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East Virginia

 

J. D. Pendry

 

My bride and I took a short trip a couple of weekends back.We visited some friends over in East Virginia.In case your wondering, East Virginia begins right where Wild Wonderful ends.Many East Virginians believe they are smarter than the rest of us.Maybe they are.The friends we visited donít feel that way, but Iím convinced that theyíre only there because theyíre hostages.They point out the advantages of living in East Virginia to me whenever I visit.For example, they proudly point out to me that their town house with its thumbnail-sized ďprivateĒ back yard only cost them $250,000.Or their house with a whole yard only cost $350,000.I submit to them that East Virginians must be smarter because here in Wild Wonderful we couldnít sell the same house and property for more than about $110,000.In the part of East Virginia that the locals call Northern Virginia, the 4-wheel drives are Mercedes.Theyíll tailgate you on the Beltway, but never touch dirt or get mud on them.Itís kind of like, whatís the point?I thought about investigating some jobs there.Thankfully, Su hit me in the head with a stick of firewood and I got over it.

 

I could go on and on about the negative aspects of East Virginia.The interesting thing is that your average East Virginian could compile a long list of whatís wrong with us over here in Wild Wonderful.Because thatís what we humans do.We spend much time looking for the negative in others and in things and little time looking for the good.Try this experiment.Pick any topic you can think of, the neighboring state, a politician, your boss, a coworkerÖ.Now make a list of all of the negative or bad things you can think of about that topic.Now compile a list of the good things about your topic, those things for which you are glad.Which list was easiest to compile and which is the longest.If itís the positive one, good for you.If itís the negative, then welcome to the world of the average human.

 

Why do you reckon we do that?I was sitting on the back porch pondering that point when my neighborís stupid dog started barking and chasing the shadows across the yard whenever a cloud passed in front of the sun.Every time a stranger passes by, he runs out to the end of his chain and strangles himself mid bark.Youíd think that after awhile heíd learn the length of it.I guess being stupid is his job.He does it quite well too.I have this human need to convince myself that the dog is stupid.Doing that gives me a higher opinion of myself and of humans in general I suppose.

 

We can find plenty of things we donít like about our neighbors, other people and places.We can also compile a long list of the bad things that weíve personally experienced and review that list endlessly while we wallow in self pity and cry in our beers.Since it is the Thanksgiving holiday, the time of year that we should count our blessings, we need to stop and think of the good things for which we should be grateful.Sometimes, we need to kick back, pull out the scrapbooks and recall the good things that have happened to us.Review the rewards of our deeds and the good times shared with friends.Sometimes those life-long friendships are made in places and situations in which weíd rather not be.Instead of dwelling on the negative of where we were and what we were doing, it feels good sometimes to think of the great friendship that was born of it.A soldierís life is full of many negatives, but from all of those negatives come many good and positive things.

 

There are some things Iím thankful for at the half-century point in my life:

 

Iím thankful for my family that was and is always there.Even when Iím being a disagreeable and cantankerous first sergeant, drill sergeant or now retiree.Iím thankful for a father whose example provided me with deep-seeded values which pulled me from the hippie drug culture of the 70ís and sent me to an Army recruiter.For a mother who was thrilled when I called her from Germany on Motherís Day 1989.It was our last conversation in this life.Iím thankful for siblings who are willing to lend a hand, or a boot depending on which is most needed.Iím thankful for a superstar Army wife who established too many households while I was out doing other stuff.She got up every morning that I was home for 28 years at the same time as me Ė still does.During Drill Sergeant School, she checked my uniform before I put it on for the morning in-ranks inspection Ė never once got a gig.She also raised our son, volunteered for everything, and took food to the troops on guard duty (even when it wasnít a holiday).She endured a bazillion middle of the night phone calls during our tour as a first sergeant and never complained.She is definitely household 6, and for that Iím thankful.Iím thankful for a great son who still makes me proud to this day, and for the addition of a great daughter-in law and yes, even the granddogs.For my family I give thanks.

 

I have another family Iím also grateful for and to.Itís the big olive drab one filled with life-long friends and mentors.Their names are too many to list, but here are a few of the blessings they provided to me.There was the First Sergeant that taught me very young what it meant to be a soldier and a NCO.The Sergeant Major who taught me how important it was to ensure that a soldierís family is cared for.The Command Sergeant Major who put his finger in my chest one day and his hand on my shoulder the next and taught me what it meant to be the senior enlisted leader of a unit.There are the countless soldiers who took my shaky ideas and made them look good.Many peers who had the courage to look me in the eye and tell me when I was headed down a mined trail.There is the mentor and coach who gave me just enough of a nudge when I needed it, a nudge that resulted in a published book.There is the friend who was and still is a constant reminder to me of the need to tend to my spiritual fitness as well as my physical fitness, and often combined the two.There are the friends whoíve endured personal tragedy, yet found ways to continue being great leadership examples.I have a much longer list of those Iím thankful to, have met and served with cataloged away in my memories, but I get a lump in my throat and turn a little sappy thinking of them so Iíll just move on.

 

As we chase terrorists around the world and the war hawks line us up to give Iraq an enema, there is another special group for which I want to give thanks.On Thanksgiving Day, my family and I will gather around the dinner table, warm, safe and secure. Many men and women of our armed forces will have their dinners with their brothers and sisters of arms in places much less safe.Itís because of you that my family is able to give our thanks in a peaceful, secure home.So, when we stand around the dinner table giving thanks, you will be at the top of the list of our blessings for which we are thankful.

 

For all of you and your families, wherever you are serving thank you for what you do for my family and me everyday.Have the best possible Thanksgiving Day!

 

Psalm 95:2.