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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Sometimes It Just Needs To Be Said


It could have been any night of the week, as I sat in one of those
loud and casual steak houses that are cropping up all over the
country. You know the type- a bucket of peanuts on the 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. I let my gaze linger on a few of the tables next to me, where
several uniformed military members were enjoying their meals. Smiling
sadly, I glanced across my booth to the empty seat where my husband
usually sat.
Had it had only been a few weeks since we had sat at this very table
talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East? He made me
promise to come back to this restaurant once a month, sit in our
booth, and treat myself to a nice dinner. He told me that he would
treasure the thought of me there eating a steak and thinking about him
until he came home. I fingered the little flag pin I wear on my jacket
and wondered where at that moment he was. Was he safe and warm? Was
his cold any better? Were any of my letters getting to him?
As I pondered all of these things, shrill feminine voices from the
next booth broke into my thoughts.
"I don't know what Bush is thinking invading Iraq. Didn't he learn
anything from his father's mistakes? He is an idiot anyway, I can't
believe he is even in office. You know he stole the election."
I cut into my steak and tried not to listen as they began an endless
tirade of running down our president. I thought about the last night I
was with my husband as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned
from getting his smallpox and anthrax shots and the image of him
standing in our kitchen packing his gas mask still gave me chills.
Once again their voices invaded my thoughts.
"It is all about oil, you know. Our military will go in and rape and
pillage and steal all the oil they can in the name of freedom. I
wonder how many innocent lives our soldiers will take without a
thought? It is just pure greed."
My chest tightened and I stared at my wedding ring. I could picture
how handsome my husband was in his mess dress the day he slipped it on
my finger. I wondered what he was wearing at that moment. He probably
had on his desert uniform, affectionately dubbed coffee stains, over
the top of which he wore a heavy bulletproof vest.
"We should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding any
weapons. I think it is all a ploy to increase the president's
popularity and pad the budget of our military at the expense of social
security and education. We are just asking for another 9-11 and 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? I
glimpsed at the tables around me and saw the faces of some of those
courageous men, looking sad as they listened to the ladies talk.
"Well, I for one, think it is a travesty to invade Iraq and I am
certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train the professional baby
killers we call a military."
Professional baby killers? As I thought about what a wonderful father
my husband is and wondered how long it would be before he was able to
see his children again, indignation rose up within me. Normally
reserved, pride in my husband gave me a boldness I had never known.
Tonight, one voice would cry out on behalf of the military. One shy >
woman would stand and let her pride in our troops be known. I made my
way to their table, placed my palms flat on it and lowered myself to
be eye level with them. Smiling I said, "I couldn't help overhearing
your conversation. I am sitting over her trying to enjoy my dinner
alone. Do you know why I am alone? Because my husband, whom I love
dearly, is halfway across the world defending your right to say rotten
things about him. You have the right to your opinion, and
what you think is none of my business, but what you say in my hearing
is and I will not sit by and listen to you run down my country, my
president, my husband, and all these other fine men and women in here
who put their lives on the line to give you the freedom to complain.
Freedom is expensive ladies, don't let your actions cheapen it."
I must have been louder than I meant to be, because about that time
the manager came over and asked if everything was all right. "Yes,
thank you." I replied and then turned back to the ladies, "Enjoy the
rest of your meal."
To my surprise, as I sat down to finish my steak, a round of applause
broke out in the restaurant. Not long after the ladies picked up their
check and scurried away, the manager brought me a huge helping of
apple cobbler and ice cream, compliments of the table to my left. He
told me that the ladies had tried to pay for my dinner, but someone
had beaten them to it. When I asked who, he said the couple had
already left, but that the man had mentioned he was a W.W.II vet and
wanted to take care of the wife of one of our boys.
I turned to thank the soldiers for the cobbler, but they wouldn't hear
a word of it, retorting, "Thank you, you said what we wanted to say
but weren't allowed."
As I drove home that night, for the first time in while, I didn't feel
quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of all the patrons
who had stopped by my table to tell me they too were proud of my
husband and that he would be in their prayers. I knew their flags
would fly a little higher the next day. Perhaps they would look for
tangible ways to
show their pride in our country and our troops, and maybe, just maybe,
the two ladies sitting at that table next to me would pause for a
minute to appreciate all the freedom this great country offers and
what it costs to maintain. As for me, I had 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 across the street with a sign of my
own. A sign that says "Thank you!"
Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. She is a
California native currently living in Alabama.
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