Urbin Report

Friday, May 16, 2003

Found on Ringo's Tavern, part of the Baen Books website

It could have been any night of the week, as I sat in one of those loud
and casual steak houses that are cropping up all over the country. You
know the type- a bucket of peanuts on the table, shells littering the
floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing around with longneck
beers and sizzling platters.

Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my
glass. I let my gaze linger on a few of the tables next to me, where
several uniformed military members were enjoying their meals. Smiling
sadly, I glanced across my booth to the empty seat where my husband
usually sat. Had it had only been a few weeks since we had sat at this
very table talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East? He
made me promise to come back to this restaurant once a month, sit in our
booth, and treat myself to a nice dinner. He told me that he would
treasure the thought of me there eating a steak and thinking about him
until he came home. I fingered the little flag pin I wear on my jacket
and wondered where at that moment he was. Was he safe and warm? Was his
cold any better? Were any of my letters getting to him? As I pondered
all of these things, shrill feminine voices from the next booth broke
into my thoughts.

"I don't know what Bush is thinking invading Iraq. Didn't he learn
anything from his father's mistakes? He is an idiot anyway, I can't
believe he is even in office. You know he stole the election."

I cut into my steak and tried not to listen as they began an endless
tirade of running down our president. I thought about the last night I
was with my husband as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned from
getting his smallpox and anthrax shots and the image of him standing in
our kitchen packing his gas mask still gave me chills.

Once again their voices invaded my thoughts.

"It is all about oil, you know. Our military will go in and rape and
pillage and steal all the oil they can in the name of freedom. I wonder
how many innocent lives our soldiers will take without a thought? It is
just pure greed."

My chest tightened and I stared at my wedding ring. I could picture how
handsome my husband was in his mess dress the day he slipped it on my
finger. I wondered what he was wearing at that moment. He probably had
on his desert uniform, affectionately dubbed coffee stains, over the top
of which he wore a heavy bulletproof vest.

"We should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding any
weapons. I think it is all a ploy to increase the president's popularity
and pad the budget of our military at the expense of social security and
education. We are just asking for another 9-11 an d I can't say when it
happens again that we didn't deserve it."

Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering
outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and
women who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? I glimpsed
at the tables around me and saw the faces of some of those courageous
men, looking sad as they listened to the ladies talk.

"Well I for one, think it is a travesty to invade Iraq and I am
certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train the professional baby
killers we call a military."

Professional baby killers? As I thought about what a wonderful father
my husband is and wondered how long it would be before he was able to
see his children again, indignation rose up within me. Normally
reserved, pride in my husband gave me a boldness I had never known.
Tonight, one voice would cry out on behalf of the military. One shy
woman would d stand and let her pride in our troops be known. I made my
way to their table, placed my palms flat on it and lowered myself to be
eye level with them. Smiling I said, "I couldn't help overhearing your
conversation. I am sitting over here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. Do
you know why I am alone? Because my husband, whom I love dearly, is
halfway across the world defending your right to say rotten things about
him. You have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of
my business, but what you say in my hearing is and I will not sit by and
listen to you run down my country, my president, my husband, and all
these other fine men and women in here who put their lives on the line
to give you the freedom to complain. Freedom is expensive ladies, don't
let your actions cheapen it."

I must have been louder than I meant to be, because about that time the
manager came over and asked if everything was all right. " Yes thank
you." I replied and then turned back to the ladies, "Enjoy the rest of
your meal."

To my surprise, as I sat down to finish my steak, a round of applause
broke out in the restaurant. Not long after the ladies picked up their
check and scurried away, the manager brought me a huge helping of apple
cobbler and ice cream, compliments of the table to my left. He told me
that the ladies had tried to pay for my dinner, but someone had beaten
them to it. When I asked who he said the couple had already left, but
that the man had mentioned he was a WWII vet and wanted to take care of
the wife of one of our boys.

I turned to thank the soldiers for the cobbler, but they wouldn't hear
a word of it, retorting, "Thank you, you said what we wanted to say but
weren't allowed."

As I drove home that night, for the first time in while, I didn't feel
quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of all the pat rons
who had stopped by my table to tell me they too were proud of my husband
and that he would be in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly a
little higher the next day. Perhaps they would look for tangible ways to
show their pride in our country and our troops, and maybe, just maybe,
the two ladies sitting at that table next to me would pause for a minute
to appreciate all the freedom this great country offers and what it
costs to maintain. As for me, I had learned that one voice can make a
difference. Maybe the next time protestors gather outside the gates of
the base where I live, I will proudly stand across the street with a
sign of my own. A sign that says "Thank you!"

Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. She is a
California native currently living in Alabama.