We left Parris Island, S.C., last night and this morning made the long drive down I-96 toward Fort Benning, Ga. Just two days into our trip and it occurs to me that you either get a scenic drive or a Starbucks on every corner — never both. Today, I'm working on just a few hours sleep so, while the rolling cotton fields are pretty, I'd kill for a cappuccino.
We are spending the day with students at Stowers Elementary School on the base at Fort Benning today. (Now do you understand why I need to be fully caffeinated?) We met Adam Weinbaum, a physical education teacher there. He's a funny, 40-year-old man with the energy of an 8-year-old boy. It is easy to see why he is the favorite teacher of many students at Stowers. Unfortunately, his students just learned this week that he is being deployed. He's in the Navy Reserve.
We were there for his last day of class. It was pretty emotional stuff. It's weird to hear a 10-year-old student say "I hope he makes it back." But these kids know more about the war than many adults I've met. After all, most of them have parents who are serving in Iraq.
We sat down with Christina Chavez. She is 10 years old going on 45 — quite honestly, one of the smartest, most well-spoken children I have ever met. Her father Roberto was deployed in January. She told me that when she sees other children playing with their fathers on base, she gets sad and misses her father more. "Fortunately," she said, "there aren't a lot of fathers around here right now."
She told me she worries about her father's safety and that she suspects she'll worry about Mr. Weinbaum now, too.
A lot of people say that in the United States no one is sacrificing for the war. Well, these kids are every day.
Missing the comforts of home — specifically that cappuccino — seems pretty silly right now.