Reflections on the Story of a Marine and His Mother

                                             The Scalpel

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the story of Mark Evnin and his mother Mindy Evnin on Sunday,
October 5th, 2003.  Mark Evnin was a sniper in the Marine Corps. His mother Mindy Evnin is a
psychotherapist.  Mark died in Iraq in early April 2003, after being shot in the abdomen by enemy fire.
I feel deep sorrow for Mindy Evnin.  I have a son of my own, and I cannot imagine the loss I would feel if
he were to be killed.  In my own way, I have been in the place of her son, but have lived through it.  Now I
have children, and in my own way, I am in her place.  How do we avoid more traumas like Ms Evnin and
her son experienced?

As a practicing psychotherapist, perhaps Ms Evnin will appreciate the insights of another 'survivor,'
granted, one who has suffered less. Perhaps she will see this as a kind of group therapy for soldiers
and parents. Perhaps Ms Evnin will realize the potential value of her experience in helping others to
avoid the same fate. Perhaps she will be offended. Perhaps she will despise me. What I am about to
say may seem cruel, but it is the truth. The story of Ms Evnin and her son is one we can all benefit from
examining. I mean to help others who find themselves in a similar situation, and perhaps, to help Ms
Evnin, herself.  In the parlance of psychotherapists, I am about to engage in some "tough love."      

Snipers are necessarily cool and calculated. They see the humanity; they can almost smell it, close up,
through their high-powered sniper scope. There is transmitted a synergy of life between the sniper and
his victim. The sniper, with his eyes, focuses on the light of life in his victim's eyes. He can see the rise
and fall of his victim's chest.  The sniper times his breathing, which he also feels, to fire a bullet that will
explode his victim’s heart.  He does this with intense concentration and calm because, as a sniper, he
must, or he will miss his target. The sniper is able to, no, volunteers to, pull the trigger.  He does this
over and over and over.   

Here are some exerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle article and my comments:

" Mark was a fun and funny child…. But school bored him…for the most part, his mother said; he just
never worked hard... Mark got the discipline he needed in the Marine Corps… Mark was assigned to the
sniper platoon of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment based in Twentynine Palms (San
Bernardino County, California), as part of the 1st Marine Division. Mindy (his mother) never visited Mark
on the West Coast.... She found, through the other Marines, that her son had started turning into a man. "

It seems we have some “issues” here.  Was Mark trying to prove his manhood?
"She (Mindy Evnin) found, through the other Marines, that her son had started turning into a man... "The
thing I came away with was that Marines are always complaining, all the time," she said. "But they said
Mark wasn't like that. He always had this smile on his face, and would just go along with whatever."
Here is a true “military man" – someone who, “always had this smile on his face, and would just go
along with whatever.”  Mark Evnin might have refused to  "just go along”, but did not, and as a result, he
died in Iraq.   We give our children orders because we must do so for their safety and well-being.  If they
“just go along” we call them obedient.  Adults, for their own safety and well-being, must make their own
decisions.  We fear adults will get into trouble or worse if they “just go along” with the crowd.  We call
them irresponsible.  Courage is required to go against the crowd, the kind of courage that separates the
men from the boys.  A “military man” would be called an obedient child in any other setting.  Let us raise
our sons to be men, not obedient children.  

Mark “just went along,” but why?  Perhaps there was a good reason to risk his life.

Ms Evnin states, "I don't know that this war didn't need to be fought. I hope it does some good for the
Middle East. I hope it helps Israel. Was it a just war? I don't have a clue."  

Would we be proud of Mark Evnin in any other setting if he risked his life and we did not “have a clue” if it
were for a good reason. If all his friends were jumping off a bridge, would we encourage Mark to jump off
a bridge too?  Would he be serving us by doing that?  Warfare can be far more dangerous and
destructive than jumping off a bridge. Why do we say our sons are “serving us” by joining the Marines
and going along with that crowd?

What caused Mark to be attracted to this dangerous, deadly lifestyle?

We learn that Mark Evnin "…loved all things military and liked talking to his grandfather, Max Walls, a
prominent rabbi in Vermont who had been a chaplain during World War II. "  

There is always a respected figure that makes “things military” all seem moral in the mind of the soldier.
These people often have no idea that they are planting the seeds of death. We should tell them.  We
should actively resist the corrupting influences of others on our children. As parents, we try to teach our
children appropriate social skills.  We encourage our sons to refrain from violence and to solve their
problems peacefully.  Why do we make exceptions for military violence?  Why do we glorify combat and
make it seem exciting and adventurous? Mark needed us to tell him that “things military” were not toys or
adventure tourism, but dangerous, deadly serious things.  We might have taught Mark that “things
military” were to be avoided if at all possible because they caused suffering and death.  We might have
taught him that there are peaceful ways to solve our problems.  

"Late last year, he (Mark) called to say his unit would be going to Kuwait. They would go to Iraq if there
were to be a war. Mindy didn't worry too much about it. She figured he was well-trained and well-armed. "

"(Mindy) Evnin has a picture of her touching Mark's casket inside the hearse. "I couldn't let go," she said. "

If we only knew then, what we know now.  If we had known, perhaps we would have been more worried.  
Perhaps we would have advised Mark not to follow orders to go to Iraq.  Perhaps we would have told
Mark that we loved him, and that we felt he had great things in store for him, and that we did not want him
to engage in risky behavior. Even if Mark passed driver education, and drove a car with an air bag, we
would worry if he made wreckless decisions while driving. We would try to convince him to stop.  We
would tell him that we love him and that we wanted him alive to get married, and to have children and

Ms Evnin says, “Why did it have to be Mark? … I finally decided that it sucks and I hate it but it happened.
It just happened," she said.

Da Nile (denial) isn't just a river a river in Egypt.  We need to take ownership of our problems. What we
do can make a difference.  Instead of being enablers, let us recognize our role in the problem and begin
acting to change things for the better.

"Hundreds of people came for Mark's funeral, many of whom had never known him. The governor was
there, and other politicians. The local TV stations covered it extensively, as did the newspaper. Media
from around the world started calling.”

This must be what is meant by "serving one's country," i.e., to become a corpse served up as food for
leeches and other assorted parasites.
Some of the calls came from reporters who wanted her to blame the president for the war, and death of
her son. She wouldn't do it. "I didn't like Bush from day one," she said. "I thought he was probably
finishing his father's war and he was trying to move attention away from the economy. But what would it
help me to hate Bush?”
Why serve your son's corpse up with sugar, Ms Evnin? Don’t you see that this only makes it more likely
that other mothers will do the same? Why not make the leeches choke Mark’s corpse down with acid?
Perhaps, then, other mothers and other soldiers might reconsider their actions and put an end to their
self-destructive delusions. Perhaps this would help other mothers and soldiers see the fantasies
portrayed by politicians and the media for what they are - self-destructive lies.

"After getting Mark's medal, Evnin wept… Evnin spoke about Mark to everyone, but she refused to go on
camera. She found the role of "grieving mother" to be undignified.”

Cry on camera, Ms Evnin! Show us all your sorrow, all your loss, and all your rage.  Show us you are
angry. Tell us you are mad as hell, and are not going to take it anymore.  Refuse to “just go along.” If you
do this, you will be serving all the parents and children who live in the United States of America. When
other mothers and soldiers see your grief, they will want to avoid a similar fate.  The son you loved bled
to death in Iraq and you “don’t have a clue” if it was a just cause.  Is this dignified?  Other mothers and
soldiers need your help, Ms Evnin.  Help them by showing them your grief – the grief they may suffer if
they do not act to prevent it.  Help them to discourage their children from joining the Marines.  Encourage
them to act to bring home their sons and daughters who are in Iraq. Help us all bring them home now!
Reflections on the Story of a Marine and His Mother