Reflections on the Story of a Marine and His Mother

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The
San Francisco Chronicle reported the
story of Mark Evnin
and his mother Mindy Evnin on Sunday, October
5th, 2003. Mark Evnin was a sniper in the Marine Corps.
His mother Mindy Evnin is a psychotherapist. Mark died in Iraq in
early April 2003, after being shot in the abdomen by enemy fire.

I
feel deep sorrow for Mindy Evnin. I have a son of my own, and I
cannot imagine the loss I would feel if he were to be killed. In
my own way, I have been in the place of her son, but have lived
through it. Now I have children, and in my own way, I am in her
place. How do we avoid more traumas like Ms. Evnin and her son experienced?

As
a practicing psychotherapist, perhaps Ms. Evnin will appreciate
the insights of another ‘survivor,’ granted, one who has suffered
less. Perhaps she will see this as a kind of group therapy for soldiers
and parents. Perhaps Ms. Evnin will realize the potential value
of her experience in helping others to avoid the same fate. Perhaps
she will be offended. Perhaps she will despise me. What I am about
to say may seem cruel, but it is the truth. The story of Ms. Evnin
and her son is one we can all benefit from examining. I mean to
help others who find themselves in a similar situation, and perhaps,
to help Ms. Evnin, herself. In the parlance of psychotherapists,
I am about to engage in some “tough love.”

Snipers are necessarily cool and calculated. They see the humanity;
they can almost smell it, close up, through their high-powered sniper
scope. There is transmitted a synergy of life between the sniper
and his victim. The sniper, with his eyes, focuses on the light
of life in his victim’s eyes. He can see the rise and fall of his
victim’s chest. The sniper times his breathing, which he also feels,
to fire a bullet that will explode his victim's heart. He does this
with intense concentration and calm because, as a sniper, he must,
or he will miss his target. The sniper is able to, no, volunteers
to, pull the trigger. He does this over and over and over.

Here
are some exerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle article
and my comments:

“Mark was
a fun and funny child…. But school bored him…for the most part,
his mother said; he just never worked hard… Mark got the discipline
he needed in the Marine Corps… Mark was assigned to the sniper
platoon of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment based in
Twentynine Palms (San Bernardino County, California), as part
of the 1st Marine Division. Mindy (his mother) never visited Mark
on the West Coast…. She found, through the other Marines, that
her son had started turning into a man.”

It
seems we have some "issues" here. Was Mark trying to prove
his manhood?

“She (Mindy
Evnin) found, through the other Marines, that her son had started
turning into a man… “The thing I came away with was that Marines
are always complaining, all the time,” she said. “But they said
Mark wasn’t like that. He always had this smile on his face, and
would just go along with whatever.”

Here
is a true "military man” — someone who, "always had this
smile on his face, and would just go along with whatever."
Mark Evnin might have refused to “just go along", but did not,
and as a result, he died in Iraq. We give our children orders because
we must do so for their safety and well-being. If they "just
go along" we call them obedient. Adults, for their own safety
and well-being, must make their own decisions. We fear adults will
get into trouble or worse if they "just go along" with
the crowd. We call them irresponsible. Courage is required to go
against the crowd, the kind of courage that separates the men from
the boys. A "military man" would be called an obedient
child in any other setting. Let us raise our sons to be men, not
obedient children.

Mark
"just went along," but why? Perhaps there was a good reason
to risk his life.

Ms.
Evnin states, “I don’t know that this war didn’t need to be fought.
I hope it does some good for the Middle East. I hope it helps Israel.
Was it a just war? I don’t have a clue.”

Would
we be proud of Mark Evnin in any other setting if he risked his
life and we did not "have a clue" if it were for a good
reason. If all his friends were jumping off a bridge, would we encourage
Mark to jump off a bridge too? Would he be serving us by doing that?
Warfare can be far more dangerous and destructive than jumping off
a bridge. Why do we say our sons are "serving us" by joining
the Marines and going along with that crowd?

What
caused Mark to be attracted to this dangerous, deadly lifestyle?

We
learn that Mark Evnin “…loved all things military and liked talking
to his grandfather, Max Walls, a prominent rabbi in Vermont who
had been a chaplain during World War II.”

There
is always a respected figure that makes "things military"
all seem moral in the mind of the soldier. These people often have
no idea that they are planting the seeds of death. We should tell
them. We should actively resist the corrupting influences of others
on our children. As parents, we try to teach our children appropriate
social skills. We encourage our sons to refrain from violence and
to solve their problems peacefully. Why do we make exceptions for
military violence? Why do we glorify combat and make it seem exciting
and adventurous? Mark needed us to tell him that "things military"
were not toys or adventure tourism, but dangerous, deadly serious
things. We might have taught Mark that "things military"
were to be avoided if at all possible because they caused suffering
and death. We might have taught him that there are peaceful ways
to solve our problems.

“Late last
year, he (Mark) called to say his unit would be going to Kuwait.
They would go to Iraq if there were to be a war. Mindy didn’t
worry too much about it. She figured he was well-trained and well-armed.”

“(Mindy)
Evnin has a picture of her touching Mark’s casket inside the hearse.
“I couldn’t let go,” she said.”

If
we only knew then, what we know now. If we had known, perhaps we
would have been more worried. Perhaps we would have advised Mark
not to follow orders to go to Iraq. Perhaps we would have told Mark
that we loved him, and that we felt he had great things in store
for him, and that we did not want him to engage in risky behavior.
Even if Mark passed driver education, and drove a car with an air
bag, we would worry if he made wreckless decisions while driving.
We would try to convince him to stop. We would tell him that we
love him and that we wanted him alive to get married, and to have
children and grandchildren.

Ms.
Evnin says, "Why did it have to be Mark? … I finally decided
that it sucks and I hate it but it happened. It just happened,”
she said.

Da
Nile (denial) isn’t just a river a river in Egypt. We need to take
ownership of our problems. What we do can make a difference. Instead
of being enablers, let us recognize our role in the problem and
begin acting to change things for the better.

“Hundreds
of people came for Mark’s funeral, many of whom had never known
him. The governor was there, and other politicians. The local
TV stations covered it extensively, as did the newspaper. Media
from around the world started calling."

This
must be what is meant by “serving one’s country,” i.e., to become
a corpse served up as food for leeches and other assorted parasites.

Some
of the calls came from reporters who wanted her to blame the president
for the war, and death of her son. She wouldn’t do it. “I didn’t
like Bush from day one,” she said. “I thought he was probably finishing
his father’s war and he was trying to move attention away from the
economy. But what would it help me to hate Bush?"

Why
serve your son’s corpse up with sugar, Ms. Evnin? Don't you see
that this only makes it more likely that other mothers will do the
same? Why not make the leeches choke Mark's corpse down with acid?
Perhaps, then, other mothers and other soldiers might reconsider
their actions and put an end to their self-destructive delusions.
Perhaps this would help other mothers and soldiers see the fantasies
portrayed by politicians and the media for what they are –
self-destructive lies.

“After getting
Mark’s medal, Evnin wept… Evnin spoke about Mark to everyone,
but she refused to go on camera. She found the role of “grieving
mother” to be undignified."

Cry
on camera, Ms. Evnin! Show us all your sorrow, all your loss, and
all your rage. Show us you are angry. Tell us you are mad as hell,
and are not going to take it anymore. Refuse to "just go along."
If you do this, you will be serving all the parents and children
who live in the United States of America. When other mothers and
soldiers see your grief, they will want to avoid a similar fate.
The son you loved bled to death in Iraq and you "don't have
a clue" if it was a just cause. Is this dignified? Other mothers
and soldiers need your help, Ms. Evnin. Help them by showing them
your grief — the grief they may suffer if they do not act to prevent
it. Help them to discourage their children from joining the Marines.
Encourage them to act to bring home their sons and daughters who
are in Iraq. Help us all bring
them home now
!

October
16, 2003

David
Wiggins [send him mail] is
a West Point (United States Military Academy) distinguished graduate
and an honors graduate of New York Medical College. He left the
Army as a Conscientious Objector, resigning his commission as an
Army Captain on the Iraqi front lines during Operation Desert Storm.
He is currently an Emergency Physician.


        
        

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