A Message to Iraq, from Home

By Guest Blogger Candice Sabourin in Virginia

Recently I was "talking" to a buddy of mine, meaning we were e-mailing each other while at work. I learned a valuable lesson from the conversation: Never tell someone serving in Iraq, "But you don't know what it is like here for us at home."

The bitterness and resentment contained in my friend's response brought me to tears. Did I intend to offend or upset him? No, but I did so. He, in turn, informed me of my cluelessness. Was he right? Yes, and I needed to listen. Afterward, I could think only of how often I had told my soldier he didn't know what it was like for us at home. He must have felt the same as my buddy, but never said a word.

We at home never truly understand what our soldiers experience while away. That truth resonated with me during the Fourth of July. I went to Yorktown to celebrate, and e-mailed my soldier to say I was taking our daughter to watch the fireworks. I also told him that every Independence Day I think of my family and friends in the military. My hopes and prayers would mean even more this time, as I hoped and prayed for him.

As I sat on the grass overlooking the water, talking to my sister-in-law and niece and cuddling my daughter in my lap, I was unprepared for my reaction to the fireworks. Moments after the first one lighted the night sky, tears were streaming down my face. My mind alternately raced and wandered. I am blessed, I thought, to have been born in America and enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to me by the founding fathers. I am lucky to live in relative safety and comfort.

With the next burst of color, a boom deafened me and vibrated through my chest. "My God, what must it be like to be on the ground during a war?" I wondered. The heat, the stress, the lack of privacy, the sleep deprivation... And those are just baseline hardships.

My buddy was right. I never will understand. How could I know what it's like to lose a fellow service member? One who lived with you? One the same age as your daughter at home? How could I empathize with the kind of exhaustion that allows a soldier to sleep through the IDF (indirect fire)? How could I know what it is like to pray to see another day in a country where you and your presence are hated? I will not know.

It is hard when there's no word from your soldier. Nothing is of comfort until that e-mail or blessed phone call comes through and you know he or she is okay. There is no better feeling in the world than knowing your loved one is safe, if just for a moment.

There are many activities I cherish: kissing my daughter as I tuck her in; spending time with family and friends; watching my favorite TV show after a long workday; vacationing to get away from it all, and, for the most part, sleeping at night with the comfort of security.

I recognize our soldiers can do NONE of these things while deployed. Many others are aware of this, too, particularly those who have been through deployments before. Being a newbie, it hadn't sunk in totally for me. A lack of communication from a loved one does not indicate a parallel lack of care or effort.

So, to my "buddy" in Al Asad: Thank you for your honesty. I am learning a lot from you. You may think you are losing your gentleness, but you are an intelligent and kind man. Who else would have talked to a stranger, and been so open with her.

And to my soldier: I am sorry if my words or actions have caused you any pain. I love you and want to make this deployment easier for you however possible. You are a good man, and Goofer and I are very blessed to have you in our lives.

To the rest of our men and women: Be patient with us. You know what your days and nights are like; we do not. Out only concern is your safety, and the worry sometimes drives us to send "nagging" why-haven't-I-heard-from-you e-mails. Be safe and come home to your loved ones. God bless you all.

By Bert Stover |  July 26, 2006; 12:38 PM ET  | Category:  Family
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Candice -
How interesting you mentioned your reaction to the 4th of July fireworks.
I left service in 1992, but I have freinds still serving, some of whom have been (or still are) in the Middle East.
This year, as I thought about all our men and women serving there, is the first time I remember reflecting on the "rockets' red glare" and "bombs bursting in air" that our fireworks actually represent.

I am thankful for my Army buddies that keep it real for me...

~~~~~~~~~~
I read this blog often, but have never posted...Godspeed to you Bert, and to all your mates.

MAJ T.

Posted by: newland | July 27, 2006 09:13 AM

You hit the nail on the head. Thank you Candice.

Posted by: CrewDawg TQ | July 27, 2006 10:04 AM

Thank you Candice for understanding and for expressing, as best you can, the stress that deployment into a combat situation brings.
God bless those who serve and comfort those who wait.

Posted by: Spc 4 Davey Boy | July 27, 2006 12:09 PM

thank you for the article. my son was suppose to leave there today. i have lung cancer and he was suppose to come home after a year of being there. now he and his fellow soldiers are being redirected to bagdad instead of home. his wife has to tell their daughters again Daddy isd being delayed. they've already sent out household goods so they are sleeping on the floor,
GOD LOVE our MIlitary. they do sacrifce for people that hate them and don't ant them there

Posted by: ginny | July 27, 2006 01:12 PM

The only ones that could possibly have a clue are those who have previously served. I know I can't really imagine what life over in Irak must be like. A lot of the folks over there believed the brochures and T.V. commercials and thought that joining the Guard would be a good way to get some money for school. They joined when things were pretty calm with no real problems in sight. To suddenly find themselves in a hostil place where people really are trying to kill them must be very difficult. Yet even though many of these folks have gone through hell and many literally left pieces of themselves behind, you don't hear a lot of self pity. These ladies and gentlemen are real heroes. Regardless of your stand on the war and whether we should be there or not, our service men and woman are really demonstrating what kind of people they are and we should give them our fullest support. Hopefully everyone will remember their sacrifices when it comes time to approve a new veteran's hospital or increase their pensions. If it were up to me I'd propose a .5 percent reduction of a veteran's income tax for every year of service provided to our country as long as they were honorably discharged. Unfortunately, it unlikely that we would see anything like that since its pretty obvious that most politicians only support our troops when it makes for a good sound bite or photo opportunity.

Posted by: James | July 27, 2006 03:42 PM

I for one think about our men and women in all the hot spots in the world, especially because I have a dear friend over in Iraq and always wonder where he is and what he's seeing and what kind of inner strength it takes to bear all that. It makes me ashamed to get all upset about my punney problems compared to losing limbs or life. There are all ages over ther--some still just kids, some seasoned veterans--but I doubt you ever get use to the
"near misses" or having a friend die in your arms. God bless them all.

Posted by: Phyllis G. | July 27, 2006 03:47 PM

Crewdawgs keep doing an awesome job!! We miss all of you but we are so PROUD of YOU ALL!
James you are right no matter what pepole feel about the war, our men and women should be supported. They truly are heroes. Ginny you and your family will be in my prayers.

Posted by: Cubbie | July 27, 2006 08:27 PM

Awesome post. My husband has been gone over 7 months and I am never quite sure what I should and shouldn't say. This sure opened my eyes. And I, too, cried during the fireworks. We are blessed here. We can never thank enough those men and women serving in the armed forces.

Posted by: msblondie | July 27, 2006 09:22 PM

If I were in a place where at any minute some one could kick in my door and take my life or my family memebers life, I would want some one to help me. I thank God that our country is still in the helping business. You could say this war was about politics or oil, but it's really about the woman who was wondering if her husband was ever coming home again, only to find out that her president and his men killed him to kill him, or maybe the woman who wanted more out of life, she wants to serve her country, but it's against every thing she has been taught. What if they just want to be free, to chose, you know like we have, freedom. Thank God some one cared enough to make it happen, some things are worth fighting for, like freedom, so many have already proven that fact. I pray America never lose site of the fact we are the land of the free and the brave, our soliders, airmen, marines, coast guard and reservist, serve a greater purpose in life, it's not just about what there doing over there, it's what them over there are doing for us here. Their keeping us safe as well, no missles, no bombs since we took a stand, the only sad thing is they still read about us killing each other every day, they may begin to wonder why they are away. I say thank you all and I applaud your sacrifice, so many of you are Christ like, he died for a greater cause, He died for us all. Just remember you are persecuted for rightousness sake, but for the ones that die, it is not in vain, freedom is a tough battle, look at our past and how hard it was to get it, nothing has changed, just more are learning, that some things in this world is worth fighting for. And for us still here in the States, when you go out today and start your car, be thankful. We love you all and God Bless you for your sacrifics.

Posted by: Crystal | July 28, 2006 08:23 AM

>so many of you are Christ like, he died for a greater cause

I've tried to respectfully leave this thread alone, but enough is enough. Please stop. That's just hypocritical and ignorant. Just what would Christ think about this war in Iraq anyways?

The fact of the matter is that a soldier's sacrifice (which by the way is most importantly their morality and innocence, on top of their life and limbs) is worth only as much as the legitimacy of their cause. If they're involved in perpetuatuing an unjust war, then they are part of the problem. Yes, it's true that a soldier can't pick his battles - that is tragic and perhaps should change. Maybe the only war that is permissible is one where the foot soldiers agree to fight.

I do think a country should make sure that their soldiers are well paid, well cared for afterwards, and not sacrified needlessly. They are working for the country doing a dangerous and often heinous job, and they should be rewarded. Other than that, they are responsible for their actions like any other human being, and subject to the same moral code as you and I. Their God won't forgive their sins just because of their job.

Posted by: Canuck | July 28, 2006 04:09 PM

I'm just curious - how many of you here that profess your support for the soldiers have done anything about changing their oil-consuming habits to avoid this type of war in the future (since of course it is not about terrorism or WMD or American security). I wonder what would happen if common American soldiers starting asking the populace at home to start making their own sacrifice for the cause? C'mon - get rid of the SUV/minivan/pickup to save future soldiers lives!

Posted by: Canuck | July 28, 2006 04:22 PM

>And for us still here in the States, when you go out today and start your car, be thankful

Yes, be thankful that the world's largest military ever continues to fight for your inalienable right to take yet another trip to the store to buy more inane plastic petroleum products in your brand new SUV.

Just what do you do with your freedom?

Posted by: Canuck | July 28, 2006 04:32 PM

Now this subject has taken a different turn, I would like to ask each American to look deep into their hearts and ask themselves whether they still think this war was needed, that so many young American boys lost their lives, believing all they were told at that time, only maybe to give their country the oil needed for private cars. I have deep respect for the soldiers who, despite following orders they can't agree with, still keep going. If they would listen to some remarks made by the general public, life would be unbearable to them. They have to keep believing in what they are doing, and although some is not what was intended in 2003 and earlier, they themselves should be proud to bring some hope to a chaotic and desillusioned people. And the people at home should always keep that in mind too, not what their leaders said, but the stamina of most soldiers to continue and try to bring a feeling of trust for their efforts to the Iraqi people and not hatred and inhumanely treatment. Then the army has done a good job, despite all lies and and heroic words said by their leaders in Washington.

Posted by: Dutchie | July 29, 2006 02:50 AM

Thank you all for taking an interest in this post. Whatever you may believe, you have the right to say your words in public and private. Whatever the intention was or still is for having our men and women over there....they are there to do their jobs and they want to give the people in that country the same sense of peace and freedom we enjoy in this country. Ever since I was a little girl I looked up to all service members. Whatever branch your friends, family, or loved ones decide to join to serve our country, remember their selflessness and sacrifices are made for all of us in some way. They truly are heroes to me...always have been and always will be.

Posted by: Candice | July 29, 2006 10:22 AM

Canuck,

Thank you for shifting the discussion away from the troops and to what you think the root cause is.

Root cause = oil? Hmmm, maybe we should have attacked Canada. We get most of our imported oil from them. (Or maybe that's your fear...) Venezuela and Mexico are also much closer.

Why have't Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton explicitly said that going into Iraq was wrong? Was it because "regime change in Iraq" was a policy goal during the Clinton administration? (albeit, a low priority) Saddam is still alive if you think he should be reinstated. You can help Ramsey Clark.


For what its worth, my family has reduced its gasoline consumption by about 20% over the past 2 years. It's been a challenge with 3 kids of carpooling age. We've also cut our electrical consumption and natural gas consumption by a similar amounts over the past 2 years.

Posted by: dave20640 | July 30, 2006 12:59 AM

Good luck to you and the guys Bert. Sit on the helmet it will soon be over pal. God bless you for your service and thank you to all you brave men.--Last fall Bert, there were two cruising car loads of Canadian boys (in civvies) too young to get into the bars for a C/W dance while on their final embarkation leaves.--Most weren't even 19. A few didn't look much over 16 Now I am proud they also do their duty in Kandahar just like you and your buddies in Iraq. Ohh yeah Bert--the kids got their beer and dances too. Proud of you Buddy--Good Luck--That's why we are FREE.
PS--We got lot's of OIL in Canada--LOT's of Black Gold here folks.

Posted by: hapstokes@shaw.ca | July 31, 2006 02:50 AM

dave20640

>shifting the discussion away from the troops and to what you think the root cause is

Well, I didn't really want to do that. I was commenting on the irony of thanking the troops when in your car. We are all aware that the nature of this war is that no-one seems to agree on what the real reasons were for starting it.

> for what it's worth

That's worth alot! A 20% reduction is huge, especially for a family with kids. Now you're doing something responsible with your freedom Yank! Canada is an energy exporter, but that doesn't give us any excuse to drive the big vehicles either. We're also thoughtless gas-gluttons with over-sized winter homes to heat, and our marchandise is all plastic too.

>We got lot's of OIL in Canada

Yes, and NAFTA specifies that we sell most of it to America at current levels. Even at the expense of ourselves if we need it.

Posted by: Canuck | August 1, 2006 03:11 PM

>they want to give the people in that country the same sense of peace and freedom we enjoy in this country

I think that's what you at home would like to believe in order to comfort yourselves. I wouldn't be surprised if they fight to simply stay alive and protect their buddies under fire, which is all you can ask of a person fighting in a war without clear cause. I'm sure each soldier has a complex rationalization for what they do - just like the rest of us.

Posted by: Canuck | August 1, 2006 03:18 PM

I've been on the deployed side, as a civilian. It was different for me, my time in Baghdad was short. But then I met up with a soldier after he got home, and was invited to his house for dinner with his family. His wife was so jealous of me, of what I shared with her husband that she will never be able to. It gave him a chance to open up to her a little more, he'd been home over a month and hadn't shown her any pictures or talked at all about it. I'll never know if they really talked about things, but I hope my stories helped her.

Fireworks scared the bejeezus out of me for the longest time after I came home, it sounded like bombs and gunfire, I'd jump and tense up. I had a breakthrough recently, and that soldier was the first person I e-mailed.

I want to go back to Iraq, all the military folks I know think I'm crazy. But there is something inside me that needs to go back there and help to build that country up and make it better for the future generations of this world.

Posted by: Been there, really. | August 2, 2006 07:18 AM

Sir,

I got out in 99 and still to this day i am very greatful to the men that wear the uniform of the US Military. Thank you and know that We are proud of the men and women that serve.

Posted by: CPL Hat | August 4, 2006 03:45 PM

Candice,
Thanks for your thoughtful, thought-provoking post. I wish that everyone, regardless of their opinions of the cause, necessity, or justice of this war, would realize that reality all comes down to individual people - soldiers, family members, friends back home, Iraqi civilians and policemen and soldiers and children - wanting to survive the day, to do the right thing, and to make things better.

Maybe if we could all agree on that we could talk productively about what to do next, so more people's aspirations could begin with something grander than "first let him/her/me survive another day."

Stay safe and be well, Bert.

Posted by: Hugh | August 4, 2006 05:54 PM

May God be with you there in the Land of Old. This bleeding heart thinks of you every day and knows the depth of your lonelyness and sorrow far removed from your family and friends. Not one of you fall in the line of Honor in Duty to your Country and Humanity that we here in silence with hands tied paint the beautiful light that is in your eyes!

Posted by: Andrew Alan Clarke | August 8, 2006 08:44 PM

To all the soldiers out there - Thank you and God Bless. I've grown up with the military in my life and am forever grateful for all you do. My brother, a master sgt in the Air Force, returned home from Iraq a year ago. I will never even begin or try to imagine what he and other soldiers experienced in Iraq. For 20 yrs I have loved and supported my brother throughout the first Gulf War, deployments and his military career. Now, the love of my life is on his way to Al Asad. Sure it is the hardest thing letting them go and spending months apart from the ones we love. But honestly who are we to complain. We can not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because we miss our soldiers. It's easy to do, I know, but we must remember to stay strong as they need our support. Remember we are still in our homes and safe surroundings. Our soldiers are risking their live's day in and day out for us. For the entire country. No matter how hard it hurts, I will stand behind my soldiers and support them until the day they come home.

To all the military family members - stay strong and supportive. God Bless you all and your soldiers. You are some of the strongest people I have ever met.

To all the soldiers - you are all "True Heros." My "True Heros." I know many of you may believe you're just doing your duty but it is so much more. Not a moment goes by when I am not thinking of you, praying for you and being thankful for all you do. Keep up the good work and hurry home.

God Bless to all the soldiers and their families.

Posted by: You are Heros | August 10, 2006 04:45 AM

Just wanted to share a little something with the soldiers. My grandfather, a WWII Vet, who is a survivor of Pearl Habor, is standing behind you 100%. He told me the other day he tried re-enlist in the Army so he could come over and help you but the Army turned him down.

My grandfather is part of a group called the "Liar's Club," consisting of a few WWII veterans who get together every afternoon, at the local cafe, to discuss any news of the war. Every one of them would be right beside you if they were allowed or able. You have their support and they'll always cover your backs.

The "Liar's Club" was recently featured in a magazine. If you ever have a chance and are interested, take a look. I believe they were featured in the "US Weekly" magazine.

Once again, thank you to all soldiers and veterans. I am so proud of all of you. Take care of yourselves and God Bless.

Posted by: You are Heros | August 10, 2006 05:20 AM

God, God, God, God ....

I'm sick of you people that enlist God during war, whether you're Christian or Muslim, an old vet or a wife at home.

Have you yet prayed that your soldiers do the right thing, and avoid committing atrocities under extreme stress? Have you yet prayed that America is doing good rather than evil?

God bless America - make them do the right thing for all of us, and not necessarily what will make them more powerful. Please make them use their power for peace.

Posted by: Canuck | August 10, 2006 01:29 PM

Yes Canuck,
I do pray for all of those things as well as many more. And really Canuck, in the end there is only one who can sit in judgement and that would not be you.

Posted by: Candice | August 10, 2006 07:25 PM

>only one who can sit in judgement

I'm sure that soldiers are the best judge themselves (although I know that's not what you meant). Would they really want you to worship them as heroes? What about the soldiers who have seen the worst, and done things they wish they didn't have to do. By making them out to be heroes, you're going to force them to assume an identity that they may not feel is justified. They're not coming home from a football game - they're coming home from hell on earth where very few people get to act like John Wayne heroes. Many of them are going to come back home depressed, ashamed, anxious and scared. They don't need to be compared to Christ. They need to refind their humanity, and hopefully rely on their families to understand why they can't necessarily pretend to be your heroes just so that you can keep your precious patriotic innocence intact. They might need to tell you that they hate Iraq, hate the military, hate the war, hate America, hate God, and even hate themselves. Sure, some of them will want to be heroes, but some of them will hate you for hoisting them on your shoulders.

This is the nature of their sacrifice - they've lost their innocence, and they might have lost some of their patriotism. Don't make them ashamed - you're the ones that asked them to go and fight for your precious freedoms. At the very least, show them that you've used the freedom to make their home a better place.

Posted by: Canuck | August 11, 2006 01:32 PM

Canuck,
I am well aware of all that you have said. I speak to someone over there on almost a daily basis so that I may be better prepared to know how and what not to do to help my soldier. Not one of them will come through this unscathed or unchanged. I have never asked that they be my heroes. They are my heroes because the soldiers I know are so selfless, yes they worry about their safety but they worry more about their fellow soldiers well being. I have been the brunt of bitterness and callousness already and I know the longer they are there the worse it will be. My job is to suck it up and let my soldier and anyone else I know over there...that I am here for them.

Posted by: Candice | August 12, 2006 03:18 PM

Candice,

I wish you all the best, and hope that your soldier comes home heathy soon. Perhaps it's the human thing to become bitter and callous, but with the help of family and friends they can come to understand that their final duty is to re-learn how to be a kind and compassionate person (especially with regards to themself).

Good luck!


Posted by: Canuck | August 14, 2006 03:04 PM

Canuck,
Thank you.

Posted by: Candice | August 15, 2006 04:38 PM

Canuck -

This comment comes late in the discussion, but this is one Atheist Freethinker who still supports this war. And I know much of your "re-learning" concept for the military re: compassion is just your way of saying that you want them to become pacifists.

I say that's not only not the purpose of any military, but that you obviously don't know enough military yourself to know they're already compassionate...well beyond the "pacifists" complaining about the war & then saying our troops are a) not in line with the concept, b) wrong if they are in line, or c) deserve to die. And yes, I've actually heard that. I find that conflicting, hypocritical, and atrocious. Thank you for not going THAT far, but you look to be skimming the brim.

In over 3 years since the US began this campaign, only 59 Iraqis have been killed by US soldiers (that even includes crossfire that could be non-Coalition!). Unfortunately, the death toll of Coalition forces and the Iraqi population has risen above 10,000 this year due to terrorist attacks by primarily non-Iraqi & Iraqi Sunnis (triangle).

And frankly, this war isn't about "oil" and never has been. We have enough oil off the East & West Coasts...not just in Alaska. One sweep of the POTUS pen could begin offshore drilling again, but "environmentalists" would fight that (even though offshore drilling makes up less than 1% off oil spills, EVER).

"Pacificts" are using our "lack of compassion" and "oil" as diversionary tactics to get us out before this job is done. If the Coalition leaves now, as some want, then we can be blamed for leaving too soon. You see the trap? That's why this is the right thing to do...because it's hard & nobody wants a succes of it.

Canuk, you can keep you opinion as it is...I have no problem with that. I'm frankly just weary of trying to teach the facts to pacifists. This is one group that refuses to "learn" let alone "re-learn" anything.

Oh, yeah...I drive a little Hyundai and live in a 1BR apt. I have so much fat to trim...take that to Hollywood & sell it. They need that schtick.

ALL OF THE TROOPS ARE IN MY ATHEISTIC THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS! LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE BRAVE!

Posted by: PatriotGirl | August 21, 2006 10:29 AM

>"pacifists" complaining about the war

So I guess alot of your ground force generals and commanders have become pacifists too. Damn peace loving American pentagon pencil pushers!!

>is just your way of saying that you want them to become pacifists.

That's right. When they get home, I want them to stop killing and rejoin all of us "pacifists" who prefer law and order over war. You see, you are also a pacifist compared to a soldier in war. The compassion they need to regain will most often be applied to themselves.

>you obviously don't know enough military yourself to know they're already compassionate

I was in the military, but that does not make me an expert, true. But I still do not think the military is very compassionate. In fact, the 20 year old soldiers I knew were pretty immature and juvenile (as are most 20 year olds). Essentially, at best, they operated like a gang whose only concern is their machismo-ego and survival. I'm sure they'd weep for the heavens when one of their own went down, but otherwise ...

>only 59 Iraqis have been killed by US soldiers

huh?

>weary of trying to teach the facts to pacifists

Maybe that's because you don't know the facts (see above). Or maybe that's because you label somebody a "pacifist" in an insulting manner to make your point. Do you know who Chamberlain was?

>then we can be blamed for leaving too soon. You see the trap?

Yes, I clearly see the trap that you've stepped into. You've attacked the wrong country (at least for the reasons your President gave for doing so), and now you've got to stay until the situation stabilizes. All the while you are encountering more and more hostility and resistance, and stirring ever greater unrest and anger in the Middle East. It's definitely SNAFU.

Quite frankly, I think you need to start the draft and put more boots on the ground (another 100K like Powell said). I think it's do or die for America, and you'd better be prepared for a growing body count. At the same time learn some humility and admit to the international community (and yourselves) that you've made a huge mistake, but there's still good that can come of it nonetheless. Just get out of the denial phase will you?

Posted by: Canuck | August 22, 2006 06:53 PM

>We have enough oil

No, I'm afraid that you don't. You have plenty of coal, and hopefully one day we can find a way to burn it cleanly.

> but "environmentalists" would fight that

Yeah, if it wasn't for the pacifists and environmentalists America would be would win it's war, end the energy crisis, and of course ignore the hoax of global warming.

What a joke.

Posted by: Canuck | August 22, 2006 07:13 PM

May I use or create a link to this particular post from my blog?

See:

http://www.politicsofbabsbunny.blogspot.com

Thanks for your time!

Babs (aka Barbara Anne or Jessicarabbit_63468)

Posted by: Barbara A. Looney | August 24, 2006 12:47 PM

Candice,
Thank you for your honesty. I am deploying to Iraq soon and is my first dployment.I have no idea what to expect but have been warned to expect anything. It is so nice to know that there are people who are thinking about us and caring about us even though they may not even know a servicemember. I will ask my fellow Americans continue to support us regardless of their stance on the war.I cant tell you how much the support means. Thank You for the priviledge to serve and Godspeed to your soldier.

Posted by: USN SEABEE | September 23, 2006 10:41 AM

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