As described in the Willie Nelson song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, I’ve had “things” for all-things ranching since an early age.
While other girls were playing with Barbies and wearing tutus, I spent my time tending a Breyer horse herd and clambering around in fringed cowboy boots. There was always only one thing I wanted to grow up to be: a cowgirl. Not a poufy hair rodeo queen cowgirl (I ended up doing that briefly, due to my need for scholarships), but a real-life, cowpoke with land, cattle, and horses to her name.
Hence, one of the first places I’d longed to see since we received orders to move to Kansas was the legendary Wild West town of Dodge City.
Sixteen years. That’s how long it’s been since the terrorist attacks of September 11th that set into motion the cascade of events now known as the Great Recession and Global War on Terror.
Both my husband and I woke up early. While the morning looks like just like the start of any other brilliant day, it’s far from it. We talked about how things would have been different if 9-11 hadn’t happened – our friends that would still be alive, the careers that would have manifested, the wounds of war that we wouldn’t have to live with day in and day out.
I go for a run. I run whenever the realities of life after war cloud my mind. Closed casket military funerals. Jam packed VA Hospital waiting rooms. 87 percent divorce rates for OEF/OIF combat officers. Suicide after suicide after suicide. Veteran caregiver groups filled with sobbing spouses who are literally at their wit’s end.
I run another mile. We’d have a house full of kids by now if it wasn’t for the war. He’d be coming up on a promotion if it hadn’t been for those damn IEDs. I’d never have to sit through another VA suicide prevention class. Our lives as a peacetime military family would have been almost-normal by civilian standards.