Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ultimate sacrifices and weeds

Army Specialist John G. Borbonus (above) was honored in Idaho Saturday when a larger-than-life bronze statue of the young soldier, age 19, was dedicated at Cascade, near Boise, during a ceremony I happened to see in an online video clip.
As the weekend moved into a new week, Iowa reporters scrambled with limited success to add personal detail to the life story of Rockford’s Jon T. Tumilson, among the U.S. Navy SEALs killed late last week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Borbonus was killed four years ago, during April of 2007, in Baghdad. When he spotted a truck filled with explosives driving toward his patrol base, he shot the driver --- preventing a larger disaster but dying himself in the explosion that followed. The statue, commissioned by friends of his family, stands at Kelly’s Whitewater Park, 15 minutes or so from his home.
Tumilson’s parents were on the East Cost Monday to meet the body of their son.
These are curious situations for those of us not tied closely to the dead; we’re not sure what to do or say. “Hero” is almost always used, so often as thousands have died in Iraq and Afghanistan that the word’s integrity is threatened. Those who did the dying probably would not be comfortable with the designation.
“Ultimate sacrifice for country” is phrase that’s closer, but demands personalization if it’s going to have any long-term meaning, as in “ultimate sacrifice for me.” That makes the death less abstract, harder to forget after the funeral’s over or the statue dedicated and we get back to fussing about whatever else it is that’s rattling around in our heads.
The ultimate tribute would be to start living and behaving in ways sufficiently honorable to show appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice, to live to an extent FOR those who no longer can, as they might hope that we would.
 I’m thinking of printing out the photo of Borbonus, or perhaps one of Tumilson if it becomes available, and putting it somewhere that I’ll see it often enough to serve as a reminder.
And the stock markets tanked again on Monday, affected in part at least by a U.S. credit downgrade tied to national debt and a shaky economy.
Some days, I wish I knew more about the market; other days, I’m grateful I don’t.
In somewhat antiquated farm-boy terms, I think of the henhouse in situations like this. Open the door and step in to gather eggs, no matter how often it’s done and how clearly the situation is understood, and the old ladies erupt in a mad frenzy of feathers, dust and crazed squawking. Never fails.
Maybe it is just all us chickens after all, no matter how advanced we fancy we’ve become.
Toward the end of a noon meeting yesterday, Jill said “let’s go pull weeds.” We had talked about pulling weeds a couple of other times, including a meeting in the same location on Friday --- but hadn’t.
The weeds had erupted in sidewalk cracks and along the curb south of the derelict Charitone Hotel which anchors the northeast corner of square, sadly now. The weeds were really bad. Added to the boarded up windows of the vacant building, the vegetation --- in a couple of instances knee high --- created the effect of a town some years after a nuclear holocaust had wiped out its human population.
A lot of folks had complained about those weeds, suggesting that “someone” should do something.
So three of us did --- Jill, Denny and me. It took about half an hour. Denny got his truck, swept the sidewalk, loaded up the weeds and hauled them away.
It looks better. Pulling weeds, sometimes, is the logical place to begin.

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