Wednesday, July 22, 2009


When my son was a boy growing up he had a fascination with weapons. He had a BB pistol, BB rifle, bow and arrow, knife, blow gun, nunchucks, stars, and I don’t remember what all. They cluttered his closet and hung on his walls. He built a model of a catapult for a school project. When he was 16 and took his trip to Israel one of the ‘activities’ was a choice of different lives in Isreal...kibbutz, arts, army, I forget, half a dozen or so choices...for a week, he chose the army. He got to fire a real gun. In high school, he and his friends would go camping, dress up in padded clothing and play war in the woods, with BB guns. This would be after they tried it in the park at the end of the street and got brought home by the cops. He’s got a BB in his leg to this day. This boy of mine is also unaggressive, doesn’t like real violence it hurts!, is sweet and sensitive.


What can I say, he’s a Gemini.

So why was I surprised when he came home one day and told us he had joined the Army Reserve?

Are you nuts?!

“Are you nuts?!” I asked him. “What happens if we go to war? Are you going to be OK with shooting, perhaps, killing someone?”

“Oh Mom”, he says to me, “We’re not going to go to war.”

When Bush invaded Iraq, my son was sitting in the desert in Kuwait waiting for his unit to be ordered across the border to lay pipe and build pump stations.

Turns out, he scored so high on the tests that they encouraged him to go to officer school and he also turned out to be a natural crack shot. Instead he selected engineering as his specialty, which loosely translated meant carpenter. He was over there about six months, never seeing anyone but his unit and in the distance Bedouins crossing the desert.

The day after Bush was re-elected, he was called back up for a year’s tour and given 5 days to get his affairs in order and report. This was at the height of the body count and he would be on bases in the middle of it. He came over that morning to tell me, had already told his father on the phone. He made me sit down.

I cried.

I cried. I had not cried the first time. I had been stoic. I couldn’t do it again.

“It’s OK Mom. Look, see,” he said to me and showed me his shoulder, “I had Truth written on. I’ll be OK.” He had had the Hebrew word for ‘truth’ tattooed on. In the Jewish tale of the Golem, the Golem was brought to life by writing this word on it's forehead. It could not be destroyed as long as that word remained.

Oh, yes, please, to all the spirits that be, life for my son.

The tat did it’s job, my son came home to us and thus ended the worst year of my life. He had it embellished later with a compass rose.

*this story is not about my son's service though I appreciate all the supportive remarks, but rather how he came to have his tattoo.


  1. I am very glad your son came home safe and sound :0)

  2. This is the most beautiful and symbolic tattoo story I have ever heard, Ellen! Your son sounds so much like my youngest. Truth did bring him back to you. I love this.

  3. Your story brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps. I love that he is connected to Judaism and that it brought him faith while he was over there.

  4. I'm so glad your son made it home. My son has a fasinating with guns ... history channel stuff ... I tell him no you cannot join ... he's a goof and well, he'd be the one that didn't come home.

  5. OMG!

    Wonderful that he's back. I wish you well, both of you!

  6. This is a wonderful post. I can commiserate as my son (who never played with guns as a child) is in his third year of officer training and will one day be deployed.. somewhere. I totally understand the "stoic until" feelings. I'm SO glad your boy is safe.

  7. Glad to hear that he's back. I can only imagine what it must be like for you, and other families, waiting for the safe return of their loved ones.

  8. Thank you all. We are lucky and blessed he wasn't harmed while serving. He's been back about 3 1/2 years. His enlistment was up shortly after his return and so he is free and clear of the Army now.

    Willow - your post about tattoos yesterday brought this all back to mind.

    Hilary - my heart goes out to you especially in these days and times. When he was called up the second time, I was so fearful I couldn't even talk about it. He was gone two months before I could say anything about it to my friends. Every time the phone rang or someone came to the door my heart stopped.

  9. What a great story! There is no doubt that your son's faith helped so much during that difficult tour. So happy that he made it home safe and sound.

  10. Gosh Mom, that made me teary! We were at work when the call came and there was a shocked silence for the rest of the day there. The day we had his going away party Steve closed the shop early so that everybody could go. What a awful year that was.

  11. I'm left speechless. And so so grateful. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this incredible story, so well told.

  12. Oh, Ellen, I am so glad that your son is home and safe. What a sacrifice to have him serve.... We all are in your debt, as well as your son's.

  13. Wow, Ellen, thank you for sharing this story. I am so very glad you have your son home safe and sound. Please thank him for me for his service to his country.

  14. I have no idea what it is like to be a parent of a kid in a war. My only child (so far) is a 10 month old girl. But crumbs, it must be hard. Beautiful post. So glad he is home again.

  15. What a powerful story, wow! I'm so glad he returned, safe and sound. He's a really great person, isn't he? The apple does not fall far from the tree.

    Thank you for this.

  16. Again, thank you all. I will pass on all your blessings.

    Mo - I hope you never have to find out.

    Reya - He is a very great person. Not for the war but he made a commitment and he kept his word. And thank you for the implied compliment.

  17. Hi. Thanks for visiting me. Glad to know your boy is back safe and sound.

  18. It really is a fascinating thing to hear how and why people get tattoos. I would like to compile a book of tattoo stories.

    I'm so glad your boy is ok.

  19. I trust your son can tell the story as well as you do, Ellen. What a great tribute to a very daring, courageous young man. It is good to know that one "out there" carries such a story, now forever imprinted on his body's easel. Love this one....EFH


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