Monday, November 11, 2013

Gophers, Vets and Women

Gopher Mountain
War on Gophers
Honoring Vets
Todd & His Crew
Papa Sonny, WWII (Marines)
Papa Riley, Civil War (Union)
Papa Sonny and his Woman (Grandma Donna)
Sgt. Todd Mills
Scampering below ground, an army of gophers attack my yard and pastures. Diligently, they can kick up a mass of dirt that towers over lawn and stretches beneath fence-lines. During the winter, they will push dirt above drifts of snow. Anyone who tells you not to make a mountain out of a molehill has never seen one erupt.

My go-to-gopher-annihilating-man is Todd, of course. He's a combat veteran, Ranger battalion trained with weapons. He has sat early mornings, poised with a pistol for gophers to poke out a head. He's hosed numerous holes, dug up others and planted sonic beacons. The beacons have kept scoundrels out of my garden, but have merely chased the gophers from one end of the yard to another.

My only rule is no chemicals, as we have dogs, horses and migratory birds. The pond is pristine, my garden organic and frogs thrive to attract Blue Heron, osprey and mergansers. Kill a rodent with poison and it will kill golden eagles, hawks and owls. So my veteran stalks with knives, guns and water in our war on gophers. He is successful.

Today is the day I am suppose to thank him, but one day of focused praise almost seems silly. Yet gratitude for men and women who serve is serious, and honor deserved. However, I don't ask Todd what he did in the Army. I don't ask, "So did you shoot people when you jumped into Grenada?" or "What's it like seeing a friend die right before your eyes?"

But I listen when he talks. I don't question, interrupt or offer my opinion. I didn't serve in the military and I never saw combat. I pat his shoulder, hug him and wear his 30-year old Ranger fatigue jacket with pride, although neither of us can button it anymore, having grown wider and wiser. We also, "smoke and joke," something my husband has taught me from his service. It means to laugh and tell stories.

Before he died, my Papa Sonny spoke of being a Marine in WWII. He choked up, telling me about the boy he saw in the hospital who cried out in agony for his mother. He tells me the boy was an angel. I don't know why he thought that, but then again, I did not serve in the military or watch a youth who had lied about his age die in pain. I just listened.

My cousin Mitch served. His son Matt has, too. Men call our house around the anniversary of Urgent Fury and ask for "brother" Todd. I'm not sure my cousins, husband or their many brothers can say why they signed up to serve, but why they serve can found in that hint, "brother."

Saturday, I attended my second Wild Horse Trail Daughters of the American Revolution meeting in Sandpoint. Not only do we honor the original patriots in our heritage, we also honor living ones. In Papa Sonny's line we have at least seven patriots who served the Revolutionary War, including 6th-great grandfather Conrad Elrod who was a Minuteman. My 3rd-great grandfather Riley Hatley wrote in his journal that his grandfathers fought the British in Ireland, fought them in the Revolutionary War and he fought them in the Civil War.

Again, I'm not sure I understand why Papa Riley thought he was fighting Brits as a southern man who fled Tennessee to sign up for the side of the Union, but I honor that he felt strongly enough to do so. So did two of his brothers. Taking action, answering that call to duty and serving one's country in the capacity of soldier is not easily explained. It takes courage.

At the DAR meeting, three WWII vets shared their recent experiences as Honor Flight participants. How exciting for these aged vets to travel to Washington, DC to see memorials and eat "enough food to feed a Boy Scout troop." But what did they remember most about the trip? The current soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They cried, telling us what an honor it was for them to see the changing of the guard.

And another reminder from these vets of WWII. Each one of them said it's good to thank a vet, but don't forget to thank their women.

Women sacrifice, too. Raising children as widows is as ultimate of a service as their spouses who died in action. But as the man who sat in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China from 1941-1945 said to us on Saturday, "My wife waited."

Listen. Wait. Say thanks. Honor those who serve today, yesterday and beyond. And if you have a gopher problem, maybe a combat vet will assist you. Mine does. I love you, Sgt. Todd Mills!

No comments:

Post a Comment