The cowboy went to war
Julie Carter Cowgirl Sass & Savvy
They all dressed alike once they got there. Field and combat olive-drab uniforms, laced-up military-issue combat boots and a rifle just for starters.
In a sea of soldier faces, you can't tell the cowboys from the accountants. Not in any of the previous wars and not now. But there have always been plenty of men of all ages that left the ranch and headed to war.
Sadly, it took me until I was well into adulthood before I realized the dangers these "boys" and most were just boys, put themselves in when they proudly went to defend their country.
There's something built into the male that moves him to do just about anything to become a soldier and fight for what he has known as home, family and freedom.
New Mexico's Claude Hobbs, the oldest of 10 children, was drafted in 1942 in the Army Automatic Weapon Battalion and away from his $1-a-day job driving mules to build dirt tanks with a fresno and breaking horses for $5 a head.
His first stop was the beaches of Normandy. Before he was able to come home, he saw five major conflicts and earned bronze and silver stars as well as two good conduct medals.
My dad, George Baker, and his two brothers, all Colorado cowboys, did their stints with the army. Dad, one brother and a cousin were all in Korea during and just after that war that no one really won and where conflicts remain still today.
My brother left the "glamour" of ranching, haying and working for Dad to join the Army and make a career of it. His expertise ultimately landed him at the end of his career serving for three years as a drill instructor and training waves of troops during the Desert Storm conflict.
Today we are sending our cowboys to the Middle East to fight a war like no other. And even then, you can take the cowboy off the ranch, but you can't keep him afoot. If there is a horse around, which is actually a tactical warfare method in Afghanistan, he'll find it even if it's not "Army issue."
Northern New Mexico cowboy Frank van Buskirk spent four years fighting government red tape to be allowed into the service. His burning desire to fight for his country set him on a journey that ultimately landed him with the Rangers in southern Afghanistan on a fire base.
There in the remoteness of the country was an Afghan horse that was about to meet a New Mexico cowboy. Frank soon became friends with Achmed (his name for his new steed) who learned there was more to life than being petted and standing around.
Frank found an old saddle in a shed that was covered in decades of dust and had extremely dry leather --crumbling and brittle with age.
Making do with what was at hand, he soaked it in motor oil to soften the leather so he could make repairs. He found a snaffle bit and made a head stall for it out of the parachute cord that came tied around the Army supply packages.
Frank's dedication and sacrifice were highlighted, along with the horrors of war, with good moments with Achmed. The other notable to his story is the fact that he turned 60 years old shortly after returning home to New Mexico.
As Claude Hobbs put it in recalling his war years 65-plus years ago, "You see a lot of things you forget, and a lot of things you don't forget."
And for that reason, thanking a veteran isn't just a "holiday" action. It's something that should be done every day for every one of them that have ever served, whether they wear a cowboy hat or not.
Julie can be reached for comment firstname.lastname@example.org