From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Monday, January 31, 2011

To the Grief Stricken Family of Parker Schenecker

I can't write much about this today, I am so distraught over what has happened to this family.  My heart goes out to them.

Tragedies of War

Horrors of war what you take!
Always there is too much at stake!

Freedom and liberty are dear, to be sure.
Oh but what some have to endure.

Year after year longing for a love which is far,
Never really knowing exactly where they are.

Cries for help are a fearful thing,
She did not know what they actually might bring.

Pain can grow inside a heart,
Until gradually, slowly, reason departs.

Little daily things grow like a monster,
And suddenly they explode in dark disaster.

The black ink of evil forces over her mind did steal,
Rendering wounds from which she will never heal.

When sanity began once again to reign,
Her heart and soul realized unspeakable pain.

It will never be counted as a casualty of war,
But always I promise to remember who you really are.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Wildbirds Are Here For the Winter

 The wild birds are everywhere here at Soldier's Heart.  It's just to cold up north, and they are hanging out with me.  That's good for me, since I live in the country, my kids for the most part are grown, and my husband is in Iraq serving the country.  So I feed them and talk to them, and they really appreciate me too, in fact they fuss at me if I don't feed them before I do the horses.   Of course they like the horse feed crumbs that are left as well, but they want their own feeders filled to the brim, and hung high enough that they can eat in peace.  (Cats make them nervous.)
 I find so much peace in watching these little birds.
 This is one of the birds that frequents the pond year round.  He was really cold the day I took this picture, and has one foot drawn up under him at a to keep warmer.

 This guy got too cold, and I thought he was going to die, he was laying on his side down by the pond.  A little warm up inside and he was off  and flying.

Last is the woodpecker, who has caused the power company to have to change  out the pole... twice... just eats right through the twelve in pole.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PTSD is a Dangerous and Deadly Enemy


By roadside bombs I’ve been hit.
I’ve seen children blown to bits,
At first my wounds were hard to admit,
I feel my life has been split.
To my band of brothers I am closeknit.
To the rest of the world I feel misfit.
Sometimes I feel myself sliding into a pit,
But from this life I will not quit.
Defeat by this my God will not permit.
My soul and mind to Him I will knit.

Written for Mike and all his brothers and sisters, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When God Sends a Woman Flowers

It seems to me that often media leads the way in the strangest of behavior; I am speaking of the vilification of American companies who achieve great success.  Sometimes when men and women conceive of great companies and then personally, through hard work, sacrifice, and dedication lead them to the greatness that was their vision, thus achieving the “American Dream,” they become a target.  As I said, for some strange reason, they always draw at least a few vocal critics.  It does not matter that they provide along the way to their success, good paying and secure jobs with benefits, for literally thousands of American citizens, give back to the communities in which they conduct business, and pay taxes into these communities.  Often that beautiful American principle that enables one to become, as my mother and father always instructed me, “anything you want to work hard enough to become,” makes them targets of criticism.  The particular irritant for some seems to be people getting rich while achieving the “American Dream.”  That to them is just not acceptable, and in their minds must involve something sinister and evil.  When this flawed thinking became acceptable to anyone but the seriously in need of medication, and extensive mental health services, due to being haunted by paranoia, I cannot recall, however,  the thinking is accepted by more people than one would think these days.  I could at this point share some of the highlights of the integrity with which Sam Walton lived, all he gave back, and stories that reveal his heart and intent, which will I think contribute to his going down in history as the remarkable person he was.  Instead, I would like to focus on my own personal experience with Wal-Mart, in particular the Sealy, Texas Wal-Mart, and the people who work and earn their living in this company in that same spirit with which Sam Walton first envisioned his company.


When we first moved to the Sealy/Bellville area we bought our dream place, 42 plus acres, partial ag exemption, big pond, 13 heavily wooded acres, a 126 year old antique barn, and a big three year old Solitare double wide with 2X6 exterior walls. (Colonel LeCompte balked at the “double wide” thing, but since he trusts me in all things, when I told him in a year he would never know it had ever been anything but an authentic Texas working ranch house, he bought it for me.)  It had some challenges, the previous owners had 9 children between the two of them, 7 still at home.  I did not know that bubble gum came in that many colors, that anyone ever let chickens roost in a bathroom inside their home, nor that weeds could become 9 foot tall.  It was explained to me that it was a variety of ragweed called “blood rag weed.”  I was soon to learn how it got its’ name.  In order to meet and actually exceed the flood plain requirements, as the pond was originally dug, the dirt had been piled higher and higher, and packed by the heavy equipment as they went, thus building the pad on which the house was to sit.  It resulted in a pad 9 feet above the flood plain, and the house was placed on that hill of dirt with only about six feet to spare at the widest area all around the flattened top.  That produced so many unique landscaping challenges.
When we first moved into our new home, we had a push lawn mower, a weed eater, and a machete that Randy had used in the Malaysian Jungle Survival School.  As most of you know, my husband is Colonel Randy LeCompte, a West Point honor graduate, as well as an Army War College graduate, and currently serving in Baghdad, Iraq.  He and his little machete began clearing weeds, but soon we realized we needed a little more equipment.   Of course, we went to Wal-Mart on many trips for needed materials, seed, and tools, not to mention the food to fuel both of us, substantial clothing, and gloves.
My husband so cherishes every moment spent at Soldier’s Heart Ranch, which we quickly dubbed our little paradise in the making.  Soon, his mind began to realize what release he found in being home, working on the house and barn, working with the horses, or just loafing on the 1100 square feet of wrap-around porch I added.  Much of the success of my husband’s life is found in his ability to completely focus on everything he puts his hand to, and today the ranch is a reflection of that.
The human mind can do that.  It can also rehearse the horrors of war, even when a man or woman struggles to prevent that from happening.  My husband has always had a heart for his Soldiers who encounter problems with PTSD, the name for the biological condition that develops for some serving in war zones.  As he enjoyed using all the new tools he bought at Wal-Mart, and worked to make our property our home, he began to realize what release from the thoughts of work and soldiering he found, and what complete peace he experienced.  That was when the idea for our 501-C began.  The idea of sharing with members of the military a place to stand down, rest, and refresh from the work required from those serving and their families took shape along with the rose bushes from Wal-Mart.  
Planting and growing things was for me the best of all the good things at Soldiers Heart, because I love all forms of self-expression.  Gardening is something that renews me.  I was soon going to need things that renewed me. 
My husband deployed for Afghanistan, and the original year he was to be gone turned into eighteen months, then two years.  Life got a little harder, and as time went on harder still.  Every week I made trips to Wal-Mart, and Texas Wal-Mart people being who they are, soon I was sharing with them that my husband was “gone to war.”  They responded the way Wal-Mart people do, with words of encouragement, and by asking me each time they saw me how I was doing.  Each responce was a genuine expression of care. 
Deployments, especially extended deployments, can become lonely and depressing for those holding down the fort.  That happened to me, and one day as the deployment stretching seemingly endlessly before me, I complained to God, asking why so much was required of me.  I moaned and groaned, cried, and wondered to Him how I would ever survive.  A series of events happened that afternoon which reminded how little I really was sacrificing, compared to the suffering that goes on in this world, but that is a whole other blog…  I repented for my weakness, asked the Lord to forgive me, and then God being my Loving Father sent me flowers to remind me just how much He loves me.
Of course, you are thinking I am speaking metaphorically, I am not.  From the time we moved to Sealy, I frequented the garden center at the local Wal-Mart.  The people who worked there had come to know me quite well.  They knew when my husband was home on leave, because he came in with me, and as my special Wal-Mart friend said… “my face was different, smiling as I used to.”  I had left my business card for the work we do with the military with the garden center.  After my session with the Lord I had gone outside to work in the yard, where I always went when I needed solace.  The fact that our fledgling efforts as a 501-C had many more of those we were serving, than support from any who were giving, so I was a little short on money to spend on anything to plant during that late summer.  I took the phone from the house and laid it on the porch in case my husband called from Afghanistan, where at that time he was serving.  Need I say it was the phone I had bought at Wal-mart?  It rang and I answered, it was the manager of the garden center, asking if I would like some plants that were no longer fresh enough to sell.  She said that she thought that with some tender loving care they could be revived, and she knew of our 501-C status, and the work we were doing.  She went on to say if I could pick them up, they were mine.  When I went to pick them up they completely filled the back of my truck, and my heart.  I lovingly planted my flowers from God, and several times since I have received a similar call from her, each time on a day when my heart was faint, and I have been petitioning heaven for strength to do what is mine to do.  To remind me  once again he loves me and will see me through this, God just calls Wal-Mart.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Have a Question For America

This morning as I was speaking with a Soldier friend he related his “frustration of the day.” I call it that, because he is in the process of getting his permanent medical profile as he makes his temporary leave from service permanent. He has been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury.) At this point the following should be noted: As I write this blog this morning I am having to discipline myself not to veer off in a ranting tirade, and these things aren’t even happening to me, I can barely cope as I write. Before I finish telling this “story,” I pose the question I am again going to ask after I finish telling the facts. WHAT CAN BE DONE, BY WHOM, RIGHT NOW, AND HOW DID THIS SITUATION OCCUR IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I am going to post two “reply to the question” boxes on the blog, one for responses from those serving, or who have served, with the military, and one for those of us, the protected. I am asking everyone I know to read this, and to pass it on. Please post a link on every military site you know of. Please pass it on to each individual Soldier or Service Person from any branch you know or are acquainted with. Someone, somewhere, needs to intervene, not only in this situation, but in the tangled process that a Soldier and his family must go through in order to out process from the military. Accountability must be built in to the process so that all the different individuals, units, and institutions that are required to input information, can not, put off, lose on their desk, fail to file, or otherwise be the hold up or what causes the paperwork to be kicked back. This process is incredibly difficult and stressful, and in some cases without precedents and or responsible handling of records by the military. Many times in frustration a Soldier will just give up rights and benefits due them to have the process over with. The Army is always doing a study to figure out how best to problem solve. I realize the Army is the largest employer in the world, and by that definition, has the largest statistical and information storing problems of any employer. However, the nature of the impact of being employed by the Army, to conduct war, makes it critical that the Army do this flawlessly. That is not the case as you will see from the following.

As this young family man, whose wife is currently serving Active Duty Army, cares for their two small and energetic children at home, his day is filled with calls to different entities within the Army, as he begs for the documents required for his medical board. Each day there is a new difficulty. He has told me of completely discharging a fully charged phone before the end of the day as he is shuffled from person to person seeking the records. That does not take into account the times he doesn’t reach a person, only voice mail where he leaves a message, many of which he never receives a return call.

This Soldier served as a “gunner.” He participated in 455 combat missions. I need to type that again… my heart and mind demand it… 455 combat missions. Seven times his vehicle was hit by an IED, yet by the casual outward appearance, he is young, healthy, and strong. A very recent physical exam as he sought treatment for his migraine head-aches, which have been assumed caused by the seven IEDs, may in fact be the result of a neck injury. This injury, the physician speculates, was sustained in a roll over of the humvee he was riding in, caused by one of the IEDs in 2004. The Soldier tells me he saw the medic, who did a physical exam, and pronounced him fit to return to duty, and he did. No X-rays or hospital visit was made at the time of the incident… he just went “back to work.”

Paper work was filled out and turned in, and the Soldier went on about the business of conducting war against the enemy. Now, all these years later, he had to request the report on this incident… I know you military guys are already ahead of me here… absolutely no record exists of this incident anywhere…

Not to worry the Army says, all the Soldier has to do is get sworn statements from those in the vehicle at the time… Three are dead, later casualties of the war. The Soldier called one man, “he has some issues,” and he hung up on the Soldier saying, “I don’t want to talk about these things.” Later he did make contact again and the man indicated he would consider it. This other Soldier well remembers and admits to remembering the incident, it is just so difficult for him to allow the memories to the forefront of his mind. He lost his family when he came home, because he suffers from PTSD, and that issue was used against him in court, and he is denied visitation rights to his daughters. I don’t know about your mind… but mine is screaming right now… about what I am not even sure. I just know something is terribly, terribly, wrong here.

As the Soldier this is happening to, explained all this to me, his voice was calm, but he told me, “you can’t imagine how frustrating all this is.” He really does put forth effort diligent effort daily, and is blessed to have a case worker who is a stand up kind of ex-Soldier, doing her very best at every avenue to help him and his family. The Soldier is wrong about one thing… I can imagine for frustrating this must be… I just can’t figure out ho I would deal with what my imagination tells me, were it I who was involved in this struggle.

That even one Soldier struggles in this manner causes a feeling to sweep over me of great personal shame. I am not a part of the system that causes this Soldier and his family this burden, but I am an American who “sleeps soundly in my bed” each night because of men and women like this Soldier. Therefore, I consider it my sacred duty to seek assistance in this situation, and I offer the problem to the military community, and Americans everywhere for help in problem solving. I offer it as well, to remind the Army, all the military, all Americans, and all the world, what so few are sacrificing for so many of us. Humanity, and its’ existence, continues because the mad tyrants and radicals of the world are held at bay by these few.

Since his physician is certain that this incident is in all likelihood what caused his neck injury, and the migraines he suffers from now, he must have records, and the Army has failed to maintain those records. So, again I ask, what would each of you suggest as the solution for this young Soldier to obtain the needed proof the Army requires, that in 2004, while serving with the United States Army in Iraq, his humvee hit an IED, and rolled? Also, what can be done to ensure that another young Soldier never again faces having to replace documentation that should have been maintained by the United States Army, especially under circumstances such as these.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From the Ranch: Again, I Love that Facebook Blessing

From the Ranch: Again, I Love that Facebook Blessing

Again, I Love that Facebook Blessing

Happy Birthday Fairy Daughter

I have a dear friend on facebook, who brings to my life delight.

Though I’ve never seen her face or from her eyes their light.

When I asked her, she said her favorite color is blue.

I knew when I asked it would be some such soothing hue.

The messages that she sends in intervals to me.

Tell of her youth, her true heart, and the woman of honor she will be.

In my mind, from her words, a delicate beauty I see.

From images of the women of her land, I can imagine her face to some degree.

Kindness lives within her and on her face it must leave its’ distinctive mark.

Women without kindness, even though great beauties, have faces that are stark.

From her mouth only genuineness and truth does she speak.

This tells of the strength and courage she possesses, something others seek.

Her heart, though she lives in a war zone, reaches to live in joy,

There are enemies in her country who endeavor always to destroy.

From a picture she saw of me, in her sweetness she named me “Fairy Mother.”

I ponder what thing so quickly could make me smile, and I can think of no other.

Every morning as I pray for each of my children, and all those my loved ones,

Though her face I do not know, among my children's names, hers comes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some of God's Blessing in Life Are So Rich, Like Cake

At this point in life, God's blessings, which He heaps upon me, no longer surprise me, but they never stop taking my breath away. I never grow use to the wonder I feel at His love for me, I know exactly how unworthy I am before a Holy God. Yet still, because of Jesus Christ laying down His life for me, I stand always before God covered by the perfectness of His Son. My Heavenly Father spoils me so...

I have recorded before, I love facebook. I love it because of the very special people it has brought to my life. I had an exchange of some length today with one of those new friends. I had first befriended her because of her talent. I saw the cakes she bakes, oh how I love cake! I really need a twelve step program concerning my appreciation of cake... if I start, I am likely to eat a whole cake in a day. As I often say, we all have our Achilles Heel.

On her facebook page today, she had yet another beautiful talent on display, and I began exchanging "posts" with her, then one on one messages as I began suggesting to her that she do a blog. (I can't wait for this blog to be birthed!) Then part of her life story began to pour from her heart. I am rich to have been the one who received it. I asked her permission to place here our exchanges, her words will lift and inspire you. All words that lift and inspire should be passed on if at all possible, I had known before I asked she would say yes. Here for each of you are words that will not fail to touch your soul. There are messages in them for someone somewhere who feels God doesn't see, or if He does, He doesn't care. He is going to prove you wrong as you read these words, for you are going to know, they are for you, from Him.

From my friend:

I absolutely LOVED the donkey's my fav!!! =} I've never thought about anything like the blog thing....because I never knew it worked like that. I want a cake shop so bad I can taste it but I had 3 spine surgeries 2 1/2 years ago and developed a brain infection I was not expected to survive...but I did by the grace of God! During all of that they discovered a tumor in my hip that will eventually break my hip and require me to have it replaced. I knew something was wrong because it hurt so much but I never had it checked out. I said all of that to say....I want a shop...but I'm scared I can't physcially handle it. I have thought about teaching classes for it....I had a pastry chef at one of the venues I delivered one of my cakes ask to apprentice with me which is what gave me the idea of teaching....but I'm a hands-on kind of girl...I love to create!!! I am limited in my movements now and do most of my work sitting in a rolling chair. I had never baked a cake until 17 months ago....I had to find something to keep my mind busy or I was going to go crazy. I know (somewhat) how the guys suffering from PTSD feel. I have had to seek therapy for my illness...I was a very active out-going person until my surgeon tried to kill me...and then blamed me at every turn (we did seek legal counsel but it is next to impossible to make a doctor be accountable when he hides information) so...I harbor much anger for him....if he had only listened to me and not called me names when I tried to tell him something was wrong with me I wouldn't have gone on to have 2 more surgeries and have bathroom scum growing in my brain. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital and had a port sewn into my chest where for 45 days my husband gave me 9 injections a day trying to save my life. For 5 months I couldn't even turn my own body over in my bed. I wanted....needed for him (the doctor) to carry his share of the burden he had created thru neglect...I carry mine daily!!! I'm sorry...I'm rambling. Thank you for letting me know about the blog...hopefully I can look into it and who knows where it could go???? =}

From me to my friend:

Wow... what a story, and how God works in people's lives... God hears and knows the cries of your heart... what a story... please may I post what you have written to my blog without any identifiable info... you would encourage and inspire so many who are at a despairing place... so many Soldiers come home so broken, inside and out... and your words about wanting... needing the doctor to carry his share, and if he had only listened... how they will ring with Soldiers with PTSD..... For them just to know that you made it... and if you think it is difficult to hold that doctor accountable... think of trying with the Army.... type girl.... type.... you will get your shop, and an employee to run it when you need to rest....

Me Again:

What powerful words... I can't stop re-reading them.... and not a word of that was rambling.... it was all magnificent!

My Friend:

Of course you may share my story....sharing it is in a way therapy for me. I remember at first after it happened being scared to death...and the depression that came with the illness it's self and the depression the medications (I will have to take for the rest of my life) cause...I went thru some very dark days...even months...truth be told if I think on it very much I can still be drawn back into the depths of it. I felt like, if this is all my life will be from here on I really want to be here? I know it takes having something to hold onto to pull yourself back out of the grips of depression....for was my son. He is mentally retarded and has been my shadow all his life. One day I had gotten my husband to wheel my wheelchair out onto the patio and he forgot to come back and get me before it started getting dark. One side of our house has french doors down it and I could see my son going from room to room looking for me....I thought right then....Lord please help me....I need to be the Mom he's looking for! Without a doubt my strength and determination was renewed at that moment because the Lord believes in me! I have come a million miles since that day....I know I have many more to go but that's ok because I know I am loved!!! =}

I never would have had any idea that my friend had any struggles in her life from all I have read and seen on her pages on facebook. She is a remarkable woman as you can see from her words, with so much for each of us to draw strength from. She will never know, this side of heaven, what she did for me today. Each of us struggle in some way, God allows it. He is composed of nothing but love for each of us, and never gives us a stone when we ask for bread. In our struggles are found His love, grace, power, and glory, all we have to do to experience and have access to all these things, is glimpse whoever it is running from room to room looking for us. Thank you, Father God, for this blessing I know to be from Your hand.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Days for a Soldier Are Dark... We All Have a Responsibility.

Being acquainted with many, and very close to more than a few military families, I know well the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Stronger or better people I do not know. Whether they are active duty, reserve, national guard, or retired, they are poured from a different mold, stand a little taller, and will go a lot farther for a person. They bear both the scars and the blessings of their association with the military. It doesn't matter how long ago their service occurred. Millions have served this country, shed blood on foreign soil, and left parts of their hearts there as well. They should be numbered and their names remembered as the patriots of this country that they are, and treated as such. Unfortunately, sometimes, they are not.

I will be the first to admit that among their numbers are some that are none of the things I described. They are few in number, yet they are scattered in among the heroes. Part of the reason these unfit are embedded with the noble lies in the nature of the profession. Our military are professionals in conducting war on behalf of our nation's national security. That, by definition alone, will attract a bully, and maybe even the deranged, an example being the Soldier involved in the attack on Ft. Hood. Then there is the self governing system by which the military operates. From the governance of each Soldier being legally obligated to follow all orders from his superiors, unless they actually break laws, arises the first weapon that can be used against a Soldier by those who abuse power. Make no mistake, a few are attracted to military service by nothing more than the opportunity to have power over other human beings, and seldom do these individuals use their power in anything but conniving and wrangling for yet more power. They would "serve" for free, because their real currency is the "rush" they receive in wielding power. Depending upon what is at the moment being awarded with promotion, hence, attaining more power, they can actually accomplish good. They will set goals toward what ever is being recognized by top military as positive and desirable. This is fairly easy to recognize in an officer, and almost impossible to control. Worse case scenario, the entire Army, and in fact the country, not to mention an individual Soldier and their family, can be damaged or destroyed by either a single, or a series of decisions by these leaders.

As they are "promoted," they become the "promoters," ensuring the procreating of their own kind, and as I said, they can accomplish much, even win wars. Probably the most admired General of all times is George S. Patton. I have no personal knowledge of General Patton, but many have described him as "ruthless." Without a doubt he made a large contribution toward winning WWII. However, I suspect many could have formulated the plans to win WWII, and many could have been the inspiring leadership to execute the formulated plan. I find so much between the lines of his many famous quotes. To me, many of them ring as calculated "sound bites" of very clever power monger. As an example of what I think are famous quotes more closely related to who Patton was in his heart consider, "All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated." Then there is this quote, "Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood."

I recently came across the writing of a two star who was e
ndeavoring to school his troops in the worth of living the Seven Army Values. For those of you who are unfamiliar, those include, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. He did an "on the fly" poll among Soldiers, and found the most common response to be loyalty. He went on to extol the merits of all the answers and stated they were all of equal value. I disagree with that, for the following reason, I have seen Soldiers support a philosophy or concept, which even though it was negative in content and practice, their present leadership embraced. I have even seen a unspoken philosophy or concept that went against written policy and regulation of the United States Army prevail in a unit, because leadership expressed, even in only private, disdain for accepted policy. As a completely hypothetical example, say a one star general states in a planning meeting for family day, "whatever, lets just get the Kum ba yah out of the way." You might then hear from a colonel serving under that general, "Well I'm not looking for a Cadillac kind of Family Readiness Group, I had more in mind a Yugo."

By all written and stated policy and regulation, FRG is to be a "high priority." The Army's position is that family support is of the utmost importance... it wouldn't be in that unit, because loyalty to the man in charge of writing your OER, (Officer Evaluation Report, or something close to that,) might influence what that evaluation contained. A commander is only allotted so many "top blocks" to dole out, and a man who expressed by word or attitude,
"All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated." is probably going to have a unit full of sub-ordinates who emphasize their own disdain of all things Family Support related as being fluff without any real worth, and unworthy of effort. Anyone can figure out what kind of Family Support that unit would offer.

I think Patton considered himself superior in all areas to most men, I suspect all that he accomplished came from the desire to demonstrate the same to the rest of the world. Wha
t other kind of thought process spawns a statement such as, "Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood." I found no quotes concerning the price of war, for a nation, or a family in all the quotes I found made by General Patton. "Battle" to me isn't a competition, it is a struggle to defend good against evil, and should never be undertaken for any other reason. I, for one, believe that honor is the "essence of manhood." To me, duty is doing what is expected of you in any given situation by those setting up the rules and the content of the rules, honor is doing, at all cost, and by all that is within a man's ability, what is truly righteous and upright before God and man. In my observance, many a person, including myself has failed honor on behalf of duty. Loyalty represents to me an ever changing landscape of leadership with-in the Army from the lowest level NCO to the highest officer.

That brings me to why I have any right what-so-ever to comment or dare to criticize Army leadership in any way. I am the mother of a Soldier, the wife of a Soldier, my son-in-law is in Afghanistan, it would take too much time to type all the places and times he has deployed and been absent from his girls. One of my son-in-laws was blown off a vehicle he was refueling in Iraq in 2003, as he lay injured he was hit in the shoulder by sniper fire. I remember waiting at the end of the sidewalk as a child, and hiding my eyes thinking when I look up, I will see daddy's truck coming home from "drill." My father almost died of Malaria while serving in the Occupation Forces following WWII. My grand-father, eventually smothered to death, the mustard gas of WWI finally claiming him. My husband has been absent 22 months now from our home, I take exceptional pride in the above associations, ... exceptional pride, their value being unmeasurable to me.

As an American who considers myself a patriot, who daily endeavors to support every Soldier serving anywhere, and those who have gone before, I take even more pride in these exceptional men and women who have given so much. I not only take note, but take names, when it is brought to my attention that any one of them has been treated badly by anyone, including, "the Army." I owe them all... where would the nation be if the responsibility would be mine to defend it against our enemies? I am not possessed of what it takes mentally, physically, and emotionally to stand the wall. My protection falls to them, and I am not alone. If you are not one of the protectors, you are one of the protected. Never should a single Soldier ever fear reporting "issues" concerning service, and never should command bend to any personal agenda the handling of reporting. Never should the physical or emotional health, or claims of lack of health in either of those areas be treated as anything but sacred obligations of those in charge to hold as of highest priority, because if they are not, someone has little or no regard to the lives of Soldiers being offered up in "the competition."

I have not been able to sleep considering one young Soldier, his wife, and the rest of his family. My mind can imagine the embarrassment, the concern, the fear, the pain, because I have seen it up close too many times. His name is Spc. Jeff Hanks, of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Ft. Campbell may ring a tone of familiarity with you, they had a stand down because of the number of suicides at that base over a period of time, in the not so distant past. I have left numerous posts on their facebook page after researching the situation with this young man. It is the least I can do, as I am in debt that I cannot repay to he and his wife. I wrote a poem concerning my greatest fear for any Soldier experiencing what this Soldier and his family has, and I have a message for him, and any Soldier with any difficulty that threatens to overcome them. You aren't the first and you won't be the last to be treated in this manner by individuals in the Army, but, those individuals are just "employed" by the Army, they do not "belong" to that honorable organization. By the hundreds of thousands
, the true band of brothers stands beside you, and by the hundreds of millions, Americans stand beside you. Hoo-ah, for all that is honorable about the United States Army and those who proudly serve, and those of their families, who proudly and confidently stand behind them! This poem is dark intentionally, God help the man or woman who ever contributed to all the Soldiers depicted in these words, and their numbers are staggering!


After the attack, I joined with the brave who heard the call,

To protect our country from an enemy determined to cause it to fall.

This duty my mind and heart, could completely understand.

Then with my brothers and sisters, I went to a foreign soil.

Together we followed every order, and endured each mission, as on we toiled.

The need for this work I still understand.

I came home, and visions returned of things no man should ever hold in sight.

Always now I must be vigilant and watch for a means of flight.

These things are very difficult for me to understand.

Sometimes my mind begins to falter, and I feel cold fear rise.

I am now someone my family and friends do not recognize.

Of this I have no ability to understand.

Finally, in shame and despair, I went to my commander.

Grasping for words to make this man hear, I could only stammer.

I longed for him to understand.

The expression and tone of the words I received in return,

Have dealt wounds and pain that cause my very soul to burn.

All efforts have failed to cause him to understand.

Since this confession, I know, though long I stood strong,

To my beloved band of brothers I will never again belong.

I have slowly and painfully come to understand.

Tonight in the solitude of this lonely room, I’ll make my last stand.

Summon courage and my life lay down, by my own hand.

For no longer do I have the desire to understand.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Command Climate or Charm School for Donkeys

The day before Colonel LeCompte went back to Iraq a neighbor dropped by and asked if we would like to have a donkey. It seemed that the donkey was kicking and seriously injuring his cows, at least that was his theory. In Texas ranchers frequently keep donkeys in with cattle, sheep, etc., because donkeys will protect them from coyotes and other predators, and that was why the rancher had come to own the donkey. So we followed him over to his pasture to take a look at the donkey, as such offers always intrigue Colonel LeCompte. When we got there the little donkey immediately knew something was up and took off across the pasture. She was a cute little paint donkey, and obviously spunky. I said, "I don't know Sir..."  My husband said, "she's cute and spunky, that's exactly how I picked you."   Now, what woman can resist an argument like that? As we talked further with the neighbor he pointed out two calves that were down and not doing so well after being kicked, and pointed out a full grown cow who he discovered, as we drove up, that according to his theory, had died after being kicked and having a rib broke which punctured the cow's lung. The rancher told us he had the vet out to make sure the cows were not ill, and after examination of the three animals, the vet had pronounced that all of them had "blunt trauma injuries." All during this discussion the donkey was running around the pasture kicking, pardon the pun, "like a mule," with no target other than the air. She was indeed a "spunky donkey" with some bad habits and an attitude.  She tossed her head raised her tail and trotted around us way out of reach. The neighbor told us that he was going to give her "lead poisoning" if we didn't take her. I saw a lightning quick flash in Randy's eyes and I knew we now owned a cute, spunky, little paint donkey. Colonel LeCompte pronounced we wanted the donkey. Colonel LeCompte believes that every Soldier should be given the necessary instruction, training, encouragement, mentoring, leadership, and discipline to achieve "all they can be." He believes the same of animals.

We have four female horses, plus two female miniature horses.... it is like living with a squad of eighth grade cheerleaders. Obviously they aren't yet "all they can be," but it requires time, patience, discipline and diligent effort. You can't imagine the amount of jealousy, manipulating, and orneriness that still goes on in that pasture. There is a bit of hazing as well. In other words, poor little donkey, she was in for a "schooling," and there was going to be a bit of trouble at the "OK Corral." It would require leadership and direction to keep everyone from losing the ground gained thus far
when the little way-ward donkey joined the group. After a great deal of effort and a display of intelligent strategy capability on the donkey's part, she was loaded in the back of the trailer,

I reminded Colonel LeCompte on the drive home with the donkey in the trailer in back, that remarks like the one about "cute and spunky" made toward anyone but the donkey constituted running with scissors. When we arrived home and backed the trailer to the pasture gate, everyone of the "girls" perked up with curiosity immediately and began circling
the pasture in a most haughty way. Trotting, shaking their manes, and breaking into a full gallop periodically, the analogy of the eight grade cheerleader squad took vision in my mind once again. Colonel LeCompte just laughed and got out of the truck to let the donkey out in the pasture. He opened the trailer and she confidently trotted into the pasture. That was the last confident thing I saw her do for about a week. The "girls" ran up to her as a group, or if you will, as a herd, an even better description would be like the angry mob that beheaded Marie Antoinette.  They were all charging at her as fast as they could run.  She stood frozen for a minute, and then, being the intelligent animal she is, headed for the hills... trouble is, we don't have any hills.

Two of our horses are official "rescued mustangs." Mustang Sally as we dubbed the larger horse has abnormally short ears, they had severe frost bite at some point, and their tips fell off. Hillary, the other rescue is sort of short and chubby, and has fat ankles, but she is an excellent ride and has a beautiful mane and tail. We acquired these horses, when we moved to our place, from the family we bought it from. The family didn't have a place to keep the horses when they moved, so they were "thrown in" as part of the deal for the house. They would not even allow you to touch them. The other two horses I bought from a horse trader when we found out we were moving to Sealy. Once I had asked Colonel LeCompte one of my probing and strange questions, "what, as a kid, did you most want for Christmas that you never got as a child?" He had responded, a horse. He told me I was crazy for buying two horses when we didn't even have a place to live yet. I am a person of faith I told him.  He worried about the horses, which we being held by the horse trader until we found a place. He still talks about how reckless that was, and how much he loves the horses.

I paid $400 for Three Chicks Native, a registered quarter horse, chestnut in color and with blood lines going back to Red Rocket. She is a prize. Once in a Blue Moon is a blue roan I paid $600 for, and when these two horses joined the pasture, Mustang Sally ruled the squad, but that didn't last long. When the horses were fed, Sally served herself from the first p
ortion and by the time all four had been "served," she was through and moving down the line to the next horses' feed. That was before Randy deployed, and this unfair bully practice was quickly extinguished by his standing with the horses with a long green horse whip which he whirled over the top of his head each time Sally gulped her feed and headed for Blue's or Chick's feed. She spared Hillary till last because they had first inhabited the pasture together, evidently loyalty counts. However, with Randy standing by the fence, she quickly developed manners. Soon, with this training, he could leave them after putting out the feed. However, if he were out of town for 3 or 4 days with work, the old habits would return, and his attention and discipline would again be required.

In fact, in all areas of conditioning of the horses, if even one of them is allowed to be a renegade, it spreads. When Sally went after the others feed, Blue would go after Chick's feed. In fact all the horses would pick on Chick. During one of Randy's absences, one of the horses ran Chick through a fence, leaving a horrible wound I worried she would never survive. I had to nurse her in a separate stall for several months once the vet released her from his care in the "horse hospital." This incident happened after dark, and even though I was outside working in the yard at first I did not notice the wounded horse until I heard her whinny had an urgent and constant call to me. She had always been a "mama's girl," and by the time she recovered, she really was. She and
Hillary are not as prone to attempting to dominate the other horses as are Sally and Blue, it is just not in their nature. This power play will go on just as long as it is tolerated, and with its' tolerance, the behavior is adopted by the other two horses. They take turns trying to chase, kick, and bite one another, all bad habits in horses which lead to their uselessness as riding horses. Just like with Soldiers, tolerating the breakdown of discipline, bad habits, and bullying leads to worthless horses, prone to getting in trouble, and making unwise decisions.

So when the horses began chasing Donkey, as she had by then been christened after the character in Shrek, I began shouting commands to the running horses. Usually, because of it being established that I am at the top of the chain of command, and the person who controls the feed bucket, my commands are heeded, but not this day. So, as this ancient herding behavior surfaced as it does in the wild, where your ears can freeze off, for the good and usefulness of the unit, I had to regain control, and once again establ
ish the boundaries of order and discipline. 

It hasn't been easy. Blue has long since coming to the pasture established that she is the rightful head honcho of the pasture. She has given Donkey a terrible time, requiring that she be sent to the time out pen. She has chased Donkey biting her, and kept her from her feed unless I stand right there, even though she is on the other side of the tack barn and separated from the others for feeding. Yesterday I caught Blue chasing Donkey down, biting a huge 8-10 inch hunk of hair off her rear and spitting it on the ground, still having a wad of hair in her mouth and just having to eat it, because she couldn't get the hair out of her mouth. I reported this to Colonel LeCompte by email and complained of it being cold, he emailed me back saying, "But there at the ranch…you can just stay inside, look out the window, and watch Donkey get her ass chewed." Sometimes Colonel LeCompte needs to be told, just keep your day job, you are never going to make it as an advice columnist.

This leads to the other horses, even the miniature horses who are in an entire different area, sepa
rated by a gate, running toward Donkey and turning to try and kick her, and of course she would make short work of them were they actually in the same area. Now this is really out of character for these usually "lap puppy" little horses, but evidently, monkey see, monkey do. 

Donkey has not had the time to position herself even one time to kick anyone, she has been ostracized to one area of the pasture, and just for good measure Blue periodically runs at her. You can watch Donkey try to turn, set, and kick, but again she is intelligent and accurately determines she isn't going to get to kick anybody before Blue runs her down unless she gives up the kicking plan and heads for the hills.   As I mentioned, we don't have any hills.

I have been working diligently to "harness train" both of the minnies for use with the Easy Access carts made by Buggy Bob, in order that Soldiers with more restrictive injuries can have an independent interaction with "travel by horse." 

So this breech of appropriate behavior can not be tolerated, hence I have been in the pasture an extra amount of time this week. I am happy to report that Donkey is a kinder, gentler, and more humble Donkey. In fact, this little animal is in actuality, very loving, and she has learned that I am her savior when she is being persecuted. She has bonded firmly with me in gratitude, and now demonstrates such a loving and gentle nature, and I can see her possibilities. When I was doing a repair job to the stall area today, she would not leave me alone so I could get it done. Instead she would gently nose me wanting to be petted as often as I would allow it. Perhaps I have misjudged Blue's behavior, and rather than bullying, she has just been acting as any good NCO would.... What do you think?