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Memorial Day and the “holiday” weekend lay a double-whammy claim on my emotions every year.
Thirty-one years ago today—May 29—my first child was born—a son. We named him “Casey” because we were huge baseball fans and it just seemed like such a fine Irish-American name. His middle name, Austin, is an old family name of mine.
I went into labor with Casey a week early and I was in labor with him (in those days, knowing the gender of the baby was not routine) all day on Memorial Day in 1979. The labor was not too harsh and he was born at exactly one hour and one minute past midnight.
Casey was just the first of four and along with his younger brother, Andrew, I promised my boys that they would never have to do to war. However, I think I was promising myself that I would never allow them to go to war.
It’s strangely tragic how things oftentimes work out the exact opposite of our good intentions and now instead of having a party for Casey today—I will go and put more flowers on his grave.
Many people who have followed my story know about Casey and I have written about his honesty and integrity. He was a deeply religious man who really strived to follow the Gospels and live out his Christian faith—one thing I have not written about is how deeply Casey cared about the environment.
One evening after Casey’s dad and I had put the kids to bed and were enjoying some quiet time, 10 year-old Casey walked out of his room and he was crying. Shocked, I jumped up to embrace him and ask him if he just had a bad dream and he choked out: “I’m worried about the ozone layer.” How do you comfort a child with platitudes and try to tell him everything will be “okay” when he is very rightly worried about a real problem? Casey wasn’t afraid of monsters—he was scared of grown-up problems and the most frightening thing is that many grown-ups are the monsters.
For his Eagle Scout project, he organized and supervised an effort to plant 1100 trees in the Angeles National Forest—a very smoggy area about 3 hours drive from our old home in Norwalk, California. We learned that the pollution would kill about 90% of the trees we planted and we had to plant them in clumps, because the trees grew better together and at least some would have a better chance to survive. As a Scout, Casey hiked miles in the hills, deserts and meadows in beautiful California. He was always very close to nature and helped repair miles of trails and create barriers on the trails to prevent hikers from going off the trail and trampling fragile plant life.
Since the night Casey cried about the ozone layer and since he was killed by the Military-Empire of the USA, things have deteriorated at a frightening rate. At night, I cry for his niece, nephews, and all the babies that have been born into a terrible Empire that is stealing their future in its abject fealty to the corporations. The War Profiteers and the oil companies drive foreign and domestic policy and I am afraid these monsters can’t be stopped until this planet is ruined for living organisms.
Even though Casey died in a war based on lies in a mission on which he was forced to go, he is a Peace Hero. I never felt adequate as his mom, because I never was as good a person as he was, but his life of courage and integrity have been the inspiration for his mom’s sacrifices for peace and justice.
In these scary days, everyone is needed to pull this world from the brink of disaster—and especially today, I am hearing from many people how Casey’s life has inspired them to action.
On Memorial Day, I hope we don’t fall into the trap of false patriotism, but use the heartrending and mostly needless deaths of millions of our young people to help motivate us to end war for good.
Let’s make Memorial Day as anachronistic as the typewriter.
I do this in my hero’s name: Casey Sheehan.
© Islam Times