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May 24, 2007

Light, From Darkness

There is a positive river of outrage flowing through the streets and cities of this nation right now; a veritable flood tide of righteous indignation on behalf of America's armed forces. Because unlike Vietnam era war protesters, those who oppose the 21st Century Quagmire support their troops:

Did you know that George W. Bush was a war hero? I know that this development comes as a shock and surprise to many progressives who are familiar with Bush's military career, but he received a Vietnam-era Purple Heart award a few weeks ago in the Oval Office. Seriously.

28%-er Bill Thomas of Copperas Cove, Texas, decided recently to give George Bush one of the three purple hearts that he had been awarded in Vietnam. Bush was so blown over by this gesture that he invited Thomas and his wife, Georgia, to the Oval Office for the presentation...

The medal was presented to Bush, and Thomas said:

...he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chielf has withstood during his time in office.

"We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds."

Soak that all in for a moment.

If you factor in Laura Bush's lament last week that "...no one suffers more than the president and I do..." because of the conflict in Iraq ........ ..... ......... oh, fark it. I can't even snark this up anymore. Sometimes, true life irony is its own sarcasm. I guess Laura forgot that George isn't losing any sleep over it.

One of the more innovative ways in which the progressyve crowd show their unwavering respect for the troops (but not their mission) is by showering them with clever little pet names like "28 percenters":

the 28%ers, the “loyal bushies”, are the type of people who hurt animals as children, and then grow up as bullies. Imperialism is all they know.

Bush supporter:
Drug, Oil, Defence,[sic] international corportations,[sic] chamber of commerence, loony religious right, union haters, and watchers of the fox follies. Just a start but these are the “die hard” supporters because most of these people have money invested in Bush and have had a pretty good return on their investment up to date.

In other words, the famed lefty virtues of inclusivity, the promotion of diversity, openness to intellectual inquiry and tolerance of other lifestyles and belief systems aside, anyone who disagrees with progressive ideas is obviously either a sociopath or greedy. No bias, closemindedness or kneejerk intolerance here. And naturally, since the Left supports freedom in all its various guises, they would never presume to ridicule the decision of veteran who had risked his life defending the very freedoms they hold so dearly ....not. Especially in the face of evidence that the President does, in fact, care quite deeply about the wounds caused by war.

Even old wounds:

I've never written about Josh Cooley, but not a day has passed since July 7, 2005 that I haven't thought about him.

That was the day I received an email from Sandy Gay, whose husband Norman worked with Josh at the Pasco, FL Sheriff's Office. Josh had been hurt in Iraq two days before. It was bad, and his wife and mother were flying to Germany on orders.

Josh had always thought about joining the military. After all, the Cooley men have served since the Battle of Bull Run. Josh's grandfather was a Marine, as was his father Ed. And his two older brothers served with the Corps in the first Gulf War.

But Ed and his mother Christine didn't want Josh to follow in their footsteps. He went into law enforcement instead, where he became a sniper with the Paco Sheriff's Office SWAT team.

Until 9/11.

Ed tried to talk Josh out of it, although the circumstances must have been familiar to him. Ed had enlisted as soon as he could after his 18-year-old cousin, Edward Monahan Jr., was killed in South Vietnam in 1965.

Wounded near Da Nang in May of 1968, Ed's real injuries were inflicted later.

When Christine had to pay her own way to visit him in Hawaii where he had been medevac'd. When he got back home and was called a baby killer. When he was pelted with eggs. When the military sent his Purple Heart and other decorations via Parcel Post several years after he had left the service.

But after Josh's injury, Ed's wounds started to heal along with his son's.

When he found out the CINC was going to award Josh the Purple Heart, there was a lot Ed wanted to say. And he wanted to make sure he got it right. So he composed a letter:

“When I was notified you were coming today to present my son with the Purple Heart I thought, ‘This is different, but also the way it should be,’ I myself served in Vietnam... upon return I was not treated well by the military or our country.”

“As I stand here today watching you honor my son as well as the other soldiers of our country, I have nothing but pride, honor, and yes dignity, too.

“Not only have you honored my son but you have also healed some old wounds as well.”


And this too, was as it should be:

As Bush read, his eyes got wet. He pulled out his handkerchief and turned away from the cameras. [He then turned back] to Ed and called him a hero.

“I’m sorry it was never said to you before,” the president said, “but thank you for serving our country.”

Then he hugged the old veteran so tightly that Ed thought Secret Service agents standing nearby might intervene. He felt a 36-year burden lift as he hesitantly returned the embrace.

If the reality based community weren't afraid to venture out of their bubble, they might try talking to Rachel Ascione about whether the President grieves for our fallen warriors, whether he just brushes their grief aside lightly:

Ascione wasn't sure she could restrain herself with the president. She was feeling "raw." "I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why my brother was never coming back, and I wanted him to know it was his fault that my heart was broken," she recalls. The president was coming to Florida, a key swing state, in the middle of his re-election campaign. Ascione was worried that her family would be "exploited" by a "phony effort to make good with people in order to get votes."

Ascione and her family were gathered with 18 other families in a large room on the air base. The president entered with some Secret Service agents, a military entourage and a White House photographer. "I'm here for you, and I will take as much time as you need," Bush said. He began moving from family to family. Ascione watched as mothers confronted him: "How could you let this happen? Why is my son gone?" one asked. Ascione couldn't hear his answer, but soon "she began to sob, and he began crying, too. And then he just hugged her tight, and they cried together for what seemed like forever."

Ascione's family was one of the last Bush approached. Ascione still planned to confront him, but Bush disarmed her in an almost uncanny way. Ascione is just over five feet; her late brother was 6 feet 7. "My whole life, he used to put his hand on the top of my head and just hold it there, and it drove me crazy," she says. When Bush saw that she was crying, he leaned over and put his hand on the top of her head and drew her to him. "It was just like my brother used to do," she says, beginning to cry at the memory.

Before Bush left the meeting, he paused in the middle of the room and said to the families, "I will never feel the same level of pain and loss you do. I didn't lose anyone close to me, a member of my family or someone that I love. But I want you to know that I didn't go into this lightly. This was a decision that I struggle with every day."

As he spoke, Ascione could see the grief rising through the president's body. His shoulder slumped and his face turned ashen. He began to cry and his voice choked. He paused, tried to regain his composure and looked around the room. "I am sorry, I'm so sorry," he said.

But this is more 'reality' than the reality based community is ready for. It conflicts with how they wish to see the world - a stark, black and white version of The Truthiness in which it becomes more comforting to believe that our leaders are callous and cold (no matter how many military families say that's untrue), that they lie (no matter that the official record says otherwise), that they are using our military (no matter that our armed forces are all volunteer and that they keep volunteering).

The truth is that the world is sometimes an ugly and frightening place full of murder and hatred and misery.

But there are other truths.

There is the truth discovered by Ed Cooley, father to wounded Iraq war vet Josh Cooley, on his long journey out of darkness and back into the light:

"There's a lot of hope out here."

Hope, often, is all we have. But it is enough, and more than enough. Hope propels us onward and upward; when we are mired in darkness it grabs us by the shirt collar and forces us to focus, not on those things we cannot control, but on the things we can.

And that is how miracles happen, for miracles are still possible even in an imperfect world. But if we never reach for things beyond our grasp, if we see only what is wrong with the world and never what is right, we never dare to dream. And oddest of all, if we give up hope, we lose sight of one of the strangest lessons life has to offer: that out of great tragedy and suffering can also come good, and perhaps, a measure of peace:

Ed couldn’t help but compare what was happening with his earlier experience. Some things were the same: a car parked in front of the Fisher House touted “Re-defeat Bush” and “Mission Nothing Accomplished” stickers.


But this time, the Marine Corps were treating the Cooleys like royalty. The military covered their airfare, their hospital housing, some food costs and a rental car. As doctors treated Josh’s burns and fussed over whether to remove the credit-card sized shrapnel from his head, Ed was able to attend a two-day conference on post-traumatic stress disorder.

His own experience told him the physical challenges ahead for Josh would be matched by internal anguish. But he took comfort from the fact Josh would not have to wait years for the right therapies.

“Because I’ll drag his a-- there,” Ed said, sipping coffee in between smokes. “I’ll be able to help him.”

To begin the process, Ed started snapping pictures of his son at each stage of his recovery. The images were tough. They showed Josh with puffy eyes, a swollen tongue, a face that didn’t look like his own.

But down the road, Ed knew that the painstaking healing process would get Josh down. And when that happened, Ed would be there to show his son how far they had come.
***

In July, Ed ducked outside a hospital lodge for a smoke.

He thought he was alone, which was fine with him, but then he saw someone crouched in a corner. It was a small woman talking on her cell phone.

She spoke in an undecipherable sing-song and was Asian in appearance. Until very recently, Ed had known such people by a single word.

“Gook.”

That’s what they called the Vietnamese during the war. It was derogatory, offensive. But it was the way Ed felt.

Until now.

When the woman finished her phone call, Ed struck up a conversation.

He learned she was originally from Laos and now Ohio. Alone, she had come to Bethesda to be with her son, an Army man. He, too, had suffered a head wound in Iraq.

These were the people that we fought for, Ed thought. And now this woman’s son had replicated the sacrifice.

Ed and the woman met again almost every night for a week.

“She was just like a little angel,” Ed said later, describing their meetings. “It was just the nicest thing for me.”
***

During the next few months, hope came in larger doses. Josh opened his eyes, breathed on his own, ate ice chips and then pork tenderloin from his mother’s kitchen. He couldn’t yet walk or talk.


The Cooleys returned to Florida in late September when doctors sent Josh to the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa to continue his rehabilitation.

Coming home for Ed meant leaving the cocoon of Bethesda’s hospital campus and rejoining the world of normal people.

This time, he considered embracing them. He thought about going to church with Gordy Larkin, whose life Josh had saved and who had become a stronghold for Ed. He said hello to strangers instead of looking the other way.

But he also had to face past mistakes. At a fall court hearing in New Port Richey, Ed learned he would lose his driver’s license and serve 30 days of weekend jail time for a DUI he got a few months before Josh was hurt. His decision to drink and drive, he said, was prompted by a disturbing phone call from Josh. The rules of engagement, Josh had complained prophetically, were too strict. They couldn’t just shoot up an abandoned car by the side of the road that might contain a bomb.

“I got stupid,” Ed explained.

Money worried Ed, too. He was on disability from his war injuries and made a little extra on the side shoeing horses. Even with the Marine Corps covering Josh’s medical bills, he feared for his son’s financial future.

The normal people Ed had so long distrusted came through. In Pasco and Hernando counties, they held car washes, motorcycle rides, silent auctions and benefit dinners for Josh, raising tens of thousands of dollars.

***

Difficult days lie ahead.Later this spring, Josh will return to Bethesda to have a plate fitted to the gap in his skull. Then he will continue his rehabilitation in Tampa, where therapists are guiding his first steps and his family delights in watching his shoulders shake when they make him laugh.


They don’t know how much of his old life he will regain.

Ed takes things day by day. He dreams of Josh tagging along on horseshoeing jobs. He hurts watching his son suffer, but it feels good to see the country doing right by him.


Ed doesn’t feel so angry anymore.

“I’m getting there,” he said. “And Josh is going to get there.”

I need a sign
To let me know you're here
Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason
For the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up
Some kind of hope inside of me

I won't give up if you don't give up

Posted by Cassandra at May 24, 2007 07:48 AM

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Comments

I so needed to read this post today. I have a hard time reconciling issues and some days are
very very difficult...thank you for a timely reminder.

Posted by: Cricket at May 24, 2007 10:38 AM

Oh Cricket.

You will never know how much your courage has inspired me. You are one of the reasons I keep writing, even when, sometimes, I don't see the point.

I will be very honored if, at the end of my life, I can claim to be half the person you are.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2007 10:44 AM

I rather be a "28%-er" than a 100% smug asshole like Mr. Blair. No wonder he doesn't get it.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2007 12:52 PM

All the smugness, half the calories.

Or, if you're Michael Moore, all the smugness, twice the calories.

Ob-bla-di, ob-bla-da, life goes on...

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 24, 2007 01:08 PM

"anyone who disagrees with progressive ideas is obviously either a sociopath or greedy"

not EVERYbody who disagrees, but statistical probabilities are such that surely SOME are ...

Posted by: An Incredulous Reader at May 24, 2007 01:17 PM

Just going by the definitions provided, AIR.

One had us torturing small animals, which is the defining marker for sociopaths, and the other (if you go back read it) with the possible exception of 'loony religious right', every other classification had greed as a common denominator.

They weren't saying 'some'.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2007 01:23 PM

Yeah, whatever. I disagree with many (if not all) "Progressive" ideas, so I guess I'm greedy. I like to keep what I make and donate as I feel appropriate.

When what I keep accrues to a 22,000 sq. ft. mansion with a "rabid, rabid Republican" living next door, maybe I'll even start to feel a little guilty about it. But for now, I consider being greedy the prerogative of a citizen living in an ostensibly free country.

Posted by: daveg at May 24, 2007 01:43 PM

How does the lovely Mrs. Edwards know that rabies is what afflicts her neighbor? Could it be the ennui of the Democratic Party?

Or the fact that she is a politicist. Bigoted against alternative political beliefs and lifestyles? Can we teach alternate political beliefs in our schools to our impressionable young?

I await with baited breath...revving up the snarktillery while so doing.

daveg, this country believes and lives freedom of choice as long as it is liberals who are telling you what your choices are.

Posted by: Cricket at May 24, 2007 01:48 PM

Cass
I don't know if any of the vast readership ever remembered me saying I wanted to complete my education.

I have a phone appointment in two weeks with a student advisor at the U of U. I 'dropped out'
25 years ago to have a family.

After reading this post, I realized that while some wounds run too deep to ever not scar, it doesn't mean that healing won't take place.
It's time.

And I have sorta switched my major. While the law would be okay, it isn't a good fit for me.
I would just be a Buford Pusser in the courtroom
and play whack a mole with a clue bat. Legal thinking requires finesse, tact and an ability to
speak to The Opposition that I just don't have.
Never did.

Posted by: Cricket at May 24, 2007 02:49 PM

Good for you!

I'm so excited :) And don't make up your mind too quickly on the major. When I went back to school I thought I'd major in law/the humanities but found after taking a few classes that something more technical was a better fit b/c it used more of my aptitudes and made me more competitive in the job market because I can do more things reasonably well, comparatively speaking, than most applicants.

So you never can tell. Perhaps if I'd had nothing but myself to think of I'd have gone into writing or law. But I wouldn't have gotten paid as much money and for a woman it is harder to get hired/get ahead in those fields - they are overpopulated with people who can write or have good legal skills. So tech was a better decision given my circumstances.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2007 03:01 PM

Cricket:

Take every history class you can get into. You will learn to research exhaustively, think critically and write carefully. Plus, it's fun to learn the story of "us."

Or take statistics.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2007 03:29 PM

I think I was telling her not to give up too quickly on the law, mr rdr.

Pppphhhhhtttthhh :)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2007 04:09 PM

Advice well heeded. I am taking it one day at a time. I am wondering if they will tell me to start over again or let me CLEP some classes. I will let you know...heh.

Posted by: Cricket at May 24, 2007 05:41 PM

The "law" only suits those that are willing to read history - or make it. The rest is taxes, transactions or torts. Booooooring

Go Cricket. Grab the ring and hang on for all you've got.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2007 05:59 PM

Cricket, I applaud your will to complete a degree. I have been to many colleges and can offer sage advice on survival.

I was a screwup in high school and only paid attention in my senior year. I got into the University of Oregon, went there for 2 years, and transferred to UC Berkeley. I hadn't a clue what the real world was. I was going to be a physicist, or an applied mathematician. This was a bad choice. I quit for a year and returned as an English major. I was going to be a famous writer. Bwahahahahaha.......!

I may have Cassandrian multiple aptitude/inclination syndrome. I became a construction contractor after I graduated with a thoroughly fulfilling, but economically useless, degree in English. When I graduated in 1973 there were actually pockets of conservatism at UCB. Guess where they were not, the social sciences!
My advisor was a wonderful man who had once worked for the CIA, gasp! I would love to have read history, but that was pretty much toast by the time I considered it.

Well, the world-bomb of reality fell on me when I was 36 and after a heated "discussion" with my employer I was canned. I went back to school. I got an MBA and a Masters in civil engineering, my union card.

I am sure this is fascinating to the readership, but the upshot is - be very careful who you take classes from and look for an advisor who has YOUR interest at heart. Check very closely on whom you take classes from, particularly something like history, which can be highly politicized.

Did I mention I almost bit off my tongue dealing with a graduate advisor who was giving me bovine excrement? Lipping off at this pompous jackass would have been the kiss of death for my MS. I also was pondered the prison sentence I would get for throwing a gay English professor out of his third story office window when he anounced that an obviously erased A- had been reduced to a B+ because I had avoided a party at his house like the plague. I do not have a problem with gays per se, but when I am being hit on and politeness doesn't work, I am not opposed to blunt speech.

Posted by: Mark at May 24, 2007 07:58 PM

Cricket--if you want to stay away from politicized subject areas, you could always pursue a particular field of study.

You don't have to, of course. But it's a good subject to study.

If you're looking for more generic advice, read everything that Mark posted. Then read it again, after you've visited the school(s) and talked to the instructors. And read it again, when you're choosing your field of study and selecting an advisor.

You could also find others who have been through modern academia at that level, and seek advice from them. You might have to season the advice with a grain of salt or two, but it would be worth it just to hear.

Posted by: karrde at May 24, 2007 08:26 PM

Being hit on is always a bit of a problem, whether you're gay or straight. It's just plain annoying when people abuse their position and won't take no for an answer. I guess that's one of the mercies of getting older, though! Sure cuts down on the frequency of that sort of thing happening.

As far as school, I don't really have any specific advice to give you. I have never done anything noteworthy with my life except to pick up filthy habits like writing in public, and I don't think that's something you want to emulate.

Just believe in yourself, Cricket. You can do anything you set your mind to if you keep trying and don't give up. You have a keen mind and a sharp wit, and you learn quickly. I've watched you over the years and you are one classy lady. Go knock their socks off - I'll be rooting for you all the way.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2007 09:04 PM

Cricket, I agree with the rest! Go for it, and keep your mind open!

Posted by: JannyMae at May 24, 2007 09:23 PM

Have been reading all and am taking notes.
I wanna be prepared. The U is somewhat liberal,
but being in Utah tempers their academicians.

Cassie ma'am, you and spd and all...this means worlds to me...thanks so much for the encouragement.

Posted by: Cricket at May 24, 2007 10:03 PM

Cass made me say this:

"I also was pondered..."

JC, I actually have an English degree?

Posted by: Mark at May 24, 2007 10:49 PM

Rubbish! You, Lady, have one of the most interesting blogs on the innertubes!

"I have never done anything noteworthy with my life except to pick up filthy habits like writing in public..."

Those opposed to the Blog Princess' nonsense, please raise your hands.

Posted by: Mark at May 24, 2007 11:06 PM

*Raising hand*

Cricket~

Good luck with going back to school. I was both excited and nervous when I went back to school to earn my M.Ed. after 13 years since I finished my BBA. If it's something you really want, you'll do just fine.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at May 25, 2007 02:14 AM

Hand's up!

All your blogs Я belong to us...

Good luck Cricket! When you have it figured out, please write a Schaum's Outline on the process and let Milady publish the work.

I have a daughter who completed her 4 year bid'ness degree and now she wants to be a teacher like her momma. My youngest is a student in search of a major, and I'm looking at return trip myself, at my age... what a maroon!

Posted by: bthun at May 25, 2007 08:25 AM

Odd, you'd think the ones flinging the "28%" claim around like a club would've heard the admonishment that "everybody else does it" is not a very valid claim. Say, sometime in grade school or earlier.

Posted by: Patrick Chester at May 25, 2007 09:36 AM

"Odd, you'd think the ones flinging the "28%" claim around like a club would've heard the admonishment that "everybody else does it" is not a very valid claim. Say, sometime in grade school or earlier."

Or at least the good old parent attempting to reason with their child line that goes something like, If Johnny jumps off a dubious, statistical cliff, are you going to follow?

Now if I may be excused, I have to rush off to confession, after which I will be taking some target practice (IBEW union cards superimposed on NRA 25 yd rapid fire pistol targets). Next on the agenda is an early afternoon hour block of time during which I intend to lie in wait outside the neighborhood Starbuck’s and repeatedly whack a few hippies with a besotted aardvark as they exit the store just so that I’m on top of my game for this weekends 28% Club’s Nuke a baby whale for Jesus gathering. But I do have this nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something…

Posted by: Sonny Birch at May 25, 2007 11:55 AM

Sonny,
You forgot to mention that you're doing it all "so that you can cut carbon emissions *for the children*".....

>;~}

Posted by: Sly2017 at May 25, 2007 01:03 PM

Thank you most gracious Sly!

That's it! I misplaced my carbon offsets. We (first-person plural, liberal-royal we) don't need no stinkin' carbon cuts. That's for the little people.

Now whence did yon aardvark stumble, tanked though he be like Willie?

Posted by: Sonny Birch at May 25, 2007 05:56 PM

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