Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mr. Nails' steely heart melts

In which Mr. Nails finds that a cold, steely heart melts when interacting with orphaned kids.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009: The school requires that the class participate in a social service or community project each session; for our class, we elected to visit a local El Paso children's home. This is a modern orphanage, where displaced people of all ages live, mostly children. The home was having a summer picnic-style get-together, with hotdogs, drinks, tents, tables and chairs all out on the back lawn of the home's property. It was the ideal place and time for us to interact with and perhaps be positive roll-models for these young people.
We all arrived at 12:30 still in our Army uniforms. After brief introductions we started mingling with the people and just having a pleasant afternoon. I found myself trying to tell one young lady about my family in Iowa, having to go through an interpreter, another young lady. As El Paso is a 'border town' many people there speak only Spanish, or are bi-lingual.
Mr. Nails played touch football with the kids, and had stern words for those who played too rough. Mr. Nails was elected the permanent quarterback, and used his leadership skills to encourage the kids to come up with their own plays.
Water balloons appeared, and soon Mr. Nails was drenched. So was everyone else.
These new Army uniforms have the Velcro hoop and loop patches, and after speaking briefly with one 11-year old boy, I started to pull my combat patch off my right sleeve, and then let him rip it the rest of the way off. He beamed and Mr. Nails' heart melted. Mr. Nails didn't know what had come over him as his heart swelled and he suddenly had a bout of sniffles. How can a combat veteran, someone so cranky, tough, mean, and rude be moved? I guess mean, cranky, hard-as-nails, tough old guys have soft spots in their hears after all.
After the event, as Mr. Nails waved good-bye to the kids, he looked down at his uniform: The only patches left on his uniform were his name and the "U.S. Army" strip.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I grow weary of being gone from my home and family, and therefore wax magniloquent. Lest I become a bore, I shall quote one of my favorite poems, which I had to have memorized in high school, and never forgot:

Come my friends,
tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order, smite
the sounding furrows, for my purpose holds
to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive,
To seek,
To find,
And not to yield.

These words, written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson as the closing lines of the poem Ulysses, were caused by my high school Latin and Humanities teacher, Mr. Lawry Anderson, to be memorized by everyone in the class. We recited the poem together, daily, over and over, line by line. As the years have gone by, I have read parallel meanings in the words, and they continue to be a source of strength and inspiration for me.
I hope anyone reading this, who may feel the weight of years, of time and maturity, will re-read Tennyson's words, and think of Ulysses, who found strength "not to yield", and, after years of war, made it back home to his family.