I don't know how you feel about the War in Iraq and quite frankly, I don't really care. But whether you feel it's a righteous campaign or hopeless quagmire, you gotta give it up for those with enough balls to put on the uniform and walk the line. That's why I'm here to give props to Army Staff Sergeant Ray Coleman, a Greensboro native currently serving far from his wife and three small children. Truth is, I hadn't thought about Ray Coleman for a couple of years. Last time I saw him, the U.S. Navy reservist was quietly showing me artifacts he'd recovered from Ground Zero while helping his employer D.H. Griffin Demolition clean up the rubble of the World Trade Center. Little did I know the 40 year old High Point resident had left the Navy reserve to enter the Army, just in time to be shipped off to Iraq last October. I found out this morning, when I dragged camera, lights and tripod into his mother's home and recognized his picture amid a makeshift shrine on the coffee table.
Suddenly, the story about the 'War Mom' held special meaning; as her tears streamed down her face and onto his framed photo, I dabbed my own moist eyes behind the viewfinder. For the record, Ray's fine. But two pictures tell the story of how a hostile theater can wear away one's resolve. The first shows Coleman at the outset of his deployment, standing in front of a bullet-scarred wall in full combat gear and beaming proudly. The second, much more recent photo, shows a similiar Ray - all cammo'd out in front of a bombed-out Hummer. The broad smile is still there, but the shoulders seem narrower, the waistline thinner, the uniform dirtier. His mother's breathing hitched at the implications of her son's weight loss and for once, I was glad the camera wasn't rolling. If you need a reason to feel differently about why we're in Iraq, I don't know that I can help you. But understand this: the war is being fought by flesh and blood Americans who normally stand beside you in the checkout lane. Their sacrifices, big and small, deserve every American's gratitude, not just some fleeting blurb on the evening news.