From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Have Set My Face Like a Flint, Second Half of the Introduction

"I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible." John Steinbeck,  East of Eden. 

Her husband had achieved the rank of colonel when he was selected to command the 2nd Brigade.  His being educated at West Point, and the Army War College, was not the only reason she had known she would always be second place in his life when she had married him, just a few months before.  It was not only that his formal education had been in these bastions of military tradition and the teaching of the art and science of war.  It was his childhood, or rather, lack of childhood and parenting, that fostered his love and loyalty to the Army.  Where his biological parents had failed in every way to meet the needs of his first years, he found stability and structure in the Army.  Beginning with first The Boy Scouts, and then JROTC in high school, he had found strong men of deep character to mentor him, and had developed direction for his life.  

The appointment to The Academy had offered him the chance of a destiny beyond the emotional and physical deficiencies and need he had known growing up in Louisiana.  Even more than that, his education had provided him with identity and purpose in his life.  He owed, in his mind, the United States Army, in the way that a son owed his parents.   As he served, he had found in the Army the only security and reliability that did not fail him as two previous marriages, along with the neglected and abused childhood had.  Today, that relationship had revealed itself as fallible as all the others of his life had been, and a wound much like that of seeing for the first time weakness in a beloved parent, struck him.  However, being the man he was, the shell shock of the day’s events would only last momentarily.  The survival techniques, he had first learned as he hid in the closet of the war zone of his childhood home, and which the Army had hew to professional levels, would rise up in him, and in his mind a defense plan would be formulated.

That would not happen in the car as they drove to the hotel, because being the man of honor and dedication he was, his first reaction was to ruthlessly self examine.   He assumed his superior to be the leader that a two star general  should be, and he would continue for several months to steadfastly believe him to be.  As he detailed to his wife the hour and a half long tirade leveled at him by MG Tim Harold, her mind turned over each sentence as he spoke it.  At first, she assumed that her husband’s take on the whole dressing down, had to be correct, because he was the one with twenty five years of dedicated service.  After he had continued to relate his belief that he had obviously failed horribly in leadership for several minutes, as evidenced by the general’s words, her mind began whispering, “wait a minute here.”   This made no sense to her, she thought, “I was at every Battle Assembly for the last year, I know the atmosphere, and I know from the Soldiers themselves, too much of their very positive thoughts.”  How could these reports have been collected from that group of Soldiers?

While her FRG office was far down the hall, and she seldom had time to leave
t, Soldiers often drifted in and out on business, or just to chat.  The unit had not experienced an individual dedicated to this volunteer position, which she had assumed, and they seemed sincerely to appreciate her efforts.  The position had proved full of duties that required not only every hour of the Battle Assembly weekends, but several additional hours every week.  Still even at the far end of the hall, absorbed in her own work, she had developed a strong sense of the “command climate” of the unit.  


Their relationship had developed rapidly.  He had found in her a truly listening ear, and his basic trusting nature, which had left him vulnerable so many times in life, had at last found a citadel for his most guarded and tightly held thoughts.  He had spent many hours in their expression to her.  Beyond that, she had the benefit of the “pillow talk” of the man she so admired.  His personal concern for each member of his unit, and for Soldiers serving everywhere, were often his last words of the evening to her before those three that she held sweetest, as he drifted into the deep sleep of one possessed of a guiltless conscious.

At times, it was hard for her to know in her mind whether she loved him more, or admired him more.  Certainly, as she listened, it became more and more obvious that something about this entire incident was not quite right.  Also, events of the previous few months began to knit themselves together in the background of her sub-conscious.  She stopped him mid-sentence and told him so, and his eyes, which she had always found to appear so deeply searching when he looked at her, moved quickly back and forth.  As he intently stared at her, she knew his mind searched hers for the hope of validity in her assertion.   In this action, she found yet again deep admiration for this confident, highly intelligent, and accomplished man, who so faithfully served, that he would consider that the allegations leveled at him might contain merit.  As admiration swept over her, in equal measure love surged in her heart, and the two emotions struggled for their balanced places in her mind.  Perhaps she did admire him even more than she loved him, her heart answered quickly; she loved him more.