Remember "Solider In The Family: Confronting A Son's Decision To Enlist"? The Vogue cover piece by that lady who learns the hard way that some people are in Iraq not because they are aggro rednecks but because it turns out making a living writing masturbatory pieces about your life isn't actually the inalienable right of all Americans, when — horrors! — her own SON ZACH enlists in the army? That is, actually um, her "stepson." Which is to say, ahem, the son of her boyfriend to whom she is not only not married but who lives in a totally separate house. We know this because we just talked to Zach's actual mom. Who was not exactly stoked about the eight "step-" words sprinkled throughout Maggie McGuane's piece on their happy "family of six"! Or anything else about the piece. "She cooks them dinner, she's involved in their lives," Zach's mom Robin conceded to us. "But the story..." also admits Maggie never wrote him one letter when he was away at training camp! So Robin wrote us a letter on the stuff Maggie left out.
I am writing regarding the article that appeared in the October issue of Vogue titled "Blended family, separate expectations." I am not a journalist and I have never written a letter such as this; however, as the mother of PFC Zach Bruha, I feel the need to voice my dismay at the tenor, theatrics and dramatization set forth in this article.
It is unfortunate that most families in America are now blended; however, it is a reality that a great deal of us must live with and accept. In spite of this sad statistic, in the sense of traditional families, our children are born with one father and one mother and at times are blessed to have other people who are influential in their lives. Regardless, I truly believe major decisions relating to one's children should be discussed between the natural parents of the children with the goal that the children's best interests be considered. In blended families, stepparents (significant others) play a very important role in the lives of children; however, it is my belief that there is a fine line between stepparents (significant others) and natural parents when both natural parents are actively involved in the upbringing of their children.
The facts regarding Zach's return to Livingston to live with his father are far more in depth than those expressed by Ms. McGuane. I find it insensitive and despicable that she would take it upon herself to state that when Zach left my home, he left "in a blaze of confrontation." Obviously, she was not at my home when my son was second guessing his choice to return to Livingston. Ms. McGuane was not present to observe the tears running down his face and the genuine sadness he and I both experienced. The decision for my son to return to Livingston is a decision I regretted immediately, and I will regret it for the rest of my life. In the end I do not believe it was the best thing for Zach.
I am truly aghast at the way my son is depicted throughout this article. Although Zach may not have had the drive to excel in his academics throughout his school years, he most certainly was highly motivated in numerous activities outside of his academics and interest in "the opposite sex." Zach is a tremendous athlete, which was obvious as early as his fifth grade year when he and three fellow classmates were selected to represent the Northwest Region at the Hershey's National Track Meet held in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Although Zach may not be a book worm, when he is presented with a challenge that requires physical interaction combined with thought process, he is hard to beat. He excels with such a challenge. This has been proven over and over again by his years of playing soccer, participating in track as well as high school football, and in his extracurricular activities such as kayaking, hiking, skiing, and most recently in his enrollment with the Army National Guard.
Regarding my son enlisting with the Army National Guard, as a supposed professional journalist, I would think it would be Ms. McGuane's obligation and duty to accurately reflect a person's quote. Her statement about when Chris spoke to me about Zach's decision to join the military and I responded with a "few more syllables beyond 'Fine'" was ridiculous —a whole lot more than "fine" was said.
For clarification purposes, my son and I spoke in depth about the pros and cons of such a decision. We discussed the financial and educational benefits of joining the military, as well as the reality that he could be called to active duty, thereby placing his life on the line, and the reality that he may be hurt or killed or that he may witness this scenario with a battle buddy. We spoke about the families who lost loved ones as a result of their role in the military, as well as the long-term commitment he was making. Having not exhibited any real interest in a career outside of high school, my son was making a life-changing decision to become a member of our Armed Forces. "Fine" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt or how I responded to such news.
When Zach was sworn in as a soldier for the Army National Guard, my fear turned to extreme pride for my son.
During the summer between Zach's junior and senior year of high school, he attended Basic Training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. Every Sunday morning Zach would call me. During our first few conversations, I could hear the fear and loneliness in Zach's voice; however, it wasn't long after that I began to hear the strong and confident voice of a young man who spoke with pride. At the conclusion of his Basic Training, I flew to Kentucky to attend his graduation ceremony. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. I immediately felt humbled to be in the presence of such admirable men and women. When Zach left to attend Basic Training, I recall feeling that he was very insecure, scared and did not possess much confidence in himself. When I saw my son at Ft. Knox I no longer felt that way. He was no longer an adolescent teenager with questions in his eyes, but rather an extremely confident and self-assured young man who held his head up with pride.
I cannot describe the emotion and pride I felt when I watched my son in his military dress uniform march into the parade grounds before the Generals and other guests attending the ceremony. I have never experienced such an emotion nor the comfort in being in the presence of such remarkable individuals. Listening to the soldiers recite their creed almost brought me to tears. All of these young men and women have chosen to become military personnel and it was a decision I'm sure was not made while dining on Sushi and drinking Pellegrino. Although we may not all agree with the present Administration's policies or the wars we are presently fighting, I do know without a doubt that if my son is called to duty, he will give everything he has to protect our nation and his fellow soldiers. Zach is most definitely a gentle soul. However, he will defend to the end those he loves and needs to protect.
I am somewhat confused by Ms. McGuane's reference to Zach's "grim" military photo which she hung on her refrigerator. I believe I know the photograph she is referring to, as I have the same photograph. This photograph was taken when Zach first arrived at Ft. Knox. There is a definite sign of fear and/or uncertainty on his face, but the picture also reflects the face of a young man who has made the decision and commitment to join the military, and who one day may be putting his life on the line so that we can enjoy the freedom of being an American citizen. I proudly display this photograph and have not once ever considered it a "grim" photograph.
After graduation from high school in June 2007, Zach was immediately sent to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas, to complete his AIT training. Although Zach may not have excelled in academics during his elementary and high school years, he is excelling in his training at Goodfellow. I am so proud to hear the pride in his voice when he calls to tell me he's received a 92% or better on his tests, and that he participates in study groups. It may have taken Zach a little longer than some to find his motivation in education, but he has it now and is excelling in every aspect of his life.
I say this with pride—I am the mother of PFC Zach Bruha.