The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

When You're Running Down My Country Hoss!

Last week, I was working in Westville, Oklahoma when a train past me by. It was a long train with many cars. Every car was loaded with military equipment destined for the Middle East. Everything was tan except for a few transporters emblazoned with a Red Cross sign. I just stood there and watched this train roar on by. I began to think of all the tanks and Hummers. I wondered how many bullets they would fire. When I saw the Red Cross vehicles, all I could wonder was how many bodies they would pick up. How many people would survive that ride back.

It made the war in Iraq all of a sudden seem very real.

Now, no one would ever describe me as patriotic. I love America, but I don't go around wearing American flag pants like my father. (Well there was that one time, but it was just for a picture.)

But when I saw those military vehicles all painted tan, I wanted to sing the Star Spangled Banner for some reason. I wanted a bald eagle to swoop down and land on the large muzzle of the tank. I wanted Toby Keith to sing about putting boots in people's asses.

The train past on by eventually, it must have been almost a mile long, and I got back to work.

Later on that day, I got an instant message from one of my former students back in Rhode Island. His name is Brandon, and he is on his way to Iraq right now.

Brandon was my project kid. I will never forget my first day at work, he started freaking out and had to be restrained. He looked right up at me and spat in my face.

Brandon had to be restrained a lot it seemed like. He was always upset about something. He was always yelling at someone. He never want to do anything. He used to cuss in the long and elaborate ways. Like he had Tourette's Syndrome. He would look at me and tell me how much he didn't believe in God and how I was a sucker for believing in God.

But he was my project, I don't know why. I think probably because no one else would even talk to him.

Most of the time when we were hiking, I would hang back with him and talk with him. I almost got him to quit cussing. I told him that he didn't, so therefore he could not use any cuss word associated with God. That limited his vocabulary a lot.

After a while, I finally got through to him, or at least I think I did.

One day, I had to take him to a doctor's appointment at the lovely Pawtuxet Valley Clinic. He had problems with his hips, no one ever believe the amount of pain that he had with every step he took. So, after the appointment, I took him to Wendy's. We got Frosties and French Fries. We talked a lot that day about how he could get out of the program and back home. We talked about his future a lot too. I told him about how much progress he had since my first day when he spat on me. He honestly was in so much of a rage that he didn't know he had done it.

So as we walked back to find our group, he stopped and said, "I'm sorry that I spit on you."

It was the first time that he had apologized to anyone. It was the beginning of his turning point.

Now Brandon is in the Army. He just finished a stint in Korea and now he is heading to Iraq.

I am really proud of Brandon. I am proud that he finally grew up. I am proud that he is serving his country. I am proud that he is being strong. I am proud that he is thinking about his future. I am proud that he isn't mixed up on drugs or found dead on the streets of Pawtucket like some of my other former students.

I will pay more attention to the news now. For the past few months, I hear something about Iraq and it never really connects. But now I have a face to see out in all that sand.

I just hope and pray for two things: Not to pick up the paper one day to find a name that I recognize and to get an Instant Message from SPC Pfuhl soon.


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