9 FEB 2008 Worth the wait
(Source: Sushi Encyclopedism, 2007)
My life is happily boring again! If I don't write often, it is because things go along as usual. I commute to work, I come back home, M. the boys and I have dinner together. It is how it should be.
Last night, however, was a chance to celebrate my return home in a way I had been dreaming about for months in Iraq. M. and I went to Le Reve for a dinner to celebrate our reunion. This restaurant is the home for our stomachs and our favorite restaurant anywhere in the world. We couldn't go right after my homecoming because Chef Andrew Weissman and his wife M., who also works the dining room, had closed the restaurant for a spell after the happy arrival of a new baby. Since I am a solo practitioner, almost no moment is protected from the off chance that a baby back at the hospital will need help, but I called on the help of trusted civilian colleagues to cover the hospital for the weekend. Our dear friend N. had the boys join his son for a sleepover. From what I hear, they tore up Dave & Buster's.
Temporarily freed from the needs of the hospital and our children, we arrived at Le Reve, excited for the meal that awaited us. We were tucked into an intimate little table near the wall that runs along Pecan Street. M. was a vision of beauty bathed in the warm diffused light of the restaurant; her bright eyes worked like a tonic on me. Over the next five and a half hours, we were treated to amazing tastes of beautifully constructed delights: tuna with wasabi roe over Chinese long beans, foie gras on duck breast paired with a tasty Sauternes, and the mind-blowing caramelized onion tart with Chevre. After dinner Chef Andrew was kind enough to sit with us and we shared stories about children. He even showed us how to grate fresh wasabi rhizome on a sharkskin rasp. This was a generous lesson given the rarity and high cost of fresh wasabi. In addition to rolling the roe in the horseradish-like ingredient, he had also made a spicy ice cream out of it. It was after midnight when our minivan was pulled around for us. Fortunately I had eased off the wine a couple of hours before and we had a safe ride home through the darkened streets of San Antonio with our happy bellies dancing.
As I was writing a medical article, I came across a wonderful piece about the dedicated nurses in our hospital in Balad. It was written by Dan Clare, a reservist who is a public affairs officer. In civilian life, he takes care of the troops too, working for the Disabled American Veterans. I especially recommend that you check out the fifth part on the Intermediate Care Ward nurses that details Nurse R.'s experiences taking care of a boy and reuniting him with his mother. It brought me right back to see familiar faces in the article and to hear about events that are burned in my brain. I have no doubts that there are new faces living new stories at the hospital, even as I write this.
I'm sure many of you were aware of this sad story, but I viewed this clip showing children conducting a gross preversion of close quarters combat training. It is purported to be an Al Qaeda training and recruitment video, and it jibes with some of the examples of child soldiers I saw in Iraq. In the video, some of the kids are smaller than the AK-47's and RPG-launchers they carry. I can remember twelve and thirteen-year-old children being brought to the hospital in Balad after having been captured while participating in Al Qaeda operations. One way that our base was attacked was when militants would pay children trinkets or small sums of money to launch a mortar at the base at an appointed hour. Al Queda would be gone by the time the launch was detected, but the unwitting child would be left holding the bag. Children were also used as spotters for vehicles or trigger-men (trigger-boys?) for IED attacks. My friends in Baghdad took in injured kids as young as nine-years-old who were found armed with AK-47's. It is a disgusting and heinous betrayal of trusting, vulnerable youth.
We must remain vigilant in preventing use of child soldiers. There is much experience with the damage caused to the child soldiers in Africa. I recommend an incredible but heartrending book by Ismael Beah called "A Long Way Gone" detailing his recruitment to fight as a child in Sierra Leone. It takes years after the trauma of war for a child to recover, if they survive. International law in the form of the Geneva Conventions forbids the recruitment and employment of soldiers younger than 15, but even that age is too young. We must be wary of recruiting US children who are too young, vulnerable, and impressionable to make an informed decision about their capability to serve. The No Child Left Behind law includes a provision that compels high schools to provide military recruiters with children's names, addresses, and phone numbers. As recruitment needs are stretched for our military, many of our hometowns are finding that graduating high school children and high school dropouts are forming the newest ranks in the war. I know that our strong US military has long been carried on the backs of brave young men and women who had to mature on the quick when they threw themselves in harm's way for our great nation. However, as our enemy stoops to despicable acts of despoiling the young, we will remain strongest when we take the moral high road and protect the safety and future of our youngest citizens. As a parent and one who has chosen a life in the service of children, there is no other conclusion I can find in my conscience.