A military mother's burden

Associated Press PhotoIn this July 28 file photo, Khizr Khan, father of fallen U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan and his wife Ghazala speak during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

There are probably many of you who don’t know that my son was a soldier.

Let me tell you a story.

Israel was in the throes of yet another intifada. After my son’s freshman year of college, he spent the summer providing support for a tank unit with the Israeli army through a volunteer agency. Upon his return to start the new school year, he announced that the seminal concern for his generation will be the conflict between Islamic radicals and western society, with Israel being the front lines. He insisted he had to do something. His “something” was to join the Israeli army to do his part at the apex of that struggle.

Many of you have children or grandchildren who, like my son, felt that they had to do something in this battle that has now oozed from Israel into so many western nations. The threat of our very way of life so dire, these amazing young people are willing to sacrifice all to preserve it.

I watched, as I imagine many of you did, the powerful speech given by Khizr Khan at the Democratic Convention. Two grieving parents, their emotions laid bare honoring their son and denouncing Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, are now at the center of a political football being tossed around by the campaigns and media alike. I am not addressing the political aspect of this controversy…the Khans chose to put themselves into the dialogue.

But, when I hear that this still grieving mother’s silence is being debased as some kind of religious requirement rather than the emotional statement that I felt it was and that she has since insisted it to be; I felt compelled to write about it … for this I do know something about.

It could have been me standing at a podium somewhere next to my husband while he expressed our feelings and talking of our son.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am rarely at a loss for words. I am not shy. I have spoken before large numbers of people in various types of settings. But I have to tell you that if I walked onto that stage, with that larger than life picture of my son behind me, I know that I would be able to utter not one word. I would want to be on that stage to honor my son and to show that my husband spoke for me as well because my overwhelming emotions made it impossible for me to speak for myself.

Many (not just Donald Trump) have made the inference that Ghazala Khan did not speak because, being an Islamic woman, she was not allowed. She has denounced those inferences powerfully in subsequent interviews and I believe her. I believe her because I have lived a mother’s worry, a mother’s anguish at having a child in war. I am still up every morning at 5:30 a.m. checking the international news to see if anything has happened overnight that might affect my son’s wellbeing.

Ghazala Khan: There but for the grace of God go all military mothers.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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