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.