Whew! Made it home. Sorry for the lack of posting and communication in general. I have been driving across the country for the last week. My little sister, a 2nd LT in the Army National Guard just finished her officer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and I flew out last week so that we could drive her truck back to Seattle together.
Driving across this country is a fantastic reminder of why we fight. This is the most beautiful, expansive, wonderful place in the world. We met a lot of really sweet people who helped us out or just engaged in a quick conversation. When I say helped us, I mean helped us. At some point a rodent crawled into the engine and chewed up some wires so we were delayed in Arizona for a couple of days. But we were so, so, so lucky to have been only 20 miles outside of a decently-sized city when the trouble began to manifest itself. We were then directed to a little auto repair shop where the service proved to be impeccable. It also concluded with the owner/manager giving us his business card, asking us to call him when we got back to Seattle so he would know we made it safely home. Very cool.
Something else that struck me as we drove across the country was the absolute right to bear arms. I am speaking of the right to defend yourself. My sister and I were alone - two young(ish) females, traveling by ourselves, through thousands of miles of deserts, through inclement weather - and I cannot tell you how much better we both felt knowing that we were armed. One night we had to stay in a slightly sketchier place than we would have preferred, and while we both know that being armed did not guarantee our safety, it sure did give us that little bit of extra reassurance that we would at least have something with which to defend our lives. It really brought home the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. No one - get that? - NO ONE has the right to tell you that you cannot defend your life or your body from harm by any means necessary. My little sis and I talked about that and I said to her, "Now I know what he meant when he said 'From my cold, dead hands.'"
My flight from Kansas City to Fort Leonard Wood was interesting. I just so happened to go out there during that storm that passed through the entire country, lucky me. My flight took place on a tiny little planelet, and I was the only passenger on board. Creepy. I felt a little like a celebrity and a little doomed. I hate flying (love airports and traveling, hate flying) so you can imagine how much I loved being totally alone on the airplane. The flight was delayed for five hours, which was fine by me as it was freezing and dark outside, and the plane was supposed to leave at 6:50 a.m.
After the delay, they finally ushered me on board, which meant me walking across a giant snow covered lot by myself, in the wind, only to find the co-pilot/flight attendant standing in front of the propellers as a courtesy to me, the only passenger. We then proceeded to sit in the plane with the engines off, in 11 degree weather, while they continued to de-ice the plane as there was some stubborn ice on the roof of the plane. You can imagine my concern. I sat in the back of the freezing plane for an hour. Yes. One whole hour in what amounted to a really expensive refrigerator. The co-pilot ended up giving me his coat because there were no blankets or anything warm on the plane.
We finally take off, me, the pilot (whom I overheard swearing at someone about the ice on the plane...), and the co-pilot, and the flight is only about 45 minutes long. As we neared Fort Leonard Wood, we started to descend. Oh, wait, did I say descend? I meant we started to head nose-first at the ground at an alarming rate. It was almost like one of those fair rides, the pirate ship one, where the boat swings back and forth becoming perpendicular with the ground at each end... yes. I thought I was going to die. I had tears in my eyes and I started saying my prayers, asking God to watch over everyone I love as I started to hyperventilate and clutched at the arms of my seat. As I was trying to make my peace with the fact that my life was about to end, we emerged from the icy clouds and the plane leveled out, and then we landed.
Of course I made sure my sister knew about the awful plane ride. What are sisters for?
As I sat at her graduation, and looked around at all of the other officers graduating with her, and at the plain room surrounding the ceremony, I realized, again, the depth of these individuals. About half of her class will be a part of the "surge" in Afghanistan, and statistics being what they are, not all of them will come home. It is really sobering. I thought about how minimal their ceremony was compared to the pomp and circumstance surrounding a university graduation, and I got pretty disgusted. People graduating with degrees that don't mean anything, such as Feminist Ecology and Social Justice, are celebrated like heroes while the real heroes quietly come and go from little places in the middle of nowhere, like Fort Leonard Wood.
Say a prayer for all these kids who are now being ordered around by a man like Barack Obama; a man who hates being Commander in Chief and has no clue about the military, the soldiers, or how to lead them with inspiration and hope for victory.
Despite him, however, these guys and gals will do their best and you can be sure they are making us all proud.