To the point week of 11-22-07

337

THANKSGIVING IS UPON US and as this uniquely American holiday brings people together to indulge in food and family and fun; we are constantly reminded how thankful we need to be.

This hasn’t been a good week for me. For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you will remember that last week I spoke of how our government brings forth statistics and numbers concerning the dead and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan – but to families and communities who lose a soldier, they are much more than a statistic.

That column came out in the November 15th issue of Vevay Newspapers – the same day that Sergeant Kenneth Booker of Vevay lost his life serving honorably in Iraq.

Kenneth Booker was many things to many people. He was a son and a brother and a classmate. He was voted as the “Most Bashful” by his fellow seniors in the graduating class of 2000 – but that bashful young man was a hero as he worked to protect those who can’t protect themselves in Iraq.

I have to admit that I have this private demon inside of me. It brings thoughts into my head that I don’t dare speak out loud, probably out of fear that they will some how come true.

But I have to share this one: nearly everyday I drive down Main Street on my way to the newspaper office or the post office or the grocery store or somewhere.

Each time I do, I look into the front yard of the Switzerland County Courthouse. I see the Veterans Memorial standing there; with the names of those brave men from this county who lost their lives defending freedom in other wars.

Each time that I have passed since we entered Iraq and Afghanistan, I have prayed that we would be out of those battles before we have to etch another name into our monument.

Every time I see a press release from the government talking about casualties, I hold my breath until I scan the names and make sure none of “our kids” names are on the list.

They haven’t been – until Thursday.

Fear is not a part of the equation when you are defending freedom – at least it’s something that’s not spoken of. Brave men and women do their duty and perform their jobs and then go to bed, wake up the next day, and do it again. Are they scared? I imagine that they are; but they funnel that fear into their sense of honor and duty – and they keep helping others feel safe, too.

It is my hope that somehow there is some purpose found in the senseless death of Kenny Booker.

In another part of the courthouse lawn, just to the east of the main sidewalk leading to the front door; there is another monument.

This one is a simple one, but it was one of the first things I saw when I moved here in 1984, and it’s message struck me then and continues to affect me to this day.

The monument is dedicated to all of the Switzerland County soldiers “who lost their lives in the World War.”

It’s a simple message, but also a chilling one.

You see, the people who created that monument simply put “the World War” because they never thought that there would ever be another one. As it turns out, we know that war as World War I – because we look back into history and know that a few decades later the world went to war again.

But the people who erected that marker must have had a faith in their country that it would never be in such a conflict again.

We were brought into the next one after an unwarranted attack on Pearl Harbor – but we would send our sons and daughters again across the Atlantic in the defense of freedom.

After World War II came Korea; and after that – Vietnam. We’ve been in Beirut, Granada, and other battles around the world. Our bravest fought in Desert Storm and in other regions of that part of the world – and we’ve always come home.

Maybe that’s why Kenny Booker’s death hits me so hard – because he deserves the right to come home, too.

He deserves to get the Christmas package that his mother mailed him. He deserves to come home and accept the praise and honor awaiting him from a grateful community.

Soon Kenny Booker will come home. He will be hailed as a hero, and people will speak of him and his bravery and his commitment to honor and country.

But as this community salutes our hero, we will also be filled with pain and grief and sorrow. We will experience how personal this war in Iraq just got for Switzerland County, and we will worry a little more and sleep a little less.

And we will hold our breath, hoping and praying that we will soon be bringing our other soldiers home – and that Kenny Booker didn’t lose his life in vain.

He will come home to a hero’s welcome – as he should. He did his job, and he gave his life so that others might live.

It doesn’t ease our pain, or the pain that his family is experiencing, but it will again bring us all together as a grieving community to support the members of our Switzerland County family.

So it’s Thanksgiving, the day that we all pause and express our thankfulness for the blessings that we all enjoy.

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be thankful for men and women like Sergeant Kenneth Raymond Booker – our hero.

He deserves our thanks and our praise – and much, much more.

Rest in peace.

Job well done, soldier.