A Tale for Memorial Day

Excerpted from: Po-Billy — An American Tale

Uncle Kooch

Every family has times during the year that are special.

It might be Christmas or Thanksgiving. For some it’s that moment when you step from one season to the next.

Especially if the next season on the calendar is your favorite time of the year.

For the Po-Billy family the step between summer and fall was that time of year — special.

In Tennessee the transition from summer to fall brings a sigh of relief, as the heat and humidity no longer overwhelm you every time you open the door and step outside.

Fall smells are everywhere.

Living in the country you can’t miss the smell of dirt and tractors as the crops are harvested and the fields plowed for fall.

The smell of tobacco curing and the sweet smell of corn as it moves through the grain dryers are things you have to experience for yourself to fully appreciate.

Trips to corn mazes, pumpkin patches and bonfires as often as possible are just a few of the fall events the family always looked forward to.

But the best part of fall they all agreed was the annual trip to see their dad’s family, in the northern country, just south of Lake superior.

The Po-Billy’s even enjoyed the daylong drive.

Depending on how many stops they made it took the family twelve to fifteen hours to travel the distance from middle Tennessee to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

One Christmas drive lasted almost twenty-four hours due to snowstorms but that’s another tale for another time.

Sandwiched between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan the Upper Peninsula or U.P. as it is commonly referred to, is as unique as the people who make their home there.

The Po-Billy’s dad grew up in the U.P. and most of his large family still lives in the area.

Since the state of Michigan, is split by a large barrier of water there has always been a distinction between those who live in the Upper Peninsula and those who live in Lower Michigan.

The residents of the U.P. are endearingly referred to as ‘Yoopers’ while those who reside in the lower portion of the state are lovingly called ‘Trolls’ because they live below the Mackinac Bridge.

There seems to be a lot of state pride associated with both divisions. However, the Po-Billy’s have never met a ‘Yooper’ that wished they were a ‘Troll’ but have talked with many ‘Trolls’ who will quietly confess a longing to cross the bridge and learn the ways of the U.P.

The Upper Peninsula is like stepping into another country, a beautiful but cold country. There are a few nice size towns and cities but mostly woods and countryside.

The residences are like most people who live in rural areas. They are kind, helpful and loyal, somewhat set in their ways and perfectly fine with the world passing them by with no more than a wave.

Norway, Michigan, is a quiet little town with many stores and shops along Main Street. Most are small family ran businesses that have survived in spite of the bigger shopping options in the larger towns nearby.

A large Viking Ship at the town’s entrance and a small band shell just before the railroad tracks are landmarks in the sleepy northern community.

The town has character and one of its most notable characteristics, is its characters.

Characters; people who are well known far and wide because of who they are, what they do and how they do it.

One of Norway, Michigan’s biggest characters? Uncle Kooch!

Kooch Vivio is the Po-Billy Boys great uncle, their grandfather’s brother.

Uncle Kooch is unforgettable but a bit of a mystery. Family rumors say he was once engaged but the confirmed bachelor never married.

The details aren’t known or at least not a topic of discussion, just like Uncle Kooch’s military career. Parts of it are off limits.

Uncle Kooch served during the War in Vietnam. He was part of the Army Special Forces and was once a jump instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia but not much else was known.

Kooch was never rude when questions were asked but quickly changed the subject.

Changing the subject was an easy task where Uncle Kooch was concerned.

Never boring, he filled his shop and garage with projects that not only reinforced his standing as one of the biggest characters in Norway but fascinated anyone who would take the time to get to know him.

After his military career Kooch built his own tractor-trailer rigs and spent time as an Ice Road Trucker, long before the drivers were featured on reality TV.

The frozen trucking routes require specially equipped rigs and specially equipped drivers.

Drivers, that are brave enough and crazy enough to get behind the wheel and make the treacherous journey, Uncle Kooch fit the profile perfectly.

Of course all work and no play is never fun, so when Uncle Kooch plays he spends time in one of his favorite spots, the workshop in his backyard.

It is the perfect place to build his tractor-trailer rigs and for his imagination to run wild.

The locals still talk about the snow mover he constructed that was not only too powerful for the little community but a little terrifying as well.

Uncle Kooch had modified a vehicle with a front end that was more giant snow blower than snowplow.

When the rig moved through the snow covered streets the first response of those witnessing the scene was to run for cover as the giant machine scooped up snow and threw it so high and so fast, tree limbs were breaking and crashing to the ground in it’s path.

Regretfully the giant contraption now collects dust next to another of Uncle Kooch’s more spectacular creations, the great amphibious experiment.

Kooch still refers to the amphibious vehicle as an experiment because it never did exactly what it was suppose to do, especially in the water.

The contraption moved fine both on land and in water but keeping the water out of the vehicle as it navigated the lake was a constant frustration.

__________________________

The trip north always ended the same way.

The Po-Billy’s would pull into their grandparents driveway, pour out of the family Suburban and after a quick hug and hello for their grandparents the boys quickly made their way across the street to see Uncle Kooch.

Uncle Kooch still lived in the old family home across the street from his brother and was often found sitting outside with at least a dog or two relaxing at his feet.

Never one to offer too many hugs or the usual gushing admiration typical from the boys older relatives, Uncle Kooch would offer a faint smile, maybe a handshake, a barely audible hello and if available a sampling of his fresh jerky. Made from various local sources of protein.

That was the scene this trip as well. Uncle Kooch and his dogs relaxing and waiting for the southern arrivals, fresh jerky, turkey this time, sitting in a bucket just inside the door.

“I just made polenta if you boys are hungry.” he yelled as the boys raced inside. “Have some with the jerky, it’ll help fill you up, it’s a good stretcher.”

A stretcher is any food that is inexpensive to make and sits like lead in your stomach. It serves as a meal stretcher. Intended to fill up empty stomachs with a cheap alternative to more expensive things like meat and vegetables.

Polenta, made from corn meal was a local favorite when feeding a crowd or a large hungry family.

The Po-Billy’s and their extended northern family were one of the best-known large hungry families in the area.

Dinner tables in their homes always consisted of a meal stretcher or two.

The boys had never developed a taste for their uncle’s favorite but their grandmother’s creativity with potatoes, another meal stretcher, was famous.

Running back outside with fists full of fresh jerky the boys quickly changed the subject from the polenta hardening on the stove to a tour of their uncle’s workshop out back.

Kooch pretended not to hear them at first, paying more attention to his canine companions than the rambunctious boys talking all at once with mouths full of jerky.

“Slow down before you choke!” He said shaking his head as though he could not believe how his grand nephews could be so impatient. , “Don’t stuff your mouths so full, there’s more.”

The boys finally understood. They might as well settle down.

No one rushed Uncle Kooch.

If they acted too excited their uncle would sometimes make them wait even longer before he would finally stand, grab the dog’s leashes and barely acknowledge his willingness to cooperate.

It was a trait he had spent years perfecting, a loveable, cantankerous spirit that made him irresistible to his nieces and nephews.

Walking beside their uncle the boys had to constantly fight the urge to run ahead knowing that would only slow their uncles pace even more.

The large workshop was massive. Large enough to house at least two tractor-trailer rigs and various other projects and covered most of the acreage on the back of the property.

Dusty and dark the boys stuck close to their uncle until with the flip of two switches the interior of the shop came to life.

As usual the space was occupied by a large truck rig and of course the infamous and intimidating snowplow / snow blower.

But there in the center of the shop was the focus of their uncle’s attention.

Last year it was hidden, pushed to the side covered in dust.

They had never gotten a good look at the box shaped amphibious vehicle but now it sat in the honored space accessible to the massive amount of equipment and tools Uncle Kooch had collected over his lifetime.

The body of the contraption had been lifted in the air by a suspended pulley and hoisting rig.

The boys immediately converged on the work area but came to a screeching halt when their uncle shouted.

The boys crashed into a pile as they all stopped suddenly.

“This is a work zone.” Their uncle lectured, “Do not get near this area with any part of that vehicle hoisted in the air.”

“But we want to see it!” The boys yelled in unison.

“We promise to be careful.” Caleb said. “We work around dad’s shop all the time.”

“Sure,” Jeremiah added, “we are good at this stuff.” He said picking up a stray hammer.

Jedediah and Elijah moved to stand beside Uncle Kooch, almost as if they wanted to distance themselves from their older brothers boastful claims.

Challenging Uncle Kooch could get you kicked out of the workshop and they didn’t want to take that chance.

“You’re in luck boys, ” Uncle Kooch said half smiling, “I was just about to finish this up and if you promise to stay back I might take you out for a ride once I lower and reattach the body to the chassis.”

“I thought the Chassis was the part in the air.” Elijah questioned.

“No the Chassis is what holds it all together, like our skeleton holds us together.” Uncle Kooch demonstrated shaking and wiggling his arm like a rag doll.

“You learned all about cars when you were a soldier, didn’t you Uncle Kooch?” Jedediah asked hoping for details.

“I have always known about cars, trucks, anything with wheels. I think I was born with a wrench in my hand.” He said changing the subject. “Just like you were born a pest.” He teased his grand nephew.

Without another word Uncle Kooch moved the boys back and began to lower the box shaped body into place.

After the hoist was removed and secured out of the way he let the boys grab tools and help fasten and secure the vehicle to the frame till they heard Uncle Kooch declare, “That’ll do.”

The boys immediately positioned themselves around the vehicle ready to push it through the big garage doors.

Boxy and large the vehicle was surprisingly lightweight and was quickly and easily pushed out into the waiting sunshine.

“What are you waiting for?” Uncle Kooch said sounding a little excited himself, “Climb in, let’s go!”

Uncle Kooch of course sat behind the wheel, and handed out life vests, just in case.

Jedediah called, “shotgun!” barely beating his brothers to the prize and took the front passenger seat as his brothers resigned themselves to the backbench seat.

Elijah sat tightly sandwiched between his older twin brothers.

The motor cranked with one turn of the key.

No one was a bit surprised. Uncle Kooch was a master mechanic.

Of course it cranked!

The ride was smooth and uneventful until Uncle Kooch decided it was time for the moment of truth.

Without a word of warning he turned the wheel and left the roadway.

Traveling across the park behind his house he headed straight for the lake and the boat ramp.

The boys held their breath as they approached the lake and slipped into the waters edge.

They all gasped as they felt the vehicle lift off the shallow lake bottom and begin to float.

With the flick of another switch they heard another motor engage and Uncle Kooch began to navigate the waters edge. He didn’t want to get too far away from the shoreline in case they began to take on water.

The ride went great and most importantly everyone stayed dry!

Keeping water from leaking into the vehicle had been so frustrating Uncle Kooch had set the project aside vowing to never work on it again.

He had decided to give it another shot after spending some time watching construction workers installing a swimming pool across town.

He decided some of the designs they used to keep water in the pool might work for keeping water out of the amphibious vehicle and his new designs seemed to be working.

Not wanting to push his luck Uncle Kooch decided it was time to drive back onto dry land and evaluate the modifications he had made.

The transition from water to land went just as planned.

Just a little clunk and bump, that felt a lot like the landing gear popping into place on a plane, and they were ready for the highway again.

The boys in the back seat turned around to watch the water stream off the back leaving a little trail behind them.

The smile on their uncle’s face was bigger and brighter than they had ever seen. He was almost giddy with excitement.

Then, just before they pulled into the workshop the boys jumped — startled as their uncle shouted, “Look boys, look!” he laughed pointing toward the horizon.

Barely above the treetops the boys spotted it, a hot air balloon.

Not exactly a beautiful balloon.

The patchwork balloon looked more like it belonged on a bed than flying through the air.

The passenger basket was nothing more than an old plastic oil drum — The whole thing looked like it might have been pieced together in their uncles workshop.

And as soon as the boys realized who was flying the balloon they were certain their uncle had helped construct what was now straight overhead.

As their uncle David flew past waving wildly to his relatives on the ground, Uncle Kooch shouted for him to keep it low and find a nice soft place to land.

“Aren’t we going to chase him?” Jedediah asked his uncle as they lost sight of the balloon.

“He can handle it.” Kooch said with a laugh, “I taught him everything he knows.”

“That’s a lot like the parachutes you use to use, right?” Jedediah continued hopeful his uncle would be more willing to talk about his life in the military — considering he was in such a good mood.

“Yes and no.” His uncle replied. “They both move on the wind, but they use completely different methods to catch the wind.” He said continuing, “A hot air balloon uses heat to inflate the balloon and rise into the wind. A parachute is dropped into the wind.”

“Did you really jump out of airplanes?” Jedediah asked anxiously.

“Yes I did, and it was great.” He said with a smile “At least the flying part — landing and what we had to do after we hit the ground wasn’t always so great.”

“Did you have to jump out of planes in the war?” Jedediah replied quietly.

Uncle Kooch didn’t seem to hear him for a moment but then answered, “Yes I did, but that was a long time ago.” Then without giving the boys a chance to respond he shouted, “Who’s hungry?”

The boys in the back raised their hands but Jedediah was lost in thought, looking across the horizon where the hot air balloon had floated just moments before. He imagined a parachute floating across the sky and how he wanted to fly.

Ignoring the chatter about where and what they could do for an afternoon snack Jedediah turned to his uncle and blurted out, “Can you teach me?”

“Teach you what? How to make polenta? He chuckled, “Or maybe jerky.” We were just deciding whether or not we should stop by the house and pick up some afternoon rations.”

If you boys had tried some of my polenta you wouldn’t already be hungry.” He continued.

“You are the one who started talking about food.” Caleb chimed in from the back seat. “We weren’t hungry till you said something.”

“I am not talking about any of that.” Jedediah interrupted. “I want you to teach me to fly! To use a parachute.”

His uncle reached across and tosseled his hair, “We’ll see. Maybe someday.” He said, “When you are a whole lot older.” He added. “We’ll see.”

The rest of the afternoon was dominated by probably one of the best things four boys could dream of doing. Each got a turn steering the contraption on the lake.

After checking out the latest modifications and verifying they were holding strong uncle Kooch launched out into deeper waters.

Water sprayed and splashed as they plowed across the lake.

The only ones having more fun than the Po-Billy Boys were Uncle Kooch’s two dogs.

They were so excited the boys struggled to hang onto them so they didn’t jump or fall into the water.

By the time the afternoon ended and the vehicle had been tucked away in their uncles workshop everyone was exhausted and now really, really hungry!

The boys ran across the yard, headed for their grandparents and what they knew would be a feast of all their favorite Polish foods waiting on the supper table.

Uncle Kooch took his time, as usual, keeping a slow easy pace with his dogs walking beside him.

Jedediah turned around and noticed his uncle lagging behind so he stopped to wait for him.

“Aren’t you afraid they will eat all the Kluski?” Uncle Kooch asked pointing to his brothers rushing through the door of their grandparent’s home.

“I thought you might need help feeding the dogs.” Jedediah offered.

Uncle Kooch smiled and handed one of the leashes over to his nephew.

“You know a lot about dogs too, don’t you uncle Kooch?” Jedediah asked reaching down to scratch the dog behind his ears.

“Just what I have picked up over the years. I have always had dogs so I guess I just naturally learn about them more and more every year.”

“You didn’t have them in the war did you?” Jedediah asked. “I know some soldiers do but did you?” he continued. “Mom had a friend in Vietnam that she thinks had a dog with him. He scouted for landmines.”

Kooch let his nephew continue to talk, “Mom said she heard someone say one time that he worked with a dog but she is not sure.”

“He didn’t make it so we can’t ask him but it makes sense doesn’t it?” he asked his uncle, “A dog would probably be a lot of help looking for mines, huh?”

Jedediah opened the door to his uncle’s house and held the door until the dogs and uncle Kooch were all inside.

Just inside the door were hooks for the dog’s leashes. Jedediah unhooked the leashes from their collars, and hung the leashes by the door.

His uncle was busy putting dog food in the dishes and filling a bowl with water.

Then without a word he left them on the counter and walked out of the room leaving Jedediah alone with the hungry anxious dogs.

Jedediah wasn’t sure what to do.

He was afraid he had upset his uncle by asking so many questions about his life as a solider.

The dogs were now trying to climb the side of the counter so he sat the food on the floor and they quickly began gobbling down their evening meal, tails wagging as they happily growled at each other.

Jedediah gave each dog a final scratch behind the ears and was just about to leave, when his uncle returned with a neatly folded shirt in his hands.

It was army green. Jedediah recognized it immediately. His favorite attire had been army green or camo for as long as he could remember but this shirt was different.

This one was covered in patches.

Some of the patches he recognized from books he had read and some he had never seen but the one that caught his eye right away was the name patch bearing his last name!

Well, actually it was his uncle’s last name since it was his shirt but their last names were the same so technically it could have been Jedediah’s shirt too.

Uncle Kooch handed the shirt to Jedediah and helped him put it on.

Surprisingly the shirt fit pretty well.

It was of course too big but not much. Jedediah was big for his size and Uncle Kooch was well, just average size, like most people just average.

The Po-Billy’s on the other hand seemed to get all the height in the family and tended to stand head and shoulders above all their extended family members.

“What’s this for?” Jedediah asked pointing to the tiny square patch above the pocket.

“Look close.” His uncle said, “What does that look like?” he asked waiting for his nephew to answer.

Taking a long confused look Jedediah’s eye’s lit up as he realized, “It’s a parachute, that’s what it is, a parachute with a star above it!” he said excitedly “What does it mean?”

“It means I was a jump instructor.” He replied.

“So you can teach me to fly!” Jedediah added as he jumped around the room.

“I don’t think so.” His uncle continued, “My jump training days are long behind me but maybe when you are older we can see about a course you could take.”

“Or maybe I will learn when I’m a soldier!” Jedediah declared. “What’s this patch mean?” Jedediah asked pointing to the patch of a sword crossed with a bolt of lightening.

“That one is for Green Beret.” Uncle Kooch responded.

“I have heard of them,” Jedediah said, “ but what does it mean?”

“It means I saw things I wish I didn’t have to see.” His uncle said quietly.

For the first time that day Jedediah didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to say or what question to ask next.

So for a few minutes they both just stood, not saying or asking anything.

They stood quietly watching each other watch the dogs eat their dinner.

“I want you to keep that shirt but keep it nice for special occasions.” Uncle Kooch finally said breaking the silence. “Don’t go fishing in it.” He added with a laugh.

“I won’t I promise.” Jedediah assured his uncle.

“Ok, I know you will take good care of it. I trust ya.” He said, his voice suddenly sounding more serious.

“But promise me this too.” He continued as Jedediah stood almost at attention, proudly wearing his new shirt and hanging on his uncle’s every word.

“Promise me, you will always be proud to wear that shirt and know that good men and women put on uniforms like that everyday to make sure you are free.” He said.

“Free to grow up to jump out of planes, fly in hot air balloons, build and ride your own crazy contraptions and carry your dogs along for the ride should you choose to do so.” He added with a laugh.

“I am proud I had a chance to wear that uniform and to learn and do all the things I got to do but it’s not like what you see in the movies.”

“War is awful.” He said quietly. “Sometimes it is necessary but it is always awful.” He continued almost in a whisper.

“Promise me.” He said. “Promise me you won’t forget.”

“I won’t Uncle Kooch. I promise.” Jedediah said giving his uncle a hug whether he wanted one or not.

Surprisingly uncle Kooch didn’t seem to mind the hug this time but quickly moved from the hug to a firm pat on his nephews back and a quick tussling of his hair.

“We had better get across the street and see if those brothers of yours left us anything to eat.” Uncle Kooch said as he walked out the door with his arm around his nephews shoulder.

“You know a little something, about ‘just about’ everything, don’t you Uncle Kooch?” Jedediah said as a matter of fact.

“Well, not everything.” Uncle Kooch said with a laugh.

“I never could figure out women.” He said shrugging his shoulders. “ I never could figure out women or cats.” He said chuckling to himself.

“Too much attitude.” He said enjoying the laugh with his nephew as they went inside.

One week later:

“You promised Uncle Kooch you would take care of that shirt.” Jedediah’s mom said as he ran in the room — wearing his new favorite shirt for the fourth day in a row.

“I am taking care of it. I am just taking care of it while I am wearing it!” Jedediah declared standing up tall and holding out his arms so his mom could get a good look at how well he was taking care of his prize.

“Can I wear the helmet too?” he asked pointing to the Army helmet perched on the statue of an eagle his mother kept displayed on the bookshelf in his bedroom.

His mom reached up and took down the helmet holding it for a moment before placing it on Jedediah’s head.

“Wow, it fits you!” she said surprised at how big Jedediah was for his age.

“I sometimes forget how small normal people are next to us.” She laughed.

“Kenneth seemed huge when I saw him last but I was just a little girl.” She said lost in thought for a moment.

Kenneth Pease, had been a hired hand on the family farm for as long as the Po-Billy’s mom could remember — until he left for Vietnam.

“One of my favorite memories of him was the day he and daddy found a litter of wild puppies at the edge of the field. She smiled.

“They were both on tractors and saw the puppies playing in the grass. They hid them in their shirts to keep Momma from seeing them.” She laughed.

“They were afraid mom would be mad if dad brought home anymore strays.” She said. “But once my sister and I saw them she couldn’t say no.”

“Puppies!” Jedediah said with excitement. “Uncle Kooch likes dogs and he was in Vietnam too. Maybe they knew each other.” He continued.

“Maybe.” His mom replied taking a long look at her son, decked out in his Army regalia.

“I never realized.” She said almost in a whisper. “I never realized.” She said again to herself.

“What!” Jedediah insisted. “What did you never realize? What are you talking about mom?” he asked impatiently.

“Their names.” She said. “Their names — they’re the same.”

“What do you mean? I don’t get it.” Jedediah looked at the name on the pocket of his shirt.

“Uncle Kooch’s name is Vivio like ours and Kenneth’s name was Pease, right?” He questioned.

“No not their last names silly — their first names.

Don’t you know what Uncle Kooch’s real name is?” she asked a little surprised the subject had never come up before.

“Kooch is a nickname.” She continued. “His real name is Kenneth.”

“Just like Kenneth Pease, Kenneth Vivio!” Jedediah shouted making the connection.

Running to the mirror he looked at his reflection and proudly straightened Kenneth’s helmet and smoothed out the wrinkles in Uncle Kooch’s shirt.

As he stood admiring himself, Jedediah’s expression changed from one of excitement to sadness.

His mom was standing behind him, sadness on her face as well and tears beginning to pool in her eyes.

Finally Jedediah spoke up.

“Uncle Kooch was right — There are a lot of good people who put this on and I bet a bunch of them are named Kenneth!” he declared.

“And I am glad they’re there!” — He added wiping his face on the back of his sleeve — hoping his mom hadn’t seen his tears.

“And maybe one day I will be there too but Uncle Kooch was right.”

“War is awful — Necessary sometimes — but awful.”

“It must be.” He continued standing a little taller and squaring his shoulders proudly.

“I’ll pray all the Kenneth’s make it home next time.” he whispered mostly to himself — “And maybe someday I can help make sure they do.”

In Memory of of Kenneth ‘Peavine’ Pease — killed in action — Quang Ngai Province Vietnam — September 16, 1969 — Kenneth was twenty years old.

I wrote this for my son while he was in basic training at Fort Benning Georgia. This is an excerpt from The Po-Billy Story collection and will be featured in the novel series Po-Billy — An American Tale available September 2016.

The Po-Billy Boys is a series of short stories published with some illustration and available at Amazon.

Visit www.lavernvivio.com for updates on the series and new material availability.

Everything in the Po-Billy series is based on real life events with a lot of added imagination. I include the Po-Billy Realisms to give the reader a glance at the truth behind the tale.

I began adding Po-Billy Realist Realisms when a friend challenged me to always find Jesus in the work I do.

Po-Billy Realisms

(The real life moments and facts that inspire every Po-Billy story.)

Uncle Kenneth ‘Kooch’ Vivio is the younger brother of the Po-Billy’s grandfather and really was the soldier described.

He built all the vehicles described and many more and really was an Ice Road Trucker.

The Amphibious vehicle still sits in the workshop but has not been tested for a very long time. Keeping the interior dry was the reason Uncle Kooch set the project aside.

Uncle Kooch has always cared for dogs and tended to strays even in Vietnam.

Uncle Kooch never married and is still tight lipped about his past romances and is equally tight lipped about much of his military service.

The Vivio family is of Polish decent. The family’s named was changed by their grandfather who emigrated as a child from Bohemia — a province in Poland. Their real name is Wywial

Kenneth Pease was a farm hand on the family farm the Po-Billy’s mom grew up on in Western Kentucky.

Kenneth Pease died in Vietnam and their mom bought his old helmet from his family’s estate after his parents died.

Kenneth Pease’s helmet is displayed on an eagle statue in their home in Tennessee.

When Jedediah and his brothers were little Uncle Kooch gave them the old Army shirt with all the patches described in the story.

Jedediah is now a soldier in the United States Army.

Po-Billy Realist realisms:

(The spiritual lesson)

A soldier gives us a gift as they swear to defend our country. They stand in the gap, willing to give their lives for others.

A gift that is over shadowed only by the One who stands in a gap we can’t possibly span on our own — Jesus Christ.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.