President Bush has declared that the war in Iraq is over. But from the vantage point of his garden, recent National Guard retiree and Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Tom Springer, wonders what the lasting harvest of this conflict will be:
President Bush has declared that the war in Iraq is over. But from the vantage point of his
garden, recent National Guard retiree and Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Tom
Springer, wonders what the lasting harvest of this conflict will be:
When I retired from the Army National Guard last December, I was looking forward to having
more free time. To commemorate my 22 years of service, I decided to plant my biggest vegetable
But even with more leisure time, I still hate to pull weeds. So I’ve covered my garden with
newspapers and straw. After the fall rains, I’ll till this organic matter back into the soil to prepare
for another growing season.
However, my usually peaceful garden conceals a litany of troubles. That’s because the
newspapers I’m using for a weed barrier read like an almanac of the recent war. Beneath my
cherry tomatoes, there’s breaking news of the early fights for Umm Qasr and Basra. Under the
green peppers, I can follow the 7th Marines on their river campaign up the Tigris and Euphrates.
Near my Spanish onions – and I’m sure the Spanish prime minister would approve – Saddam’s
statue falls to a cheering crowd in Baghdad.
Yet this guns-and-butter irony is a bit unsettling. Like many Americans, I am still ambivalent
about the war. Initially, I was against it. Then once it began, I believed the best course was to
win decisively. And as a veteran, I deeply respect the American men and women who so ably
proved themselves in Iraq.
Regardless of your viewpoint, on this much we can agree: Those who fought the war have seen
horrors and faced dangers that we civilians can scarcely imagine. Here, at home, the war may
already be old news. But for our returning veterans, its impact will last a lifetime.
I think about that as I read my garden newspapers. I think about how the sun and rain will
transform this violent news into food for the plants and nourishment for my body. And I think
about the life-changing nature of war – how it leaves some people broken, but gives others a new
sense of purpose and vocation.
Without question, our veterans deserve all the parades, yellow ribbons and happy homecomings
we can give them. But after the brass bands die down, I hope our newest heroes find something
equally valuable. I hope they find quiet, blissful places where they can heal their jangled nerves.
I hope they find a peaceful garden, where the fears and angers of war will melt away beneath the
cloudless skies of summer.
Tom Springer is a freelance writer from Three Rivers, Michigan.