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One less flower
What I cannot absorb is the justice in all this

October 11, 2004

I wake up in the early morning hours and sit at my computer. Someone has sent me shocking news: First Iranian-American soldier killed in Iraq.

As I proceed to read the article by Babak Bagheri in the NIAC repots, my eyes freeze on the young soldier's photograph. His clean cut hair, his army uniform, a faint trace of a smile. No, this isn't a grown man. Not by the standards of a mother. I see a boy, too young to be at war, and much too young to die. Unable to read, I stare at his innocent face. For a moment, he is my own son and the son of all the hopeful immigrants who dream of a better future for their children.

So many young lives have perished in this senseless war, yet it doesn't hit you as hard until one of your own has fallen. In my mind, I go to the Razani home hoping to grasp the magnitude of their grief, to absorb a fraction of their pain. But that is not possible. How did they feel when they received the call? Did someone knock on their door? "Ma'am I'm sorry to inform you...?"

With nineteen years of hope vanished, all they will be left with is a memory and a flag folded in a triangle. And, yes, the honor. The kind of honor a parent would rather not receive and a nation will fail to remember. The honor of having defended a country that was by no means defenseless has made him the victim of a war that has victimized many. No matter how hard I try, I can't make sense of it.

Once I have calmed down enough to read the report, I realize it had been his decision to go to war as a medic. Looking at the face of a young man who radiates goodness, I can only honor that decision. A man at nineteen is man enough to choose his path. I respect that and I respect his parents even more for their support.

What I cannot absorb is the justice in all this. I can try and find a rationale behind his honorable choice, but why did it have to end in such a tragedy? I have never met this boy, and yet I know him so well. The son of my community, he has been a part of my life. I've helped him to grow up and be the man that he was. His dreams were mine and his hope in my every breath.

I want to reach out to Omead Razani's parents, to his young sister and to all his friends to tell them how deeply sad I feel. Then again, should I not reach out to all the thousands of families who have gone down this path? Is there really a difference?

I can't help but think of the many others who have felt this way with each and every bit of bad news. I feel ashamed of the deep pain that has hit me for the first time. Why did I not feel this up to a minute ago? Over a thousand young soldiers have been killed, but grief has just hit me now. Where was my heart when those reports came in?

Perhaps, as his sister said in the interview, his loss for the first time has brought the Americans and the Iranians together. Not only physically, but deep in their hearts. Grief tends to do that. If so, then none of this may have been in vain. Maybe his loss will help us to see, it isn't only "their war", but ours, too. Perhaps we will begin to realize, regardless of the happy little communities that we have created, we are indeed part of the big picture and need to act as such.

The Razani family needs to know that a whole nation shares their pain. Oh, I know it won't be enough. They will need years to get past this. But it may help to know they have many unknown friends who grieve with them.

We won't forget our brave Iranian-American soldier. He may be, as the Persian saying goes, a flower picked by God. From a distance, the loss of one flower in a vast garden may seem significant, but the vine will remember.

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance writer, poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California.

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