05 October 2007

Now here's a good story for you

I am often asked why I wrote "Daddy's Boots" and "Momma's Boots" when there are plenty good deployment books out there.
I'll tell you now what I told them then.
Back in 2004, we had a French foreign exchange student, Ophelie - a quiet, unassuming seventeen-year-old with a fetching smile and pleasant disposition - stay with us for four weeks in the summer. She came with a group of twenty other students from her school, all of which were placed in homes in the nearby town of Columbus, GA. However, our family lived on the Ft. Benning Military Base - Home of the Infantry. Hooah!
We were awakened in the morning by shells exploding in the nearby fields, and lulled to sleep with the whirring blades of Blackhawk Helicopters flying overhead. It was nothing to see a parade of HMMWVs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle – or, Hummers to you civilians), tanks, or Bradley Fighting Vehicles trudging down our street.
We often took our children to watch the Ranger graduation, where the soldiers put on a demonstration of the skills they've mastered - an awesome sight. If you ever get the chance to observe I highly recommend it.
From every corner of Ft. Benning we witnessed soldiers floating in the sky in a graceful fall toward terra firma as they learned airborne skills.
And, the one thing I took for granted - in fact, I barely noticed after nineteen years of military association - the men and women walking the streets of our installation donned in the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), whether it be desert camo or olive drab green.
Ophelie noticed. It took her a few days to summon enough courage to share her concern with us.
"Am I allowed to see them?" she asked. "Will I not be shot? Do they know I am French?"
It all became so clear.
I tried to explain to her our soldiers are not to be feared. They do more humanitarian efforts than wartime activities during their years of service.
She asked, "Don't they kill? Aren't you afraid?"
No, I have never been afraid of any person wearing the uniform of our country. They are not the SS of Hitler fame. They do not seek out confrontation and combat. They serve and protect much like our finest policemen. They rescue and give comfort and aide. I never felt safer than when I lived on a military installation.

Our men and women of the military are summarily good and decent people just trying to earn a living doing what they love. Unfortunately, they don't earn much of a living, but that's another topic for another time.
I know there're exceptions to every rule. You have your bad cops, your bad doctors, your good lawyers and congressmen, and some soldiers have indeed marred the honor, duty, country oath they swore to uphold, but all of those examples are comparatively few.
I took Ophelie to a Ranger graduation. Then we went to the airborne field and watched my eldest daughters' best friend, Amy, do her final airborne school jump with her father - who is also in the Army.
I took her to the Infantry Museum, where our military history is displayed for all to see.
She took it all in - amazed at our openness.
She explained to me the French military worked in seclusion and secrecy, much different than what she observed at our house.
She may not have left the United States with a typical American experience to tell, but I can guarantee she had much more rewarding one than shopping at the mall.

I was retelling this story to a friend of mine from high school. She's not associated with the military at all. I was surprised to find she held the same impression as Ophelie about our military.
And, it dawned on me.
Not very many people pay attention to what our soldiers really do.
Sure, they know they go to foreign lands and shoot babies... don't they? Isn't that what Jane says?

No. They go to Louisiana and help victims of a small hurricane named Katrina. They go to Wyoming and help put out a tiny fire that wiped out Yellowstone National Park. They go out to sea and help rescue boats caught in a storm. And, they go to foreign lands and do what they can to help the people of that nation whose lives are being turned upside-down by a tyrant.
Wait... I feel myself going off on a tangent.
Back to the main point.
I saw a need.
I wrote the book... books.
I hope you like them and they bring you and your families some comfort if you are lucky enough to have someone close to you serving in the United States military.

Yesterday my children were playing outside with the other neighborhood children. They were playing "town." I heard much commotion, so naturally I went out to see what was up. Jo (the town's police officer) said Levi wouldn't stop shooting everybody. I asked why he was shooting. He explained he was the Army guy of the town.
Jo said her dad was in the Army and he never shot anybody in his life. Levi asked me if that was true.
Yes, it is.
Over 20 years in the Infantry - and not a shot fired at another human being. Or baby.
Christian then made Levi do 25 push-ups. Now, that's more like it!

Life, Liberty and the pursuit...
In Joy and Enjoy -

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pass the popcorn, please!