Parents, Iraq And Worry

(CBS) I'm usually the guy who tries to make you laugh, or at least smile. But there are some things that I just don't find funny, yet still feel the need to write about. 

Yesterday I was in the dentist's chair at 8:30 in the morning. It's never a great place to be. But as I was getting my teeth cleaned, I had a fascinating and moving time, listening to my hygienist. She told me that some people she talks to say she is a "bad American." 

Her stepson is 20 years old and is fighting in Iraq. She and her husband get a phone call from him every few months, and a short e-mail every few weeks. She doesn't mind how brief the e-mail is, because at least it's a demonstration that he "still has the use of his hands." So far, he's healthy and doing OK. 

His parents, on the other hand, are filled with rage and fear. Fear that something will happen to him, and rage that he's been sent to fight in a war that doesn't make sense to them. Some people tell her that not supporting this administration's policy means she's not supporting the troops. She desperately would love for every soldier to return home safely. What could be more supportive of the troops? 

She says she doesn't know if the administration purposely lied to us about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's imminent threat to America. She thinks it's possible that they were just honestly misinformed by bad intelligence. So, in her view, they were either liars or incompetent. Those are the only two possibilities that this concerned parent can see. 

So she doesn't understand how Bill Clinton could've been impeached for lying about his sexual affairs, but George Bush may be reelected president even though he sent men and women off to risk their lives based on false information. 

Her stepson's first job over there was to drive a Humvee into clearings to draw enemy fire. That way, our troops could discover the location of snipers. Now he has a safer job. He's training coalition forces — a 20-year-old with no experience is training the forces that are supposed to take over. 

He doesn't feel he's fighting for an important cause. He doesn't feel like a liberator. He feels he's caught up in something that is "all about oil" that "only politicians and rich guys" understand. This perception may be completely inaccurate. He may have fallen for anti-Bush propaganda. But it's still what's in the heart of at least one of our soldiers over there. 

This young man is due to come home soon for a two-week leave. But he doesn't want to do it. He's afraid that it will just be too hard for him to come home to family and friends and hamburgers and ice cream and a real bed, just to return to the dangers and the desert of Iraq two weeks later. 

Is my friend, the hygienist, demonstrating against the war? No. Is she telling everybody she sees to vote for John Kerry? No. As a matter of fact, she just says she wants everybody to get out there and vote. She wants us all to listen to the candidates, have open minds, and be involved. 

She has two big wishes. One is for her kid, and all the kids, to come home unharmed. The other is for us to never go to war again unless it's the last resort and we have all the correct information. She sounds like a pretty good American to me.