I was privileged to know and to serve Major General Jim Wright, the 45th Quartermaster General, known to those who loved him as "Chickenman". I never heard him speak but that he ended his inspiring messages with a quote from General Creighton Abrams.
General Abrams said "What this country needs, it cannot buy. It needs dedicated soldiers who see service to their country as an affair of the heart."
Today I spoke with CPT Patti. The occasion of that phone call was this: she was seeking my approval of her desire to extend her tour as commander of her company by about two months so that she is the Company Commander who brings her company home from Iraq, just as she took her company to Iraq.
She initially expressed this to me via e-mail. I replied, asking her to phone, because I wanted to discuss it verbally rather than by the occasional email.
I think you can appreciate my thoughts. Selfishly, I do not want to be apart from my wife for any longer than is required by the Army.
I asked her to tell me why she wants to extend.
"I brought these soldiers here. If I could leave here today, I wouldn't. I cannot turn over MY soldiers to some "inexperienced officer" who will "make mistakes" while he is learning to command. "I need to bring them home".
I thought of the company First Sergeant. Back before they knew they would be going to Iraq, the 1SG extended his tour in Europe saying that he would serve in the company as long as CPT Patti did.
"Is the 1SG going to extend again, to match your tour?" I asked.
"Yes...he and I have discussed it and we want to give up command on the same day."
At that point I knew that this came from her heart.
May God have mercy on us. For I suppose I might have "forced" CPT Patti home contrary to her wishes. But I couldn't... she spoke from the heart.
Feeling just a bit like Satan in the wilderness I spoke to her of her opportunity to come home two months before the Brigade. How she could leave that major unit movement to someone else. How when she got home, she would be through. Nothing else to deal with. Shower for hours, sleep forever.
But she set aside the possibility of such luxury. "I must bring my soldiers home" she said.
And , of course, I gave her my blessing.
The conversation had passion. The conversation had tears.
But, I knew, she was the officer that MG Wright quoted Gen Abrams speaking of.
For her, you see, service to her soldiers is an affair of the heart.
May God protect you my darling. You have already given more than is your due.
And as we prepared to say goodbye on the phone, I heard a distortion.
"I have to go", she said, "there has just been an explosion".
You can imagine my concern...
It was this:
Friday, September 19, 2003
"AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART"