She slowly awakens from a deep sleep as he gently massages her shoulders with calloused hands and kisses the back of her neck. The sun brightly filters through the slats of the blinds on the window overlooking her garden full of ripe tomatoes, peppers and all the other fresh vegetables that go into the huge kitchen of the big old farmhouse the couple has lived in for the past 30 years. She smells the fresh coffee he offers her before she even opens her eyes. When she does, she turns and silently gazes up at her old man as she thinks how much she still worships him after all this time.
“C’mon woman. Time to get up. We got a lot to do and it’s gonna be a long day.”
She frowns as she remembers what has to be done, but instead of commenting on it just asks [as she does every morning], “Are you done with the milking?” and takes the coffee from him.
He answers [like he does every morning], “Yup. Did it while you were sleeping.” Then he remembers like he has every morning for the past few years how different THAT chore is now that the boys are gone and he has to use hired help to do it.
Owen and Lois Kendall have been farming these 140 acres ever since they took over the place from her uncle’s estate when he died in the late1970’s. They’ve done well with it and actually improved on the farm in many ways. Owen took the dairy herd up from 20 to 110 cows and three bulls, as well as considerably increasing the farmable acreage employing modern planting techniques and equipment. Often local elementary schools bring busloads of children on field trips to see how a functional, proper dairy farm is run. Owen and Lois both get a kick out of seeing the kids wide eyed and excited as they tour the place asking questions their teachers can’t answer. His mind snaps to the present as he frowns and he too thinks how he dreads the prospects of the coming day.
The quiet but still vigorous 50 year old man tries to hide his feelings and what he’s thinking from Lois as he stands and walks to the window and peaks through the blinds. “The main dairy barn is gonna need a new coat of paint one of these days.”
Lois intuitively knows that isn’t what’s on his mind, but plays along and replies, “Has it been that long? It seems only a few years since Mike broke his leg.”
That brings a bittersweet smile to Owen’s face as he remembers how their oldest son fell off the scaffolding they were using to paint the side of the barn and broke his leg real good. Not from the fall, but from falling ON Elmer their prize Gurnsey bull. Elmer didn’t take to people just dropping out of the sky on him. Then he frowns again as he thinks, ‘Mike. Oh my wonderful son Mike. What have they done to you boy?’
Mike Kendall stood tall and proud at 6’4” and towered over his little brother Jesse. All their lives the Kendall boys seemed to be achievers. Everybody just knew the boys would be successful at any life they’d choose to pursue. Ya might say they had the world in the palms of their hands.
They were both popular in school, were both great students, had the prettiest girlfriends and were both captains of their high school football teams, Mike varsity and Jesse JV. They also were the most courteous and handsome young men anyone in the area could remember. Mike was president of his class and Jesse was HIS class’s valedictorian at graduation.
They both worked hard keeping up the farm with their old man and everyone knew that, so nobody even suggested they were privileged. The gleaming burgundy ’67 Shelby Mustang the boys shared was the product of their own painstaking restoration. The only problem there was them fighting over who drove the “Studmobile” and who had the nasty old pick ‘em up farm truck for their nights out with their girls. When Mike joined the Marines Jesse finally had the car to himself, that is until two years later when Jesse also signed up. Now the Mustang sleeps, covered up in one of the out-buildings beside Owen’s antique Oliver tractor, waiting for Jesse to fire it up.
Mike was captured, tortured and executed in Iraq when his patrol was ambushed a few miles outside of Bagdad. Today Owen and Lois are burying their oldest son.
With a deep sigh Owen walks down the hall to Jesse’s room to see if he’s awake. He’s let the young man sleep in rather than ask for his help with the milking since he figured the “Corps” doesn’t let a body sleep in very often. Jesse’s “Personal Leave” home for Mike’s funeral won’t last long and Owen doesn’t want to burden the boy any more than he has to.
Normally my contributions to this magazine are intended to distract readers from all the seriousness of our legislative agenda and to provide some humor amongst the pages of information regarding our lifestyle and our “cause”. But every now and then I feel the need to get something off my mind or to just say something that ISN’T humorous or entertaining. With a great amount of thanks I appreciate this opportunity and I try not to abuse it.
My wife Julie and I were riding one beautiful Summer afternoon recently and as we passed through the small town of Deerfield, Ohio we noticed a house with the following spray painted across the front in huge red letters: “GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS…..GOD FORGIVE OUR GOVERNMENT”. My first thought was, ‘Wow! These people sure are passionate about this, to actually paint it across the front of their HOME!’. Then I noticed the blue star in the window showing they had someone in combat overseas and I wondered how many other small towns were populated with similarly frustrated people.
This is the month of our national Thanksgiving holiday. Over past centuries this has usually meant that we’ve thanked our founding fathers for establishing this great country. We might thank “God” [which ever one you choose and how ever you do it] for our freedoms and our opportunities. Of course you also have the freedom just to enjoy the day off and to feast on the traditional turkey dinner….Or not.
This year, if you DO gather your loved ones around you to celebrate this “Day Of Thanks”, perhaps it would be a good idea to also thank not only the men and women who serve in our armed forces, but also the families who are forced to feel the loss of their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters, be it for long months or for their ultimate sacrifice.
As of August 2007 [according to Wikipedia, the online research source] 3,728 young American men and women have died in the Iraq conflict since it’s beginning in 2003. Furthermore, 8,163 American forces have been wounded. Add to that 297 deaths from the multinational force, 933 deaths of private contractors, 102 dead journalists, 39 dead media support workers and 88 dead aid workers. That totals over 13,350 casualties in four years of war, and THAT doesn’t include the wounded of anyone but the American forces! The word “Casualties” includes maimed and wounded. That’s why I’m making these distinctions.
I think it’s safe to say that an incredible majority of Americans support our forces serving over there. The guilt of how our society treated the Viet Nam era troops still fouls our collective conscience. But I also think it’s appropriate to note that we as a people are feeling somewhat confused about just what exactly our government plans to do to end this. After all, according to a September poll by CNN, 61% of the American public believes we are headed in the wrong direction. That’s INCREDIBLE, considering that right after 9/11 the American people were almost united in their enthusiasm and it seemed that just about the whole world was our sympathetic friend. Now, years later, we’ve lost most of those friends and everybody is asking, “What is our agenda?” and all that’s heard in reply is confusing dialogue….meaningless rhetoric. We’re asked by our leaders to, “Be patient”.
But it’s also safe to say that most Americans don’t expect or even want to just suddenly up and withdraw our forces. To “write off” the efforts of what has been done to date means handing over what was liberated from Saddam to those who might be even more screwed up. And more importantly, no responsible clear minded citizen wants to leave our enemies with the ability and desire to accomplish terroristic tactical aggression abroad or, even worse, here.
What we DO want is for our leaders to get their asses in gear and to stop using this merely as a platform for political debate. Let’s focus and agree that this issue is a Hell of a lot more important than who becomes our next president, let alone the price of a gallon of gas. Hell, to save American soldier’s lives we’d all be content with higher gas prices for now if need be [unless you’re one sick individual].
Of course there are issues regarding Iraq that the average citizen knows nothing about. But we shouldn’t be EXPECTED to be “experts” on this stuff. We don’t hold political science degrees. We realize we don’t have all the facts on the global picture, the world’s economy or even how to deal with religious fanaticism on such a level as this. But WE don’t base our careers on claiming that we do, nor do we live our lives manipulating the political system. We leave that to the professional so-called “Experts” in the employ of “We the People”.
To them we say, “Do the job we voted you into office for, or that which you were appointed to do. Show some accountability for your positions!! Take care of this mess. Give us some hope. We need to see some light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel.”
Maybe one additional prayer this Thanksgiving could be a request for Divine Guidance for our politicians and policy makers….I think they need it.
PS….Thanks for letting me vent. Next month will be the same old insanity, I promise.