From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Thursday, January 26, 2012

One of the Giants is Retiring, Or Sometimes the Good Don't Die Young

 I received an email this morning from a Captain regarding the retirement of CSM (that stands for Command Sergeant Major, and a big deal for those of you who do not know that.)  Immediately I was engaged by the request for words of tribute for those of us who are too far away to attend this such a noteworthy occasion.  He and his wife,  Anita, (believe me when I say she and his children have served as well,)  are retiring from the United States Army after 35 years of faithful and honorable service.  I cannot tell you what each of them have meant to my life and that of my husband.  Leadership is the single greatest need of any entity, including the Army and this country.  So celebrate with me and mine the lives of two people lived so well, and in service to us all as I share what I sent as tribute to these two retiring heroes.  With such sincerity and emotion I say to them, "Thank You Both For Your Service, and Hoo-ah!"
The first day I met CSM Rick Wagner I had no idea yet, but it was to be one of the darkest hours of my life.  CSM Wagner, was at that point, already the consummate Command Sergeant Major, and being wise and experienced, as well as full of honor and integrity, he knew what Randy and I were facing.  He was above all, everything the Army strives to stand for when it comes to standing against any and all enemies of this country.  One of the most sinister and destructive of all our country's enemies is lack of moral courage and leadership.  There are literally millions of people in high and low places with authority over others in all endeavors and walks of life, some take that authority as a mandate to serve, and others as a license to rule.  There are fewer and fewer men and women who are willing to stand, no matter what it costs them personally, for all that is right and honorable.  Everyday I work with Soldiers and their Family Members who have broken under the weight of the burdens of war, or experienced the invisible wounds of the soul which those serving and those who love them can experience.  Without exception, part of what breaks or wounds them is leadership which has failed on some level, usually in the area of honor.  On that first day, as naive and inexperienced as I was in the reality that people in high places can be corrupt to the core, I first made the powerful realization that there is another side to that coin.  There are men and women so full of honor, so ready to stand in defense of all that is right, and to take the fight to the enemy, even when the enemy is within, that our country still is able to have hope, pride, and the prospects of the continuance as the greatest nation the world has ever known.

The single most endearing and admirable quality I observed that first day, and in the difficult and dark days to come, in CSM Wagner was the honor and moral courage with which this man served.  I know that quality has continued in him as he has continued to serve, along with his wife Anita.  After I met these two fine people, with whom I have laughed and cried, I have never forgotten them, nor have I ceased to wonder how they were doing, or stopped being grateful for all they personally did for me and my husband.

Since last I saw them I have experienced many situations regarding service in the military with both my husband and our other family members.  We have two son-in-laws who have or are serving with the Army, one who is still serving in Germany, and one who was blown off a reconnaissance vehicle, and then wounded by sniper fire as he lay on the ground, and can no longer serve.  A daughter served 8 years and after 911 was fearful that both she and her husband would be deployed at the same time leaving their two children without a parent at home, and she now serves in the civilian side.  We also have a son who has served as a contracted electrician in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and we know that those individuals stand in danger and serve in a roll that has a direct impact on peace the world over as well.  My own husband has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq for two consecutive years, retired with thirty years, and then returned to Iraq where he serves now with the Department of State.  There have been many dark hours since I first met CSM Wagner, and during those moments, I remember without fail, CSM Wagner and all I saw in him that day and in the days that were to follow.  Always it brings me comfort, help, and the assurance that there are those serving of his caliber and skills throughout our country's military.

My experiences as an "Army wife," have carved on my heart a new and urgent devotion to patriotism and the sacred duty that each American has as a personal obligation to our nation.  Those often repeated phrases, "freedom isn't free," and "home of the free, because of the brave," are etched on my heart even more deeply by the words and the actions of CSM Rick Wagner and his beautiful wife Anita. 

As the time rolled by while I was the "wife of a deployed Soldier," the memories from my childhood when my father, a WWII veteran, read poetry to me awoke in my soul words of poetry about this war and Soldiers, and the burdens of war were eased for me as poetry flooded out.  I would like to offer two of my poems to CSM Wagner and his wife on this occasion of the celebration of his retirement.   They portray words which I offer as tributes to  their lives of service and sacrifice, and emphasize just how costly war really is.   I offer them too to every Soldier and those who love Soldiers as a message concerning our nation's need for those who will leave home and family to stand the wall of freedom.  We must have men and women willing to meet this cost if we continue as the nation that Washington and his army first took up arms to give birth to.

Oh War, Oh War, How Sad To Say

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
You take our sons and daughters far away.
To subdue tyrants and those who rule,
With hearts so evil and ever cruel.

Oh War oh War, how sad to say,
Always there is a price to pay.
There born on shoulders bowed with care,
Comes the coffins of the young who dare.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
Many are the tears of mothers that fall on that day.
When their dear child is finally laid to rest,
In the soil of their country for which they gave their best.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
Too many are the children who cease to play.
Tears fall from little eyes which will never begin
To understand why they won’t see Mother or Father again.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
You take life’s one great love in your disarray.
No more in this life their cherished face to see,
The darkness of that hour bends the knee.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Stray bullets that wind and find whatever target they may,
While turning and winding, an innocent victim take,
And those deadly spheres leave two in their wake.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Hearts of the courageous break as those shells betray.
Memories must be carried by those who are brave,
Of necessary deeds which make their souls rave.

Oh War, Oh War how sad to say,
Sometimes the best return with wounds from the fray.
They leave strong when first they depart,
Then come home and a new life they must start.

Oh War, Oh War, how sad to say,
Always again the ruthless will follow the same way.
Once more the call will go out
For those who know what warmongers are about.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
The price of freedom is never stayed.
Pruning hooks and plows must be beat,
Into weapons your dread disease to defeat.

Oh War, oh War, how sad to say,
With words and pleadings greedy men will not be swayed.
Yet the promise will one day be made complete,
By One who to a cross was nailed by his hands and his feet.

Oh, War, Oh War, on that glad day,
The Son of God will come to lead the way.
The final victory He will take,
No more will sin sad hearts make.

Oh War, Oh War, you are going away,
Peace and happiness for all will come in your stay.
The lion and the lamb will together lie down,
And God’s praises we’ll shout, making a joyful sound.
By Debra LeCompte
June 2010

The next poem I dedicate to Anita Wagner, and I do so in honor of 
all the sacrifices she has made over the last thirty five years.


If there stood before me 1000 men,
Each of whose lives I had observed again and again.

If I had watched them closely at command,
Of Soldiers, equipment, and resources try to meet war’s great demands.

If I knew their lives, credentials, and previous work,
 How they handled things, and I were privy to each little quirk.

If the fate of personal liberty, the freedom of us all,
Hung in the balance, and without the right leadership would forever fall.
If there would be before us, only one chance,
                  To meet in battle some terrible foe, and the art of war to dance.

If by the wisdom and expertise of only one man,
The defenses of our country would fail or stand.

If you, my love, stood among those men in their rows,
The one whom no other I have ever loved so.

If somehow it were my duty the right decision to deliver,
My mind could easily make the choice, but my heart would quiver.

If I knew the man I chose would never come home,
Could I give what it cost, the most valuable thing I own?

If in my decision, would the moral courage by which I have watched you live,
Empower me to do the right thing, and the sacrifice to give.

If as I considered all that lay in the balance, to me you would clearly state,
What your own choice would be and how you would face your fate.

If, as I know would happen, I knew who stood above the rest.
Could I, in selfishness, select the one who was second best?

If there stood before me 1000 men,
This I pray before God, that I never will know how it ends

Debra LeCompte   January  2011

On this the occasion of CSM Wagner's retirement, I wish he and Anita all the goodness and blessings due their lives for all their faithful and true service, and offer my gratitude for all they have done for Randy and I.  So to each of you CSM Wagner and Anita, HOO-AH for a job more than well done!  May you enter into your reward and enjoy your retirement, always remembering that what it cost each of you made such a difference!  Please pass on to Anita these words and our best wishes, and ask her to email me so I may have her contact information.