Friday, September 26, 2008


The call had came at 0430 hours. He grabbed the telephone on the first ring. On his second cup of coffee, while checking email, he turned down the television newscast on the tv set near the computer. “I knew you would be up”. “Yeh, same ol’ routine”. “I’m still having trouble sleeping, so I thought I’d give you a call”. ” Good, i’m always up this time of the day, but you call anytime call anytime you want to”. As a after thought he added,” Hey, lets go squirrel hunting this morning ! You up for that ?” The reply came back quickly, “Yes I would like that just fine”.As he hung up the phone and put on another pot of coffee, he remembered the caller’s first visit after returning from Iraq. He had left home a green kid just out of high school, a bit wild and looking for excitement. He got it. His test scores were high enough that he could go to nearly any of the Army’s specialty schools that he wanted. He picked a tough one. A very tough one. He excelled in training and was soon deployed to Iraq. Emails seemed to change as time went by while he was in country. They came less frequent. More tense. More cryptic. All of the ear marks were there. He had lived it himself. It was easy to recognise when it was that close to you.The dogs in the kennel told him when the vehicle pulled up in the yard. He met him at the door. Hand shake and slap on the shoulder, then “come on in, wer’e just getting ready to dig into biscuits and gravy”. “Honey ! We got company !”As they entered the kitchen / dining room area, the visitor realised that a plate had been set for him. He grinned widely and said, ” Mam’, them’s real cat head biscuits. I been eatin’ SOS for so long, I have forgot what real biscuits taste like !”He had lost weight and a smile almost never crossed his face, anymore. Yet, the sight of home made biscuits prompted one of those rare occasions.Old hunting stories and coffee followed breakfast. Then as it got quiet for a bit, the visitor said, ” I’ve got those things you wanted to see out in the truck”. He responded, “It’s time to load those Rat Terriers, let’s go look.”As he recieved the stack of green award folders that had been retrieved from the vehicle glove box, he handled them carefully, almost reverently. It was on the bottom of the stack. When he opened the folder he gave a low whistle, followed by, ” buddy, you can’t earn a Bronze Star with a V for Valor, while cooking omlettes in a Officers mess ! ” He knew from experience that there was likely a copy of the origonal citation under a leaf in the folder. He couldn’t resist, he just had to look. As he slid the citation out and opened it up and began to read, he knew. He knew why those smiles were so hard to come by on this young soldiers face.Each entry going up the chain of command, and there were several, contained the words, “bravery while under direct enemy fire” and also said, ” while saving the lives of several fellow soldiers”.“My friend, he said, you have a incredible adventure story that I definitely want to hear, when you are ready.”“Let’s load these squirrel dogs.”As they walked slowly and quietly down the faint road through giant hardwood trees, he commented to his friend, “you are spending as much time walking backwards and looking back as you are looking forward.” “You aren’t patroling Sauder City now, buddy.” “I know, he replied, old habits die hard.”After taking a squirrel from a hickory tree, he said to his young friend. ” You thinking about going back ?” The answer was, “Yes, did you think about going back to Viet Nam ?” “Yes, I did. They are saying now that it is called survivors guilt, or some high falutin’ term like that.” ” It makes you want to return to try to keep friends and others safe while in a combat zone.” “The problem is, how do you explain to your family and friends?” “Some I knew lied to their families, told them that they had just recieved orders and had no choice but to go back.” ” But the truth was that they had actually volunteered to return.” ” It’s a tough call that each has to make. I don’t envy you having to decide that.”“Hey, we are going to have to quit jaw boning and pick up the pace, those terriers are way ahead !”Later while eating a sandwich they were sharing pinches of with the squirrel dogs, He asked the young soldier, ” you considered going back to school ?” “It’s what your friends are still over there fighting for. They would like to know that you are able to do that now, i’ll bet.”The response was, ” My wife is already taking courses while in the reserve and wants me to do the same.” “Then when I get out in several months, go to college full time.”He said to the young soldier, “if you were in the reserve you could help prepare those youngsters for what is ahead.” Thoughtfully the soldier replied,” yeah, and I could still be able to hunt with some old geezer who is so handy with advice !” “Let’s call it a day, I need to call my Dad and talk to him about college”.

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