad, don't love me so much.'
"That day in December." That's what I called it the other morning in an e-mail to a friend. She knew I was talking about the Thursday before Christmas when an Army captain from the 101st Airborne called to tell us that our son, Sgt. Roman Diaz, had been injured by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol south of Baghdad. He'd been treated for his perforated eardrum and his "peppered face," the captain said, at the aid station in Mamuhdiyah and would be returning soon to his unit.Skip to next paragraph
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The newspaper elaborated on the incident a few days later, listing the names of two soldiers from Roman's platoon who died in that same explosion.
"So, what do you hear from Roman?" my friend had asked, as people often do these days - friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues all want to know how he is holding up. I appreciate their concern. But my answer is always the same. "Not much," I tell them, with a shake of my head and a helpless shrug. "Since that day in December, not much."
That's not the way it was during Roman's previous deployment over there. Old-fashioned letter-writing has never been his thing, but the first time he was in Iraq, as a 20-year-old private with the 1st Armored Division near the start of the war, my husband and I "chatted" often with him online via instant messaging, sometimes for hours at a stretch.
It was then that Roman schooled me in the shorthand of this new form of real-time communication. "BRB" for "be right back." The letters "OIC" for "Oh, I see." That phrase became a favorite of ours, typed in response to questions about everything from the weather in Baghdad to, occasionally, the political climate - there and here. Our conversations, for the most part though, were chatty and light.
That's not to say Roman's initial 15 months as an infantryman in the Sunni Triangle were easy. No one's time in Iraq is easy - not by a long shot. But in light of "that day in December" and the region's escalating violence and instability, my son's first deployment now seems like a march in the park.
I've continued, as I did back then, to drop a card or a letter in the mail to him a couple times a week, along with an occasional care package. But the only communication we've had from his end in the months since Christmas has been a brief phone call with a bad connection, two short e-mails (one about his bank statement), and a recent late-night conversation with his dad on Instant Messenger. My husband initiated it when he noticed on his computer screen that Roman had signed in online.
"Is that you, Roman?" he typed, clicked, then waited for an answer.
Finally it came. "Hey! What's up, Pops!"
"How are you, Roman?"
"Eh, I'm alright. How are you?"
Their "hellos" behind them, a few lines later my husband asked, "Do you want or need anything from over here?"
"No, I'm good."
"How about some chicharrones or pickled pigs feet?" (Convinced, apparently, that the way to a soldier's heart is through an eclectic assortment of pork-based snack foods.)