On a sunny spring afternoon in 1961, I sat in the front seat of our family sedan with my mother. I was 6 years old and we were returning home from a trip to the grocery store. Suddenly, the radio program we had been listening to was interrupted.
I listened to the words of the newscaster and looked to my mother. Her face was solemn and she gripped the steering wheel tightly. I suddenly felt fearful. For the first time in my young life, I felt worried and unsafe.
Afraid to ask the question, but feeling as if I needed to know, I turned to my mother.
"Momma, are we going to war?"
I remembered that long ago frightening moment as I listened to the words of our president Monday evening. As he spoke, the winds of war began blowing strongly and another generation of Americans would soon feel the deadly caress upon their faces.
Despite knowing the reality of war and the ultimate price we pay as human beings, I couldn't help but sigh in resignation as I listened and accepted our new fate.
I do not oppose the decision of the president. As warned by our president following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the war on terrorism is not for the fainthearted.
As warned then, it should now be clearly evident that the war on terrorism will be prolonged and reach into the darkest corners of the earth. The kind of evil that created the terror of Sept. 11 should never be allowed another attempt to destroy us again. And as much as I abhor the thought of another war, one thing is absolute: Our troops need to feel the support of a nation as they face an evil unlike any they have faced before.
As much as I understand the decision to enter into war, I can't help but remember another spring day as I stood on the edges of the battlefields of Gettysburg.
On that day, I scanned the beautiful green valley that stretched before me. The serenity and beauty of that day belied the truth held within. Closer examination of the boulders directly in front of me revealed pock mocks left by bullets. They were silent testimony to the three days of insanity that killed nearly 58,000 Americans. I cried that day, the tragedy of that time and place overwhelmed me.
I, like so many Americans, grew up with the images of the Vietnam War played out on the evening news. The casualty numbers rose steadily each evening and the number of names of those lost in battle rivaled those lost at Gettysburg. They are now etched on a long black wall in Washington, D.C.
The names of the lost seem to never end.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of war is less about the act of war itself, but more about the heart-wrenching aftermath and legacy left in its wake. And, unfortunately, this war will be no different.
Unlike that day in 1961, I cannot worry about a war waged today. For the decisions being made by leaders of nations are not influenced by me.
Unlike wars we have faced before, we, as a nation face a new threat - terrorism on our own soil. But, just as I cannot worry about a war that I cannot influence, neither can I worry about the prospect of being attacked in my own home. For what is, is and what will be, will be.
In the next few weeks and months, our nation's sons and daughters will be lost in battle. There is nothing I can do to prevent the outcome. Maybe, one day, we will no longer be faced with the violent prospect of war. Maybe, one day, we won't have to recall the names of our dead on stone walls.
I can hope. And I can pray. And I will wait.
Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.