By Elena Romeu: “2009 BU grad born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Copywriter, chef, darts champ, I love my friends, family and plantains. Experience: I’ve got some. Opinions: I’ve got tons.”
I was dancing at a bar in downtown Boston at 1:30 am on a Friday when I got a text from my Mom: “Don’t look at CNN, I’m okay.”
Four months ago, she volunteered to go to Afghanistan to work in a special unit with the FBI. Headquartered in the Hoover Building in DC, she said it was a prestigious honor to be chosen to go and it was a good career move. “Career move?” I said in disbelief, “Now you have to become bomb bait to move up the ranks in the FBI? What are the feds doing there anyway?” “Calm down, Princess, I’m just going over there to help get some bad guys,” she said soothingly. That’s all, no biggie. My Mom was leaving to war stricken Afghanistan three weeks after I graduated from BU to go catch bad guys.
Flash forward to the night of the dance party two weeks into my Mom’s four month tour. About five beers in after a long day at work, I checked my messages to see if my boyfriend had texted me back and I get the above. I did the obvious and went to my CNN app to see what was going on. The headline read: “American Embassy Bombed in Kabul.” My Mom worked and lived in the embassy, and had assured me it was the safest place in Afghanistan. I grabbed a cab home.
In the time I had to imagine the worst, I had a dark realization: Mom doesn’t wear a uniform. That meant nobody would know who she was. Nobody would know all the good she had done because nobody knew what she was doing. All I knew was that she worked on top secret projects with NATO and that if she died, I would never know if it was all worth it. I would never know if my mom played a part in ending the war in Afghanistan, and if so, what she did.
I reached her at 4am; noon her time. She had moved to an underground facility for safety and she was okay, for now.
I think about the war every single day. I think about how nobody talks about it. About how my Mom risks her life every day for a country she wasn’t even born in. About how countless people will come back from serving, and will never be the same. And about how nobody will shake her hand or say thank you the day she comes home because she doesn’t wear a uniform.
In the time my Mom has been in Afghanistan, I have been working in an ad agency full of smart, worldly, up-to-date people. Everybody in the agency knew my Mom was in Afghanistan because of an email that was sent out when I organized a clothes drive for children in Kabul. Interestingly, in the last four months, not more than three people over 25 asked me how she was doing.
What happened to the older generation? Wasn’t the peace sign the logo that represented you? Were you not the generation that stayed in bed for peace, that chanted that war was good for “absolutely nothing”, that rallied for days on end to bring the war in Vietnam to an end? What happened to the importance of having your opinions heard? Or when it comes to a war you’re too old to fight in, that doesn’t touch you personally, you just don’t care?