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Friday, January 16, 2004

ONE VOICE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE -- THANK YOU!


16 January

MILINET: A Military Wife's Night Out

By: Mrs Lori Kimble

I was sitting alone in one of those loud, casual steakhouses that you find
all over the country. You know the type--a bucket of peanuts on every
table, shells littering the floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing
around with longneck beers and sizzling platters.

Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my glass.
My gaze lingered on a group enjoying their meal. They wore no uniform to
identify their branch of service, but they were definitely "military:" clean
shaven, cropped haircut, and that "squared away" look that comes with pride.

Smiling sadly, I glanced across my table to the empty seat where my husband
usually sat. It had only been a few months since we sat in this very booth,
talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East. That was when he
made me promise to get a sitter for the kids, come back to this restaurant
once a month and treat myself to a nice steak. In turn he would treasure
the thought of me being here, thinking about him until he returned home to
me.

I fingered the little flag pin I constantly wear and wondered where he was
at this very moment. Was he safe and warm? Was his cold any better? Were
my letters getting through to him? As I pondered these thoughts, high
pitched female voices from the next booth broke into my thoughts.

"I don't know what Bush is thinking about. Invading Iraq. You'd think that
man would learn from his old man's mistakes. Good lord. What an idiot! I
can't believe he is even in office. You do know, he stole the election."

I cut into my steak and tried to ignore them, as they began an endless
tirade running down our president. I thought about the last night I spent
with my husband, as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned from
getting his smallpox and anthrax shots. The image of him standing in our
kitchen packing his gas mask still gives me chills.

Once again the women's voices invaded my thoughts. "It is all about oil,
you know. Our soldiers will go in and rape and steal all the oil they can
in the name of 'freedom.' Hmph! I wonder how many innocent people they'll
kill without giving it a thought? It's pure greed, you know."

My chest tightened as I stared at my wedding ring. I could still see how
handsome my husband looked in his "mess dress" the day he slipped it on my
finger. I wondered what he was wearing now. Probably his desert uniform,
affectionately dubbed "coffee stains" with a heavy bulletproof vest over it.

"You know, we should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding
any weapons. In fact, I bet it's all a big act just to increase the
President's popularity. That's all it is, padding the military budget at
the expense of our social security and education. And, you know what else?
We're just asking for another 9-ll. I can't say when it happens again that
we didn't deserve it."

Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering
outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and
women, who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? Do they even
know what "freedom" is?

I glanced at the table where the young men were sitting, and saw their
courageous faces change. They had stopped eating and looked at each other
dejectedly, listening to the women talking.

"Well, I, for one, think it's just deplorable to invade Iraq, and I am
certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train professional baby killers
we call a military."

Professional baby killers? I thought about what a wonderful father my
husband is, and of how long it would be before he would see our children
again.

That's it! Indignation rose up inside me. Normally reserved, pride in my
husband gave me a brassy boldness I never realized I had. Tonight one voice
will answer on behalf of our military, and let her pride in our troops be
known.

Sliding out of my booth, I walked around to the adjoining booth and placed
my hands flat on their table. Lowering myself to eye level with them, I
smilingly said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. You see,
I'm sitting here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. And, do you know why?
Because my husband, whom I love with all my heart, is halfway around the
world defending your right to say rotten things about him."

"Yes, you have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of my
business. However, what you say in public is something else, and I will not
sit by and listen to you ridicule MY country, MY president, MY husband, and
all the other fine American men and women who put their lives on the line,
just so you can have the "freedom" to complain. Freedom is an expensive
commodity, ladies. Don't let your actions cheapen it."

I must have been louder that I meant to be, because the manager came over to
inquire if everything was all right. "Yes, thank you," I replied. Then
turning back to the women, I said, "Enjoy the rest of your meal."

As I returned to my booth applause broke out. I was embarrassed for making
a scene, and went back to my half-eaten steak. The women picked up their
check and scurried away.

After finishing my meal, and while waiting for my check, the manager
returned with a huge apple cobbler ala mode. "Compliments of those
soldiers," he said. He also smiled and said the ladies tried to pay for my
dinner, but that another couple had beaten them to it. When I asked who,
the manager said they had already left, but that the gentleman was a
veteran, and wanted to take care of the wife of "one of our boys."

With a lump in my throat, I gratefully turned to the soldiers and thanked
them for the cobbler. Grinning from ear to ear, they came over and
surrounded the booth. "We just wanted to thank you, ma'am. You know we
can't get into confrontations with civilians, so we appreciate what you
did."

As I drove home, for the first time since my husband's deployment, I didn't
feel quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of the other
diners who stopped by my table, to relate how they, too, were proud of my
husband, and would keep him in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly
a little higher the next day.

Perhaps they would look for more tangible ways to show their pride in our
country, and the military who protect her. And maybe, just maybe, the two
women who were railing against our country, would pause for a minute to
appreciate all the freedom America offers, and the price it pays to maintain
it's freedom.

As for me, I have learned that one voice CAN make a difference. Maybe the
next time protesters gather outside the gates of the base where I live, I
will proudly stand on the opposite side with a sign of my own. It will
simply say, "Thank You!"

**************************************

(Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. A California
native, Mrs. Kimble currently lives in Alabama.)


~~~~~~~~~~
This is...
Gunny G's...
GLOBE and ANCHOR
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
Semper Fidelis
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