Grandma Antsy’s Captain Dave
“Momma, why does Grandma Antsy have a blue star in her window?” Big Guy asked during a visit last spring with one of my dearest friends.
“Because her son is a soldier. And she hopes he gets to come home soon,” I replied.
“Will I get to see him?”
“Not this time. But maybe someday.”
*** The first time I saw Grandma Antsy’s son, he was scrawny teen-ager in pictures his mom was showing off at the office, photographs from his kid sister’s prom.
Some evil guy had dumped Becki close to the date of the dance, so Dave dutifully donned the monkey suit and escorted her. Most 19-year-olds would rather dress in drag than go back to high school with their sister, but there he was. He even smiled in the pictures.
He walked two seemingly contradictory paths after that: College and the National Guard. He’d known since he was a boy that he wanted to be a soldier, but he wanted an education, too. There were no affordable schools close by that offered ROTC programs, so Dave made up his own.
He wound up at a small southern West Virginia college majoring in cartography, which, of course, inspired us to tease him about his future as a heart doctor. That was where he met Jen, a fellow map major with a theatrical flair who talked him into appearing in a show. He’d never been on stage in his life, and he started with a musical. Now that takes guts.
Grandma Antsy and I went to see the show, and I’d half expected “Guys, Dolls and Tom Cats Brawling in the Night.” But, then, Dave couldn’t have been any worse than Marlon Brando singing in the movie version. We went back stage afterward, and it was the first time I’d seen Dave and Jen together. Ah, Grandma Antsy, your boy is a goner.
After he graduated college, there were two things Dave wanted: his Jen and the Army.
Convincing Jen was easy – how could a girl possibly say “no” to a guy who’d agreed to sing in public for her? The Army was a little harder. With his small-college degree, he couldn’t get a commission. So he did it the hard way and went in as enlisted.
A few years and a few heart-breaking rejections later, he was accepted in Officer Candidate School. He and Jen, meanwhile, had two darling girls.
Dave turned 38 in Iraq shortly after his third tour began last fall – he has another year left.
His first go-round was short – only a few weeks were left on his unit’s time by the time he'd finished captain’s training. The second lasted a year, ending in March 2007.
He’s wired the world so he can keep in touch – one daughter will be 11 next month, and the other 7 in July. They’ll celebrate with Daddy via Web cam. Grandma Antsy even got a computer at home, so she could “see” her boy on a regular basis.
Jen holds down the fort in Georgia, where they’ve been stationed during all three tours. At least Capt. Dave’s girls have that much stability going for them.
He’s a little grayer – aren’t we all – and a lot heavier, though Grandma Antsy swears it’s mostly muscle. I see the biggest change in his eyes. That’s where I have trouble reconciling the sweet kid who took his sister to the prom with the steely man of today.
I cringe every time a Defense Department news release about a death from his post lands in my inbox.
Please, God, not Capt. Dave. It would kill Grandma Antsy. Then I feel guilty, because if it isn’t Grandma Antsy’s Capt. Dave, it’s someone else’s little boy or girl. Some other solider or sailor or Marine or airman who’s where he or she is out of a heartfelt belief.
I look forward to the day the guys get to meet Capt. Dave, because I believe it’s my obligation to see that they meet as many decent, honorable people as I can cram into their lives. And even if they grow up to follow a far different path from the one Capt. Dave’s chosen, I hope they can learn this from him:
No matter what your beliefs, be true to them. You might not always be popular, but you will have integrity, and that's far more important.
Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.