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A Plea to the Marines

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

 

It was almost time to leave my apartment to attend an organization meeting of Progressive Democrats in New York City where I was speaking on behalf of Gold Star Families for Peace. I had printed two photographs of my nephew, Marines Lance Cpl. Chase Comley, killed in Iraq on August 6, 2005, to show the audience as I spoke. Putting a face on the loss is important. I wanted these people to see one of the 2,237 troops who have died so senselessly during George Bush’s illegal occupation of a country in which upwards of 100,000 Iraqis have also perished.

My nephew was as handsome as a leading man. He had the most beautiful blue eyes. Certainly, I know this doesn’t make his life any more valuable than others who have died. But there is something tragically ironic about Chase’s face-destroying injury. I wanted the choir to whom I was preaching to have a visual “before shot” of this young man as I told them about his short life, the huge explosion that killed him, and the death’s everlasting effect on my family.

As I placed the images in a folder for protection, the phone rang. My brother Mark, Chase’s father, said, “Listen to this. Payne received recruitment information from the Marines today.”

“Oh, no,” I said.

Mark went on to tell me that the letter read:

Show the world what you’re made of. Respond today to get your free sunglasses or skullcap. Discover what you’re meant to be doing after high school. Are you ready to unleash your full potential? Pass this on to a friend. Please check only one. Free sunglasses or skullcap.

“It shows Marines in blue dress,” he added.

I told him to tell me again, slowly, so I could write it down. I needed to include this in my talk to the group.

Later, when I was introduced to speak, I opened the folder and took out the pictures of Chase. I related my family’s agony over his decision to join the military during wartime, his acknowledgment of needing the discipline that had eluded him as a college freshman, and the seduction by the Marine Corps’ propaganda, “The few, the proud.”

Then I told the group that Chase phoned home every week when he wasn’t in the field. The last time he called my parents, he said he was counting the days until he came home. He said he had 73 days left in his tour.

Actually, Chase came back much sooner than that. He arrived at Dover in a transfer tube, George Bush’s euphemism for body bag, about ten days after he’d spoken with my mother and father.

I read to the audience the contents of the recruitment letter Mark’s soon-to-be stepson had just received.

And then I ended with: “Payne is 12 years old. The Marines cannot have him. Their messengers of death already have rung the doorbell at my brother’s house.”

MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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