Another long drive today with Elie resulted in more discussions about his time in the army. We were driving on two roads too often stoned by Arabs. I needlessly warned Elie that should anything happen, he has to make sure to keep driving. “Don’t stop,” I told him, “remember, you don’t have a gun anymore.”

Silly, silly mother! He spent three years in the army. I’ve been graced by God. I have never had something thrown at my car. That was when Elie explained that during his time in the army – rocks were a regular occurrence – “paint, a refrigerator, an oven. Now that makes a loud boom,” Elie said.

“Someone threw a refrigerator and an oven at your jeep?” I asked in horror.

“At the humvee,” he explained – as if that would make it seem better.

What must it feel like to be in a vehicle and have it hit by a refrigerator? An oven? Even a rock? And despite all the media claims, Elie explained, “you just keep driving. You don’t stop.”

We passed a checkpoint. It took us longer to get through than normal. Our lane was diverted to the side and as we looked we saw that the lane itself was blocked by a truck. “He tried to run the barrier,” Elie explained. The evidence was in the flat tires that resulted from the soldiers’ quick actions. There on the side, a bit ahead and in another lane was another car – it had two flat tires. When the soldiers threw the control, the truck was stopped as planned…but so was the car.

“Will the soldiers get in trouble for the car?” I asked Elie.

“Not in this case,” he said. He told me of a time that one of his soldiers was playing around and not paying attention – and by accident, threw the controls and blew out the tires of a truck. The army paid for new tires, as they will for the car we saw today.

This is all part of what it was to be a soldier – the checkpoint and the spikes; the stoning attacks. It wasn’t necessary for me to warn Elie. Almost daily, the man shares the path he took that formed him. I sometimes wish I could record all his words so that I could write them here. There are so many stories – all told as he watches life from the other side of the uniform. For three years, he watched and acted from within the army. Now, he is on the outside, watching and understanding the soldiers.

He comments about how alert they are at a checkpoint; how and where they stand. He comments about their clothes, their weapons, their vehicles. It is all known to him. He described the Tavor gun today because he saw one at a checkpoint. He told me what bullets it holds, the various forms it can take. Why it is better than the M16, how it compares to the Uzi.

Just a month after his 23rd birthday, I am reminded how much he has been through, how much more experience he has. It is these experiences that have formed him into the man he has become from the boy that left my home one day in March, 2007. In the simplest of terms, I gave the army a boy…they gave me back a man.
I knew the boy, at least I like to think I did. Only now, am I beginning to see so many facets of the man. 

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