Archive for April, 2012

Pulling on my son’s boots

MARY DUTY

Board of Contributors
Waco Tribune Herald

Saturday April 28, 2012

One Sunday two weeks ago I walked five miles. And it changed my life forever.

I walked those miles in a pair of combat boots that belonged to Caleb, our Marine son. They were too big for me, but with a rolled-up sock in the toe and new shoelaces, I could cinch them up real tight. Off I went.

About 40 people joined Granger Smith and his band in Austin to kick off his 100-mile walk to Fort Hood. Smith walks 100 full miles and ends with a concert at Fort Hood. This is the second annual Boot Campaign Walk to raise money and awareness about the needs of returning veterans. For those of you who don’t know him yet, Granger Smith is a Texas country singer and songwriter who has a real heart for veterans. He has made trips to Iraq to entertain the troops and has even played at the White House on the back lawn in an event to support our men and women in uniform. His voice is angelic, his music is beautiful and his heart is big.

Smith is headlining Caleb’s veterans benefit concert, Moonlight Music Festival. It will be at Meridian on Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27. You may remember the Moonlight Music Festival as the music event that almost did not happen. It was originally planned for a farm in Robinson but was moved to Meridian after local residents expressed concerns about crowds and noise. Bosque County and Meridian stepped up to the plate and invited Caleb to bring his dream to their neck of the woods.

Caleb’s Bosque County event is raising funds for local veterans charities including VFW Post 6008 and the Central Texas Veterans Coalition. These folks are dedicated to serving our returning veterans and keeping the promises that our country made as they went off to serve us. We thought it would be nice to support Granger in his fundraiser, so off we went.

In the Boot Campaign Walk, everyone wears combat boots. There were moms and dads, wives and friends. Caleb and two Marine buddies joined in. Men and women who represented corporate sponsors walked. Retired Navy SEAL and author Marcus Luttrell joined the group. The governor was even there. Rick Perry made every step of the first five miles with us.

Of course, I was walking in Caleb’s combat boots. So there was a connection that grew with each step on the grassy shoulder of the highway as we made our way. As I walked, I thought of the places that those boots had taken him. I remembered the videos of house raids and bursting into school rooms chasing snipers. I thought about Caleb and his friends as they patrolled the dusty banks of the Euphrates River. With each step, I felt more and more connected to him and ultimately to all the folks who lace up these boots every day to serve and protect us back home in America.

As the miles ticked by, pain in my feet began to intensify. It was not from the size of the boots so much as from the uncertainty of the path ahead. Again I was drawn to the realization these boots had been where I would never go. They had protected our son’s feet through chases down long dusty alleys and the back rooms of houses. These boots kept him warm during that cold winter when he spent Christmas Eve sleeping in a Humvee somewhere in the desert of the Al Anbar province. That winter Caleb often went days without getting out of those boots. Chasing the bad guys, he said.

And then I looked ahead. I saw Caleb and his buddies talking, smiling and jogging — comrades once again. But this time they were not after the bad guys.

This time they were walking and running for a new future. They were walking for the ones who cannot. They were walking for the ones who didn’t make it back. They were walking to make sure that we never forget the price that is paid by those who choose to lace up those boots every single morning and go out into an uncertain and hostile world.

I encourage you to get a pair of combat boots. Get ones that fit. Walk in them. You will never be the same. And I encourage you to attend Caleb’s Moonlight Music Festival in Meridian this Memorial Day weekend. By supporting young people such as Granger Smith, a musician with a heart for our troops, and Caleb Duty, a young former Marine with a vision for healing the mind, body and spirit of the warrior, you can join them all in their long walk home.

Mary Duty chairs the social studies department at Tennyson Middle School and co-owns Poppa Rollo Pizza. Her son served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines in 2006 and 2008.

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Mary Duty, Trib Board of Contributors: This news was well worth the wait!

By Mary Duty
Board of Contributors

Tuesday May 3, 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead? Could it be?

On Sept. 11, 2001, I had prepared a lesson on colonial America for my students. Instead, I taught about world religions and conflict and tolerance. Monday, I got to finish that lesson with a group of students who were in pre-school that day.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the day that our son Caleb decided to become a Marine. After four years of JROTC, he joined the military. All because of Osama bin Laden.

He is a combat veteran of two tours in Iraq. In this global war on terror he lost 15 friends to improvised explosive devices and sniper fire. He cleared buildings and chased insurgents from room to room in dark and forbidding houses. He endured those hot Iraqi summer days patrolling in temperatures that soared to 130 degrees. I wanted to be sure that he could see the final chapter of bin Laden’s story unfold. He earned it with his blood and his tears.

I could tell that Caleb was pleased. His Facebook post said it all: “It took 10 years, but we got him! Now if we could just find the WMDs. . . .”

A Marine buddy reminded him that they found them in the couch cushions. It’s good that, in the middle of such a momentous day, they could still find a bit of humor in it all.

His phone was ringing and text messages were coming in fast and furious. Buddies from his days in combat were calling to see if he had heard the news. We got him! We got him! Yes, we got him! All that sacrifice and work were worth it.

Flood of emotion

Sunday night I was swept away by a flood of emotion. Waves of gratitude and thankfulness came over me. And Monday I got to finish my lesson. We made comparisons to other world leaders. Hitler’s name came up. We looked at pictures of the party going on in Times Square on V-E Day. We compared those to the pictures of Sunday night. We looked at ground zero. We listened to the words of firefighters and policemen as they recalled that awful day.

Most of my students recognize that the death of Osama bin Laden marks a victory by the forces of good over evil. They know that for over 20 years this man has plotted and planned destruction and mayhem. He had been firmly in charge of the terror networks that operated out of Afghanistan. Sunday night that ended. The head of the snake has been removed.

The prayers of a grateful nation are lifted up tonight and in the days to come for all those who wear a uniform and for all those at home who stand behind them. All those who served have a part in this victory over the forces of evil and darkness.

The air we breathe today is sweeter. The sky is a prettier shade of blue. God bless all of you who lived for this day. You got him!

Mary Duty, a teacher at Tennyson Middle School, is president of the Blue Star Mothers of America’s Heart of Texas Chapter. Her son, Caleb, served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines in 2006 and 2008.