By Thomas James Brennan
Anthony was wearing pajamas. His knees bounced up and down as he sat cross-legged at his kitchen table. Between each scoop of Velveeta macaroni and cheese, he told me a little more about his father. We talked about nicknames – Papi and his Silly Rabbit – and Anthony’s plans to swing from the ceiling fans if his dad came home. He won’t. The Silly Rabbit placed his bowl and spoon inside the kitchen sink. “I hate war,” he said. Five years ago, when Anthony was three, his father, Javier Ortiz-Rivera, was killed in Afghanistan.
I served with Anthony’s father during our 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. I didn’t meet Anthony, his siblings, or their mother until Javier had died. My conversation with Anthony left him emotionally torn. He doesn’t remember his father, Anthony cried. Then he would force himself to stop, wiping his tears with his colorful sleeves. “Papi would want me to be strong for my mom.” He looked at her. She forced a smile.
Anthony and his family are part of my reason for starting The War Horse – a digital magazine and community that will investigate war since 9/11 and the trauma it's caused. Our Kickstarter campaign will launch on January 18, and raising a minimum of $50,000 will allow us to publish investigative journalism about the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs beginning in May 2016. The War Horse will also publish stories like that of Javier and his family’s – profiling all of the U.S. service members and interpreters killed since 9/11. Anthony’s father will be our first multimedia profile. Their family struggles to understand the affects of war the same as the rest of us – veteran and civilian. They struggle just like I do to understand the grip armed conflict has on those who wage war, those who oppose it, and those who support it.