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Cathy Heighter, one of the moms that reads her late son’s letter home.

I forgot to watch this at 9PM tonight; it looked like a must-see (I’ll DVR it at midnight on HBOW). I’m talking about HBO’s documentary “Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops From the Battlefields of Iraq”. Heather Havrilesky at reviews it.

Chances are you’ll have other plans, or maybe you’ll watch a few minutes of mothers and girlfriends and sisters and fathers reading the last words they received from their loved ones, and you’ll feel sick and want to switch over to “The Apprentice.” But chances are, you don’t know much about who’s dying over there, or how it feels for their families. Is it possible to make a responsible statement about your position on Iraq without having some concrete notion of the human toll we’re paying overseas, every single day?

Dear Mother,

Today is a blissful day. Mother, you are the most important person in my life, and today is the first time I’ve realized you, only, have tried your hardest to bring the bestowed, hidden, optimistic and spontaneous qualities out of me. Well, Mother, my feet have been placed on the firm ground. Without your teaching me what you have, it would not have been possible. As I sit here in tears, I thank you.

Time goes by like a continuous Ground Hog Day over here. In the beginning, there was a lot of bloodshed, but now it’s all over, though there are still terrorists that don’t want us here. The good news is, I will be home to see you in September or October at the latest.



After reading her son’s letter out loud, Cathy Heighter explains, “The minute that I opened this letter and read it, my heart sank from the very first line. Because I had never heard my son write this way, speak this way. He had never expressed himself in this manner, so I knew that there was something terribly wrong, something going on inside of him that he felt the need to let me know that he was thinking of me in this moment and how much he loved me … Two days later, they came to tell me that my son had been killed in Iraq. Which just … I went crazy. [Starts crying.] I’m sorry.”

Tough to take, huh? Not surprisingly, every single one of these letters is tough to take, as are the tears and the long pauses between sentences, as each mourner reads the same repeated promise that the deceased will be home soon. But far from an exercise in extreme rubbernecking, Bill Couturi?Š’s film is about taking a long, unflinching look at the people who are really paying for this war.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding