Thursday, April 25, 2013

Of Tank Girls and Bucket Lists...

Some people know that i'm sort of a big fan of our country's armed forces.  What follows, then should not be much of a shock except that believe it or not, this journey really revolves around my daughter, Peri, and not me so much.  Starting late last year, i dropped friends in the office of Senator Joe Donnelly the following e-mail:

"This past year, my family has had to stand tough through some pretty difficult times as my wife has battled cancer, fought through chemotherapy, a resulting systemic infection, ICU hospitalizations, multiple surgeries and near death experiences, learning to walk again and a host of other battles.  It's been a great year in many ways, actually, but it's had more than its normal share of ugly too.  In the process, my wife has had an unbelievably undaunted attitude throughout it all, and has been an example for both my children and our little community of friends and family of her faith and ferocity in taking each challenge head on.  Because of my martial mindset and proclivities, i have probably uttered the phrase, "my wife is a tank!" a few thousand times to illustrate her relentless resilience and indefatigable spirit in the midst of all she has had to undergo.  I have illustrated for my daughter how despite her mom's slight size (my wife is 5' and 95 lbs), her spirit is just like our famed M1A1 Abrams battle tanks in battle.  You can hit them hard but they keep rolling, keep "bringing the thunder", and keep protecting the people inside them against everything that the enemy can throw at them.  Peri is similar to me in that she likes the rough and tumble, so often my military analogies are ones that she likes or prefers as she envisions her world.

I think i just didn't realize how much these images have impacted her until recently.  While i was in India two weeks ago, my friend Raj asked me about the movie "The Bucket List" and what it was about and what a "Bucket List" is.  I explained the concept and we had a lot of fun talking about what was on our respective Bucket Lists.  When i told Peri about that conversation, i asked her what, at 9 years of age, was Number 1 on her Bucket List, and she responded without a moment's hesitation, "I'd like to ride in a tank, dad."  A little surprised, i asked her for clarification.  "You know… like… a real battle tank.  One that our armed forces use.  I'd like to ride in one."  A little shocked that such would be #1 on an 9 year old girl's Bucket list, I cocked an eyebrow and said, "Is that because i've described your mom this year so much as a 'tank'?"  She smiled and nodded. It made me smile in return.  

Symbols are a big deal in our house.  We derive strength from them in whom we are trying to be and what we are trying to do to make sense of our world, our faith and how we follow Jesus to try to bring the Kingdom of God from "Up There to Down Here" in practical ways as we feed the Hungry, champion the Oppressed, give Voice to those who have none and care for the Marginalized.  As my children grow older, my wife and I do all that we can to try to grow, nurture and nourish those symbols, particularly as our kids begin to come up with their own.  

So i wondered if it is even possible, or what might need to be done to see if i couldn't get Peri an opportunity to ride in an M1 Abrams tank somewhere?  I have no idea if that's even legal, or if the US Army would permit a 9 year old girl to even sit inside one, but thought you might be able to direct me to the right people to at least ask as a starting point."  

Tomorrow, that vision will be realized as my family travels to Camp Atterbury in the southern part of the state, where Peri will have the chance to ride in an M1A Abrams battle tank that is being decommissioned from active service and place on display at the Camp's military honor museum.  She'll be able to sit in it as it makes its journey across the base with a US Army escort inside with her, explaining how it actually works.  Afterward, there will be a short service for the tank where its life and battle record will be reiterated, and then Peri will have a chance to take a guided tour of the Camp's museum to see the other exhibits on display.  We are so unbelievably grateful for the Donnelly's, our friends in their office and the US Army and Army National Guard for helping to make this dream happen, and will be excited to provide commentary and pictures on Facebook during the day!  We even sprung for full military BDU "fatigues" for Peri to wear tomorrow (pictured here).  We think she will look quite the part as well as have a great day!

1 comment:

dblacketor said...

Pretty cool! Do you get to ride along too?