I watch as my husband and youngest son dig holes for the hundreds of blueberries we are planting. We are all melting in this sweltering heat, and I marvel at their energy level out in that hot pounding sun. Digging holes by hand is hard, sweaty work, even without the sun pressing down on you, but they continue their jobs without complaining.
My mind drifts back to a few years ago, when I was picturing these same two men, along with our oldest son and over one hundred thousand others, in the deserts of Iraq working for our country and our freedom in 130 degree heat. They did their jobs without much complaining. Our oldest son told of the first days in the summer of 2003 over there where they ate only one MRE a day (that’s meal-ready-eat, the packaged meals that our military gets). He wasn’t upset. He said that’s just how it was until the supplies could catch up with them. Amazing. I remember our younger son calling home during that same time to ask for toilet paper to be mailed as the army didn’t have enough for them. And still, they didn’t complain. And when my husband went over there and had incoming mortars on a regular basis, there was no complaining. When he returned and told me that our youngest son’s base was nicknamed MORTARITAVILLE because of the number of mortar attacks, I was horrified and worried. But there were no complaints from them.
I thought of all the sons and daughters there, in harm’s way, and of the families worrying about them, and wrote the following about our sons going off to war.
My sweet faced son climbed up onto the bus
and smiled his toothy wide smile.
His next step would be to his first day of school
half my heart away, down the road just a mile.
His light auburn hair shone golden in the sun.
His nose crinkled as he smiled a quivering smile.
He grasped his A-team lunchbox tightly and waved,
ready to go do as he was told, not asking why.
Now, as then, the bus pulls away,
this time taking my sweet boy to war.
As it drags my heart with it away down the highway,
on the outside, for him, I smile, but am sad to the core.
Inside, I pray that my son will return;
that the Army will keep his life precious and safe.
His lunchbox has been replaced by a rifle,
a quivering smile still on that now adult face.
The tears in my eyes distort which son I see;
the young man gone off to war
or that wide-toothed grin of my little boy of three.
My three men are my personal heroes, because I know that I could not do what they have done and continue to do. They soldier on.
Now, out in our berry fields, they stop to take water breaks and rest, joking with each other and laughing despite their red faces. There is very little that I can do to make their rest time more enjoyable other than hover and fetch water and tea and liquid replacement. And then they head back out to the fields to work some more.
Farming is hard work. Farming in the heat of August is harder work. But it seems a gentle walk in the park compared to being in 130 degree heat carrying 70 pounds of armor and equipment in a foreign desert and taking incoming fire.
Thank goodness for America that we have both types of Americans: the farmers that brave the heat of the summer to produce food, and Americans that brave the seemingly unbearable heat of a foreign desert to do their jobs and assure all of America our freedom. And sometimes they are one and the same.
- Maura White grew up on the Pacific Coast in a sleepy beach town and has lived all over the country, as well as in Asia. What a change it was for her to move to the country and she uses humor to help her make the adjustment. She and her husband are working to make their farm, Double Star Bar Farms, a successful family farm. She keeps busy with her stained glass business, which you can check out at www.southernstainedglass.com. You can read more of her stories at whitem4.wordpress.com. She keeps saying “You can take the girl away from the ocean, but you can’t take the ocean out of the girl!” Copyright © 2011, Maura White. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2011, Maura White. All rights reserved.