Because we were late making our decision to go to the ACU Lectures, on the return flight from Abilene, Wayne and I were not seated together. The plane was a small jet with a row of single seats on one side and a row of double seats on the other. Wayne was seated in the first single seat inside the door. I was seated in the first isle seat in the double row behind the bulkhead.
I saw the red-vested Rottweiler-mix service dog come through the door. At the end of his leash walked a dark-haired woman who looked to be in her thirties. She stopped at my row and said, “It looks like I’m going to be your seat mate.” I stood up and she slipped into the window seat. When she was seated with her service dog at our feet, she stuck out her hand and introduced herself as “Chris,” but it was longer than that and her last name sounded Italian, which it was. I told her my name and she asked the question”: What did I do for a living?” I dread that question. I told her, as well as why I had been in Abilene. She said she was a retired Marine and a Catholic. I told her that Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson had been one of the ACU lecturers. We talked a little about the new Pope and I asked how long she had been in the Marines. She said eight years. I asked if she had been in a war zone and she said no. I was curious, but wanting to respect her privacy. Here was a former Marine with a service dog, who had no visible injuries and had not been in a battle zone.
I told her I liked dogs and asked if I could pet him. She said yes and that she wanted people to pet him because it meant they looked at him first instead of her. I wondered what had caused her to need him. I asked his name and she said it was something that made me think he was a pureblood, which I knew he wasn’t. She told me he was named after a friend who had been killed in Afghanistan. But she called him “G-Man” for short, as well as “Buddy.”
The rest of this story is spread over about three hours, some in the terminal, due to a computer problem, and then again on the plane. The events that follow may not be in chronological order, but during the time in the terminal, she, Wayne and I exchanged pleasantries about our families and lives.
She was returning to Boston where she had grown up. She could play nine musical instruments and especially loved the drums. Her father had told her not to learn another one because she might become mediocre. So I assumed she was a person who tried to perfect anything she did. She had been the vocalist in a sixties classical rock band. She asked if I recognized the name of someone. I told her I didn’t. She said he was one of the guitarist’s who tried out for their band and went on to play, I think she said, for Arrowsmith.
It also turned out she was older than she looked, being the mother of two children, one foster child and two grandchildren. She was also divorced.
Her father had been, for a certain part of her life, a stay-at-home dad for her and her brother and sister. He later opened a construction business where he taught her building as well as auto mechanics. One of her first jobs was at a full-service gas station. She said her parents had brought them up to be of service to others. Her brother had trained to work with, I think she said, those afflicted with Aspergers syndrom. Her sister worked for a shoe company and modeled the shoes on QVC.
Since she was so close to her father, and because he had been a Marine, at some point she decided to join up. Her first job was a mechanic, then a door gunner on a “Huey.” Then, for most of her eight-year tour, she was part of a search-and-rescue team stationed in Arizona. I’m not sure why, but for the last several years she had lived in Abilene. She returned to Boston every two years for a visit.
After a time I felt I could carefully ask the question that was on my mind. I asked about G-Man. She said his primary purpose was to warn her about someone approaching from behind. I told her if she didn’t want to talk about it I would understand, but I asked what had happened? She said she suffered from PTSD. She said Marines do civilian search and rescue in the states. It was the ones they could not save and the smell of burning flesh that finally caused her to collapse emotionally. The result was polymyalgia and crippling rheumatoid arthritis, which I understand happens when the autoimmune system is damaged by stress. She told me that she had spent years in a wheelchair and that just three weeks earlier she had been walking with two of those canes that come up on your arms for support. She indicated that her illness and therapy had been the thing that had taken the toll on her marriage. She said since she was Catholic she did not believe in divorce, but he was not, so she didn’t stop him. She was happy for him, and heard he had married a nice woman.
As we prepared to leave for Dallas/Fort Worth, she told me this was the first time G-Man had flown with her. All the other times he had traveled in the baggage compartment. It seems it takes time to certify a service dog for actual in-cabin flight. Since other passengers who could make their connection at DFW had been placed on another flight, I told her I would move so G-Man could sit in my seat. She said she didn’t want him to get use to sitting on furniture. He did great.
As we talked, I told her if I could change what had happened, I would. She said she wouldn’t let me. She said as a Marine, she was the strongest, fastest woman in her unit. Now she was learning a new way to serve. She was returning to Boston to live. There she would get an apartment, live off of her disability funds, and was to become a volunteer manager at newly opened Pets for Vets organization. Much like other such organizations, Pets for Vets trains and places rescued animals with veterans who suffer from PTSD. She added that her parents had not seen her walk unaided in eight years and she was going to surprise them by walking through their door.
CONCERNS: Susan and Wayne Phlegar have been dealing with pain issues. Betty Branch is now at RMCH undergoing therapy. Alisa Flora’s brother, Mike Brown suffered a detached retina while visiting in California. He remains there after having surgery. Mary Smith’s improvement is slow. Erma Williams dad is now at home. Remember Rich Crite’s sister; Gary Overstreet, Leena Bolin’s brother Nick; Hannah, a classmate of Garrett Lee Williams has leukemia. Gil Richardson (muscular dystrophy). Those recovering from or dealing with cancer are: Rich Crites, Jim Hunter, Deana McRoy, Stephanie Rigney, Marge Greenwood, Regan, the boy with brain cancer. Regan’s grandfather is recovering at RM rrom a car accident. Sharon, a friend of Del Bolin, Connie Crites’ brothers, one with cancer and the other recovering well after heart surgery. Also Jenni Cullum, Alma Martin, Ron Matney and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 21-26
Monday: Genesis 15:1-21
Tuesday: Psalm 2:1-11
Wednesday: Mark 5:1-20
Thursday: Hebrews 9:6-14
Friday: I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Saturday: Psalm 130:1-8
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 28-NOV.2
Monday: Genesis 2:15-3:7
Tuesday: Exodus 4:1-17
Wednesday: Hebrews 11:1-18
Thursday: Ephesians 4:17-32
Friday: II Corinthians 4:7-18
Saturday: Psalm 47:1-9
PEAKS OF OTTER HIKE AND PICNIC
Today (Oct. 20) is the annual Peaks of Otter Hike and Picnic. The park is open and we will be eating about 5:00 PM at the picnic area. If you are riding the bus up, try to get there as early as possible because it may be crowded. Also; we will need someone to help get all the food, drinks and cooking supplies to the park. Erma Williams will not be able to be there again this year, so please help out with firewood, and a propane tank for the stove.
SUPER SUNDAY This is also Super Sunday. That means you can eat every meal away from home today. Stay and enjoy the fellowship.
Keith and Jo Wagner will be taking about ten days of their vacation this month and a few days in November. They will be gone from October 24 through November 3. Keith will be in the office on Monday, November 4. This means the first bulletin for November will not be printed. However, since it contains the service roster for that month, Keith will be sent to those on the members e-mail list as soon as possible. Those speaking for Keith while he is away will be announced.
Thanks to Keith and Holly Wagner, with help from Roger Fisher for repairing the ceiling inside the downstairs entrance.
You may have noticed that a rather large locust tree has fallen in the annex yard. We hope to have a Saturday in early November when we can not only cut it up, but also rent a log splitter and prepare it and the other wood we have for the annex fireplace. If you have a truck with a trailer hitch on it, we will need you if you can help.
FOR THE TROOPS
We had a good start but now have dropped off some in helping the Troops who are closing out the war in Afghanistan. The list of needs is on the foyer table. Added to that should be coffee, creamer, and sugar, both natural and artificial. Here’s the list so you can have it handy. The above plus Mixed cereal (small assorted) granola bars, breakfast bars, pop tarts, instant grits, instant oatmeal and Little Debby’s, no chocolate.