Bonnie Novak

Bonnie Novak lives in Cicero, NY. This narrative appeared in the Editorial section (Page A11) of the June 20, 2003 edition of The Post-Standard Newspaper, Syracuse, NY


You see me every day going about life as usual – or so it appears. I rub shoulders with you at work. I shop at Wal-Mart and the grocery store. I fill my car at the corner gas station. You might see me anywhere. Don’t be deceived: My life has not been “normal” for months. I am the mother of an American soldier.

Although I continue the routines of life, I do so with a burdened heart and distracted mind. There are some tell-tale signs of who I am. I’m the one with the frayed yellow ribbon pinned on my clothing. It was fresh and new when my son first deployed months ago. Even though the war is supposedly over, my son is in a place where bullets and grenades are still killing our soldiers. I am determined to wear my ribbon until he comes home, because it reminds me to pray for him every minute. When you see me wearing that ribbon, please stop and whisper a prayer for him and all the others still there.

My house is the one with the faded yellow ribbons on every tree in the yard and one on the front door. There is an American flag on a pole attached to the front porch, and a small red-and-white banner with a blue star in the middle in my window. When my son gave this to me before he left, I told him that I never want to cover the blue star with a gold one. Gold Star Mothers are the ones whose sons come home in body bags.

When you drive by a house of this description, please pray for the son or daughter overseas, and for the parents waiting inside for their child to come home.

To those of you who have posted yellow ribbons at your house or in the windows of your schools, thank you. It warms my heart every time I see your expressions of support for our troops.

One of the hardest things about being the mother of an American soldier is living 1,500 miles away from the post of my son’s unit. Wives usually live on or near the fort, where they can glean support from others in the same situation. But a mother may live across the nation, so she feels totally alone.

Letters rarely make their way home, and if they do, it is weeks after they were written. We go more than a month without hearing anything; then we might get a short phone call. E-mail is out of the question most of the time.

Every week is like a roller-coaster ride that I want to get off. When I read a soldier has been killed and his name has not been released pending notification of kin, restlessness, depression and insomnia rule my life until 24 hours have passed and the men in dress uniforms have not appeared at my door. I pray constantly they will never come.

When you hold your baby close, remember we mothers of American soldiers held our babies too. Now our “babies” are putting themselves in harm’s way for your babies.

And if you see a woman at the store buying tuna and crackers, beef jerky, powdered Gatorade, baby wipes and potted meat, check to see if she is wearing a yellow ribbon. If so, stop and pray for her. She is probably the mother of an American soldier, getting ready to send her child another “care package.” You may see tears in her eyes or dark circles under them.

I am there among you, trying to carry on some semblance of a normal life.

Like so many others, I am the mother of an American soldier.