My son Tim Eysselinck was one of those children who set his course as a toddler in love with military gear, and as a youth attached himself firmly to the concepts of honor, patriotism and the “warrior spirit.” He went through college on ROTC, spent four years in the Army and eight in the Reserve, where he volunteered for every assignment: Bosnia, Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia. His best qualities reflected his claim that he was born in the wrong age: he was stalwart, stouthearted, a patriot.
I struggled with this. I am anti-war, anti-nationalist, left wing, and so forth. Tim and I agreed that our task was to love each other in spite of worldviews we could not share.
In his last posting Tim learned mine removal, and when his Army job was privatized in 1998 (we could not know then that it was a small cog in the great machine of war privatization), he went to work for a contractor that did humanitarian mine removal for the U.S. government. He married and had a daughter. I felt lucky that he was taking mines out of the ground and not putting them in.
In 2003 the company, RONCO, offered him a choice between a desk in Washington and a team of 160 Iraqis to train in de-mining. He went exultantly to Iraq, believing in the war, its necessity, and that they would find WMDs.
He returned to his family in Namibia a scant seven months later, disillusioned with President Bush, Coalition Director Paul Bremer, the U.S. Army and especially his corporate employers, whom he considered corrupt, greedy for taxpayer dollars and unconcerned with the safety of his men. He shockingly said that he was “ashamed to be an American.” He shot himself on April 23, 2004.
In Losing Tim I have recorded the progress of my grief while trying to explore what it was like to be Tim, and what it is like to return from war disillusioned and morally injured.