From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Is An Excellent Facebook Page for Information about the People and Culture of Afghanistan!/AfghanCulture

From the Ranch: The Heart of an Infantryman Is the Same In Any Language

From the Ranch: The Heart of an Infantryman Is the Same In Any Language

The Heart of an Infantryman Is the Same In Any Language

Poetry continues to pour from my heart about the war as I observe its’ faces and hear its’ stories. I am really trying to discipline myself to make my own record, and share that record here. With that, this morning I offer a poem inspired by my husband telling me of observing Afghanistan men doing basic training after joining the Afghan National Army. I have made friends with some young people from Afghanistan, and I have been privileged to know of Afghanistan and her people through their eyes. We have discussed many issues, and I respect and admire these people, and have somewhat of an understanding of the personal sacrifice and risk it takes for them to raise up their country from the tyranny which has long haunted their land. I do not know that I could put myself and my family at the risk of death to help do the same were it my country. With the discontent toward the war on the part of many of the American people, it would trouble me that I might find myself left holding the bag, without the resources needed to complete the liberation of my country. That they do step out, bringing such risk to their lives, criticism from some of their own countrymen, and from people all around the world who doubt their true motivations, strikes me as uncommon moral courage.
So this morning I relate to you the thought process which my husband went through as he observed these strong and proud men at attention before their instructor, and some them in sandals, and some with bare feet. You will also get the feel of what the heart is like of a dedicated, died in the wool, ever loyal, honor graduate of West Point and the Army War College, who is a colonel serving his last days of a 30 year career in Afghanistan and Iraq. You will note too how much I love and admire him as well as the people of Afghanistan.

Bare and Sandaled Feet

He strode purposely from his office, but stopped to stare at their bare and sandaled feet.
Afghan Soldiers in training, at attention in perfect military bearing, his gaze their eyes did not meet.
How could they run, how could they make a stand?
Were their feet not cut by the rocks, burned in the hot sand?
He continued his powerful stride, but now he detoured to command.
His questions were met with assurance that boots had been ordered, plenty to meet the demand.
He returned to his work where he labored far into the night,
Then made his way to his quarters, laid down, and turned out the light.
Soon thoughts of work faded, and were replaced by scenes of the blessings of his life.
He thought of friends, family, his beloved home, and his strong and adoring wife.
The beats of his heart slowed, and in his mind appeared The Long Gray Line in motion.
Familiar feelings rose, and as each night, again he vowed his “last true measure of devotion.”
As sleep stole over him a smile was on his face, at the memory of the strength of the bare and sandaled feet,
And his mind saw visions of a firestorm of courage and valor, which soon the enemy would meet.
Written by Debra LeCompte, November 6, 2010

Dedicated to the love of my life, Colonel Randy LeCompte, and his Infantryman’s heart,
West Point, and The Long Gray Line,
The Soldiers of The Afghan National Army, and
The Kabul Milli Boot Factory, Kabul, Afghanistan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Promise That Lies In the Next Generation

The anniversary on the 9th of this month of our son’s beloved mother, Margaret Jewel Moody, passing from this world to her reward caused me to reflect on the lives of both Brian and Rebecca his sister. When our son arrived from Georgia as a sophomore, he had left the only home he had ever lived in, and moved several states away into his now main home here in Texas. What a culture shock it must have been! From a suburb of Atlanta, to a rather remote rural residence in Austin County, Texas, located between Bellville, population 3,424, and Sealy, population 4,582. Of course the LeCompte’s real address is Austin County, Texas, and specifically Soldiers Heart Ranch lies directly under heaven. I laughed with Brian at the college professor who teaches one of the advanced dual credit classes he is in at his high school, when as he was lecturing, his gaze locked on something outside the classroom window. He paused and remarked, I believe that is the only herd of cattle I have ever seen directly outside a classroom.

It has not been easy, Margaret Jewel adored her children, and everyone knew it, especially them. What a gift from God to have a loving and adoring mother, and daily her instruction and care. Her children were her focus, and not until they were past childhood did she seek a career outside her home, for their care was her life. She brought laughter and fun and the practice of living in joy as a life long habit to their lives.

So, Brian facing quietly a huge burden of grief, packed up, told his life long friends he would be back often to visit, and he made his way to Texas in a van his dad had rented for the move. They drove cross country, and as they traveled Brian gave that learner’s permit driver’s license a real work out, and father and son laughed and joked their way across the country. They both have an excellent sense of humor, and they like to practice it. Both of them are also highly intelligent, and I love listening to that part of the exchange of their barbs and 8th grade boy jokes. I have noted in life that boys and men do not hug as much as women, but rather they insert the very personal touch of wrestling in their relationship. It is their disguise for their need to touch each other in affection, and it is really hard on the furniture as they grow. Despite the very clear thumb print of his mother, I also see clearly his father. They are birds of a feather. A natural born leadership ability is one of each of their most visible characteristics, and their love of adventure and travel will be one of the ways they are most remembered.

Another way Brian is like his entire family is his intelligence, but I must agree with his father, there lies in him the potential to achieve even more than any of them. His intelligence is a bit scary to me, who doesn’t have to study calculus to make 110 for a semester average, that just isn’t natural? However I did hang that beautiful certificate with the accompanying gold charm he received, the coveted “B” Award in Pre AP Calculus, prominently in the den among his father’s awards. I think I may have to get a bigger den, I see a long line of awards headed this way. His national honor society membership, and Academic Excellence Award have a place as well, and that covers only the past year, so I will have to take down pieces of art and replace them with the upcoming awards.

Then I see emerging that will of iron his father possesses. I am noting when Brian decides to do something, just stand aside, give him room, and watch him do it. When he moved to Texas he had led a more sedentary life, participating in the traditional life of boys that age, which is conquering the world through video games. When he moved here the high school social life seemed to take front and center stage. He decided last January he was going to shed excess weight, and that is exactly what he did... over 50 pounds so far. He accomplished that by will power alone, working out at the gym, and taking up a passion of his father’s, running. I know ladies, but he has youth and the metabolism of a man on his side, sigh, some things I will need to ask the Lord about when I get to heaven, to quote a Marine I know.

Brian is very likable, tells a great joke and makes me laugh. So many times while his father has been deployed, different challenges would cause me to begin sinking under the weight of my own personal sacrifice. That loving nature both of his parents endowed him with would kick in and a dog and pony show so bright and shiny would rev up, and I would soon forget the low place I was in. I truly do not know what I would have done without him through this.

While last year it could not really be said he was a man, still when he would spend the night with a friend, I could not sleep well, constantly listening for any threat. When his father sleeps beside me, I sleep like a baby, not so much so for these past months. Loneliness for my husband and the knowledge of just how safe I am snuggled in his embrace starkly contrasts sleeping only with the stuffed Super Man doll he won for me at the Keema Boardwalk. Brian’s presence in the back bedroom of the house always makes me feel safer. He, like his dad and I both, is an excellent shot, and I see in him that Warrior capability. Together we would make a formidable threat to any unwanted intruder.

I have, with his mother from heaven’s window, the privilege of watching God in the process of the development and implementation of a courageous man of honor and integrity, a true son of the Living God, as I watch Brian swiftly moving into manhood. Both of us, his father, sister, a great pair of grand-parents, and a host of other friends and family will soon see the end product, because Brian’s heart and soul clearly belong to the Lord. One of the most comforting and soothing things of my life right now is to hear Brian read to me out loud from the Bible as I work in the kitchen. I can hear mothers everywhere drawing their breath in at the thought of that. Yes, I think that gives hint of a direction of leading in his life, but we shall see, as I watch one of the mighty men of valor in my life move into manhood and service before our God. I humbly offer thanks to God this morning for the privilege of watching the making of the man.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

True Intent

A friend from the Danish Royal Navy often posts pictures of the war in Afghanistan. Some of them so haunt me I cannot always sleep. I wrote the following poem after viewing the picture added here.

True Intent

The picture finds them crouched in the dirt of foreign soil,

Many a mile they have walked in the heat, and still on they have toiled.

An enemy dark and sinister, with evil intent they do hunt,
And then with deadly force they valiantly confront.

Fierce and foreboding in their equipment and gear,
Lethal to the threat of the enemy, they instill a chilling fear.

The civilians who watch have little reference to these Soldier’s intent,
Only having known the tyrant’s agenda to give them hint.

For wives and mothers, sisters and brothers, they have left home,
The mountains of this foreign country to roam,

In search of a threat which leaves the freedom of the whole world at stake.
Their duty and mission they will never forsake

But now they provide protection for someone inside their human wall.
In the tracking of the enemy, they witness an innocent victim fall.

The wicked explosive device of the cruel terrorist’s hand,
Brings out the true heart and purpose of this warrior band.

Not only do they stand for those they left behind,
Their lives they risk yet again for the good of all mankind

This stranger, of another nation, lies wounded and exposed,
 Testimony is given by their huddled bodies that they are true heroes.

God keeps account of how each individual’s life is spent.
 And at the end will reveal each person's heart and true intent.

He has foreshadowed his words concerning these, the valiant,

When He said, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Remembrance Tree

A new project has started at the ranch, it is something from our hearts. My husband has told me that the only thing really difficult for him as he serves in Afghanistan is standing at attention on the flight line as the coffins of fallen military are carried to the plane for the military service person's final transportation home. He tells me when he performs that duty freedom and democracy mean more to him than at any other time. Our military, especially those serving in harms way in countries where freedom is as yet not complete reality, are possessed of acute information concerning democracy and freedom. Our desire in this new project will be two fold, to honor the fallen, and to make a tangible display of the cost of freedom and democracy, which we hope to share, particularly with students in our area.

Last evening I posted pictures of the fledgling endeavor on facebook, and a member of the military for whom I have developed great respect replied in a positive way, and I made response to his endorsement. As I finished typing the response, I realized it was a good explanation to give the world of our very humble efforts toward remembering The Fallen. I post it now to share here...

"I will post pictures of the two plaques I have finished for the two Navy personnel whose bodies were recently recovered. Yesterday I had camera problems, probably related to how I felt more than the camera. This is a very simple way to honor these our countries' finest, but the point is... to make everyone as aware as possible that a large part of the world has no real concept of democracy, and their citizens lack the personal freedom to learn of it's principles. Therefore, they cannot seek if for themselves. Not only have these our heroes perished for the freedom of our own nations, but for the freedom of all the world's peoples. When circumstances related to defending our own freedom and democracy cause us to act in countries where there is no freedom, it is morally wrong to desert the people of that country to fall to our common enemy who happens to be their oppressor. After we have given them a glimmer of hope concerning their own freedom, to then desert them, makes us unworthy of our own democracy. I believe God will hold us accountable if we do. Many people who are against the war effort, in all honesty, have no regard for the people of Afghanistan. I appreciate so much the ISAF facebook page and the images I find there of very real people, both Soldiers, and by that I mean anyone acting in a military role there, and the people of Afghanistan. I see in their faces the hope of humanity, and especially in the faces of the military, nobility."

I couldn't tell you who most of the actors, sports figures, and politicians are whose faces dominate the internet are... but I do recognize the faces of Soldiers, and the faces of these citizens of the world who are struggling to stand up a democracy in their own countries.

I don't know who history will best remember, but I know who God will best remember. We are going to do whatever we can to assist history."

As I re-read my words, they satisfied me as representing what the goal is of the hours of my life I will spend in this endeavor. I will be researching and collecting the names of all 44 countries of the Coalition Forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I will select and designate a tree in the 13 heavily wooded acres on our little ranch for each country, and there I will hang the names of the fallen. I also will extend to the world the opportunity for participation. I will ask that if you have someone you would like remembered here immediately, that you make your own small wooden plaque. The guidelines will be very simple. The base should be of natural wood, 1x6 stock, and no larger than 8 inches long; it can be painted any color that you like. The name of the military service member, the day they were born, the day they died, their native country, and the country they died serving in should be on one side. Any private message that the sender wishes to write may be on the other side, (both sides will be visible.) Any paint used should be the most durable you can find such as enamel based, and the lettering should especially be done in the most durable product you can find. I will hang the plaque and post here and on facebook a picture of the plaque and the tree it hangs in. I will be making plaques myself, as well as sharing the opportunity with various civic groups, and more importantly area schools. Before this project will be considered completed, every name will be honored and placed on a tree to remind all who come here of the price of freedom and democracy. I will also collect and laminate pictures of Soldiers and the citizens of countries where they serve or have served. Those will be hung in white frames in the chapel we have created in the very old barn which stands on our property. I will be posting pictures of our progress.

If you wish to contribute a plaque dedicated to your own special Service Person, you may send it to: Soldier's Heart Ranch
3296 South FM 331 Rd.
Sealy, Texas 77474

We would appreciate each person sharing this information w th anyone you think would wish to participate in the making of a plaque, or viewing this blog and the dairy of the progress of this project. The email address you may make contact with the project is:

This morning I once again personally offer to all those who have served, especially in this recent struggle, my deepest appreciation of your service and sacrifice, and I pledge, never... will we take lightly what has been given, or forget your name.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You can tell so much about a man by handling his books. I have been doing some deep cleaning, and I moved the book shelf in the living room to the den to make a place for a rather formal antique piece I had found and had restored. I first emptied the book shelf of its contents, then lightly sanded the nicks out and touched them up with matching stain. I meticulously cleaned the floor where the bookcase was to find new residence, as I knew this chore would not be repeated again for awhile once all the heavy books are in place. I polished the floor, placed the bookcase exactly where I wanted it, waxed its’ shelves and began the task of replacing my husband’s books.

My husband is highly intelligent and accomplished, and that is reflected by the books he has collected over the years. The first evidence of his intelligence being indicated by his four large year books from West Point, along with the original catalog he was sent when he first made application. It is still in pristine condition, as are most of the books. Of course his 1990 Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial Edition of the Register of Graduates and Former Cadets 1802-1990 had to find a place on the shelves. Many of his books reflect his military career which is approaching thirty years in duration. There are the books of military history, the books of military strategy, the books about military leadership, and the biographies of famous military leaders. Titles including War and Moral Responsibility, World Tensions:Conflict and Accommodation, Maxims of George Washington, The Forgotten Soldier, We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, and Thin Red Line are place lovingly by me on one shelf. Venezuela, The Democratic Experiment, Colin Powell My American Journey, Cobra II, A Guide to the Study and Use of Military History, and The Final Move Beyond Iraq also lay in stacks on the floor waiting to find their placement on the shelves. I place countless copies of Parameters, The US Army War College Quarterly side by side, like soldiers marching, on their shelf. Soldier, the Life of Colin Powell, Reagan, A Life in Letters, and From Here to Eternity round out what I consider to be a representative look at selections from his military books. I find there is among these books one that is fingerprinted, worn, and showing signs of countless readings. Why Courage Matters, written by John McCain, profoundly influenced my husband during a particularly difficult time in his military career.

My husband has been in Afghanistan for fifteen months now, serving with the Army. The project of moving the book case and its’ contents becomes a delightful experience as I begin to sense a nearness across the thousands of miles as I hold his books. By this time I am holding each book far too long, and too carefully selecting its’ place on the shelf. In some books, I am discovering things underlined or highlighted. Many books reflect his love of the South American culture and countries. They are in Spanish, for he is fluent in Spanish. He wore a mustache for several years, because as he traveled and worked in South America in his civilian job, he discovered it brought to him a revere with his software customers. I recall his experience of being in Columbia when conflict suddenly broke out, as he had began a trip to the airport, along the route he witnessed gun fire and a shooting. He arrived to find chaos at the airport, and as “officials” began to inquire of him who he was, and where he wanted to go, he realized he did not want his military ID to be found. With providential timing, he spotted a Columbian colleague with whom he had established a warm relationship. He was a person of some prestige, and by his word my husband was able to board a plane and leave the country. As I think of this experience, and how often he has been in harms way, I hold the books which I know his eyes have rapidly scanned as he absorbed every detail of information. Suddenly I am yearning once again to be by his side, physically sharing the same home and life.

The chore is becoming a morning of both longing and delight. There are many science texts, Basic Statistics, Tools for Continuous Improvement, Understanding Industrial Designed Experiments, Mathematics With Application, Statistical Quality Control, An Introduction to Linear Regression and Correlation, and the evertitillating The Annual ASTM Standards Plastics-General Test Methods Nomenclature. Among the science books lies the one book to place on the shelves on economics, it is titled simply, Economics, the Science of Common Sense. Briefly, I consider dropping that one in the mail, but I do not have the White House address.

Countless books on management take up at least two shelves, with titles of In Pursuit of Excellence, Empowering Teams, The Dening Management Method, Reengineering the Corporation, Good to Great, The New Rational Manager, The Program Management Book of Knowledge, and Getting to Yes. His leadership style isn’t reflected in any of these works, he has developed his own style, he calls it “The Gideon Principle,” he identifies the key participants with the heart and skills for the work, concentrates on their refinement, and leads them as they mentor those who might be potential upcoming leaders. He leads from the front always, never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Always integrity and character are his base, and always he uses moral courage as the compass of whatever mission he undertakes.

By far the largest collection of books contain many versions and translations of the Bible and Bible studies. Strong’s Concordance, Malachi, Rekindling the Fires of Faith, Masterwork, The Blazing Center, A Journey in Faith, Experiencing God, Faith Works, 1st Peter, Message of Encouragement, The Family Bible Encyclopedia, The Historical Atlas of Judaism, and many others are placed in a grouping on three shelves. It is his personal study Bible that I spend the most time over. When he left for Afghanistan he carried a small Bible that would pack and travel well. In his regularly used Bible, which is contained in a zippered leather case, I find dozens of church bulletins with meticulous notes on each sermon. I was always aware of his making the notes, however I had never read them as I was making my own notes, which I promptly lost. I spend a long time in that treasure trove of his deepest thoughts on the sermons from our pastor, and find myself so refreshed and encouraged.

Two more of my husband’s books are telling of the man my husband is. One is entitled, How to Open a Chess Game, by 7 International Grand Champions. My husband is the most intensely competitive person I have ever known, with a stipulating factor… he always is in competition with himself, others may be involved, but his quest is always for his personal best, his state of excellence. To him any endeavor worthy of pursuit, only gets his best, nothing else will do. The last book is a very thin, small book, and one could easily overlook it. The author is a seven year old boy, and it is titled, The Christmas Present, and dedicated to his mother and father There among all the lofty titles shines the little book authored by his son, ten years ago, which says so much about the man my husband is.

I love him and long to see him, talk with him, listen to his words, share our daily lives once more. I remember the tender little routine we had each morning. I would make his breakfast, press his work clothes for the day, and we would read the Bible together as we ate breakfast before he left for his day’s work and I tended to mine. A man’s books, and how he uses them tells so much of who he is, and what his character is made of. I enjoyed my morning’s chore, and felt the thousands of miles melt away, and knew things of my husband's heart as though we had shared breakfast in that "too tender" little morning routine.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The News

It has been a long time since I last posted here. A long and challenging year, with my husband so far away, so much work to do, and dealing with the fears that constantly try to creep into my mind and heart. There are so many when the person you love as you have never loved before, stands in harms way. It isn't the "known enemy," the terrorist bent on the overthrow of our democracy alone that I worry about. General McChrystal fell victim this week of a more obscure and sinister threat. A Soldier's personal thoughts on his job always have to be guarded so closely, never can his or her discouragement be given voice, not in any forum. There are dangers too from "climbers," those who serve out of the love of power and position. The Army is made up for the most part by the greatest of our citizens, those who serve from patriotism and love of this country and our way of life. However, by the definition of the job, making war against our enemies, guarding and protecting our country and its' constitution, there are those few who are attracted by power and the use of it. Like some of the eighth grade girls who try out for cheerleader, nothing is off the table in securing their personal goals. A good Soldier can become the target of these "climbers.

I've had some trouble sleeping, staying awake worrying about where he is, what he is doing, and what dangers lurk around him. At first he was only to be away a year, then when I had reached the half way part I learned he would be extended another six months, and I was at square one again. That was when I had to struggle as never before in my life with the creeping darkness of depression at the corners of my mind. Randy came home on leave, he was just as he had left, maybe even better. I could tell he was healthy, deeply satisfied by the work he was doing, and fulfilling all God created him to be. The only weakness I detected there was the dart of worry which crossed his eyes whenever he detected any hint of difficulty in my or Brian's life. The thought that any of us whom he loves being in difficulty without him having the ability to problem solve us through it, is his kyptonite. He can work eighteen hours a day, sleep four hours a night, and reach peak performance every day. In fact he is one of those rare individuals who finds those kinds of challenges empowering. When you are in his presence somehow the "ten foot tall and bullet proof thing" wears off on you, and in fact inspiration comes that this thing could be a cinch. I know the Soldiers working with him know this to be true.

When a year had past and it was time to sign his extension orders, they arrived with a one year extension. Somehow I had known they would, I didn't experience creeping depression this time, but rather a resignation, and a numbing feeling that never would he come home. Last week at a Commander's Conference at Rock Island Arsenal, I met two women at the training provided by Army for spouses. One was the mother of a fallen Soldier, and one was the wife of fallen Soldier. She talked of her life as an Army wife, how she had loved it and her Soldier. Then she told of a dream she had, and in it her husband had been killed. She told us through tears how two weeks later the chaplain and an officer arrived at her door with "The News." I have never heard such moving words.

When I was a little girl, my precious father read to my sister and I every night. Despite his formal education only reaching the eighth grade, he has been an avid reader all of his life, and it has carried him far. He loves poetry, and often that was the content of his reading each night. I love all forms of self expression, playing piano, gardening, painting, and anything else creative, but never had I written a word of poetry. When I returned from the conference, it poured from me. The following is a poem I wrote inspired by the words of the beautiful woman who spoke them to those of us who share the experience of a beloved spouse serving the country somewhere dangerous and far away. I will never forget her or the love she expressed for her fallen Soldier, and the sacrifice she made and still makes when the chaplain and an officer arrived at her door and she received "The News."
The News

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you wait?
There stands no person at your gate.

Oh Woman, Woman why is the tear in your eye?
He promised he'd be home, bye and bye.

Oh Woman, Woman, why do you turn your ear?
What soft voice is it that you hear?

Oh Woman, Woman, why does your heart lurch?
It is only a man coming from the church.

Oh Woman, Woman, now I see there are two,
One in a green uniform with something sad he must do.

Oh Woman, Woman, I definitely know,
How hard the way that you must go.

Oh Woman, Woman, surely you remember,
That he promised love like yours is ever tender.

Oh Woman, Woman, the wait will be short.
He's only gone before you for heaven's report.