Beneath my lighthearted pretense, the stuff I write here usually matters to me a great deal. Ordinarily, I don't feel any pressing need to whack folks on the head. Well, maybe that piece on the Gulf oil got away from me. Get over it.
But this one matters to me a great deal. Next month, my son comes home from Kuwait, where he has given a year of his life - this time - to supporting the war in Iraq. Last time was in Iraq itself, the time before that and before that and before that, in South Korea supporting a 60-year-old truce. He wears more ribbons than the Maypole at Miss Porter's School.
Erik will come to Fort Sill in Oklahoma as part of an advance team to welcome home the rest of his unit, some of whom hail from Connecticut as he does, and some of whom hail from right here in Clearwater. Small world, this. His duties will include teaching soldiers who have been at war how to return to a society that does not always speak in the same gerunds that the soldiers do. Good idea, that.
I'm somewhat accustomed to Erik's homecomings, so why the hoo-hah now?
I had occasion yesterday to view a Facebook entry from Erik's friend, Jay, also known as Charles M. Beyer, Captain, Connecticut Army National Guard. Jay climbs into the pilot's seat of a helicopter every day and flies over some of the most deadly real estate on Earth.
(Blackhawk photo credit: David J. Mercado, Clearwater FL & Kuwait City)
Jay did some training in Germany earlier this month and, on the 66th anniversary of D-Day, took pictures at the concentration camp at Dachau. Here's one he took of the "shower facility" that still stands as a reminder of what can happen when good people don't act.
Erik's grandfather, nearly 90, is Bill Flaherty, featured here. Pop rarely speaks of it, and he'll be a little embarrassed if he reads it here, but he spent his years in the army slogging through the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge, pushing into Germany in 1945 to bring an end to the nightmare that was Nazism.
The way I see it, fanaticism - whether ideological like the Nazis, religious like Al Qaida and the Taliban, or dictatorial like Kim Jong-Il - is a present and continuing threat to us all. Only dedicated effort by Jay and Erik and their peers in uniform can prevent another Dachau or 9/11. Freedom is no more free today that it was 66 years ago.
So this homecoming will again be one of joy, tempered with admiration for the world's most important job, done well. Thank you, Erik and Jay and all who have served with you. Welcome home.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.