I watched his little fuzzy head while he slept. As soon as he got some hair, it stood out around his head in a fine halo, like white cotton candy spun stick straight. My first boy, my first born, my Jake, wasn’t a good newborn sleeper. No, that’s not true. I wasn’t a good momma that knew how to let him fuss himself to sleep. It set his pattern certainly for the first several years of his life and my Jake didn’t sleep through the night until he was, well, way past the time to do so. I got a little better with each of them, first John, and then Josh and by the time that tow headed, really white skinned third one came along, I had the feel of when a baby needs to be picked up when you’re trying to get him to sleep and when he needs to bother himself till he gets there.

But no matter how good I got, nothing ever changes about the fact that a momma always keep watch, as those of her heart, sleep. I have lain beside them and soothed their rheumy chests with slathers of mentholatum and watched them ease. I have stood in the doorways of their rooms, as they lay in their beds, their young muscular chests gently rising and falling to the rhythm of their breaths.

And, I have watched over them, in abstentia, while they slept away, in dorms, then in homes of their own, and in the strangest turn of events that I would never have thought in the realm of possibilities, when two of them soldiered on battle fields in a place I knew only vaguely through maps in Sunday School.

For most of Jake’s tour in 2003 and 2004 and most of Josh’s tour in 2008 and 2009 to Iraq, they slept beside roads in makeshift cots, in their trucks, or in various armored vehicles through desert heat and cold, rarely bathing but making do. In both cases, and in my Josh’s case even now, on his second tour of duty, they have spent their time protecting. They have protected convoys traveling ancient routes along the Tigris and Euphrates and villages mere kilometers from Iran. They have protected each other and those they were charged with whose skin color differed from theirs and whose philosophy of God stemmed from the same Abrahamic roots, but from that point, differed in ways few of us had previously appreciated.

Two times now I have watched them when they came home, to measure as mother’s do, their quality of sleep, veterans of war, in their beds at home, retraining their minds to noises that didn’t harbor danger for them or those they had sworn to save from harm.
It was a different world that I brought my sons into as small little boys, carrying toy guns and playing make believe, a time before 9-11 and all that it brought with it. It is forever a different time now.

To you my sons, to those you serve with and those you have served with. To those who will serve. To those of you who breath Heaven’s air, who served and gave your lives. To those who because there will be ‘wars and rumors of wars’, I thank you for the people you are, who seek to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to preserve or provide our inalienable rights, thank you. May God in Heaven direct your steps, your minds, and your hearts.

And may you have sleep tonight that gives you rest from the toils of war on your mind, body, and soul. I watch over you with my prayers.