A salute to all veterans
Veterans Day has taken on new meaning for me and there are a lot of reasons for that. First and foremost, it's the sacrifices that these brave men and women make. But, it goes beyond that for me now to include their families.
I must admit, as the death toll continued to rise from the current round of war in Iraq and the questions regarding President Bush's motives or whatever you want to call it to start and continue the war, I wasn't so sure about the war.
But, that's over now.
There are numerous reasons, most notably the recent stories we've done regarding soldiers that have returned, such as Terri Twombly, and those still serving, such as Matt Roach. It also made a huge difference that we continue to send Baldwin people over there, such as Scott Grammer, a 2001 Baldwin High School graduate, and Tyler Trowbridge, a 2002 BHS grad, who I've referred to as my third son. There are numerous others still serving and we've chronicled many of them and will continue to do so.
The story I did on Twombly was such a celebration of what the Baldwin community did to help with her family, seeing to it that the four children made it to school, games, practices and that they were fed and had a clean house. It was a testament to her family, wonderful neighbors and countless other friends.
It was a feel-good story about the community, but, bottom line, Twombly missed a year of those children's lives. That doesn't come back. I again salute her.
I expected something similar when I received an e-mail from Paula Moore Monday telling me that her son, Tony Rider, had returned from Iraq and was going to be at McFarlane Aviation Wednesday to feed them lunch, make a presentation to owner Dave McFarlane and thank them all for what they'd done while he was gone.
I thought, here's another feel-good story. It was, but it sure was different.
Because it would be impossible for me to do a story on Rider on Wednesday, our production day, I called him Tuesday night. It was way more of a story than saying thanks to the people at the company.
Rider, who graduated from BHS in 1987 and Baker University in 1993, has made three trips to fight in Iraq. I had no idea. He was there, as a college sophomore, in 1990 for Desert Storm. But, he went back two more times for the latest round of war, including the last time as a volunteer. He didn't have to go, but did because he had the experience and the new anti-tank platoon he was serving with didn't. The platoon had volunteered to go and Rider insisted on going.
Here's a man who is 36 years old with a wife and three young daughters, ranging in age from 8 to 13 months. He's a successful businessman, with sandwich shops in Bonner Springs and Kansas City.
It was fascinating to talk to him. With most of the other soldiers, their action was limited. That's not taking anything away from them. There's nowhere safe over there.
But, Rider is in an anti-tank platoon. Can't get much hotter than that, especially when the wars break out, such as his first and second stints in Iraq. No, the tanks were gone this time. However, it was worse. You've seen the footage, you read the stories, you know what's going on over there right now with a death toll going over 3,000.
He was in the thick of it. He saw it all -- including his best friend losing a leg.
Rider convinced me of his dedication, his reason for serving, during that phone conversation. It was a story that wrote itself.
However, as much as I was impressed by what I heard, it paled in comparison to listening to him Wednesday talking to those gathered at McFarlane Aviation. He told them about the big picture, the fight against global terrorism. He told them about what it's like now and what the people of Iraq are really living and wanting. It was fascinating.
But, it's something else that really struck me. When everyone finally got to the break room and were ready to take on the lunch he'd brought, he said a few words. He was thanking them for what they'd done, sending care packages not only to him, but his entire platoon. He'd told me how much that meant to him, but it was seeing him tell those gathered what it meant that really drove it home to me. He choked up and cried. It was so emotional. It said it all to me about every facet of going to war.