A One-Hour Drive!!!
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas is about one hour away from our home. We have passed by it several times but never stopped. Today Tom and I, with Groupon in hand, headed for the Trails West Golf Course at Ft. Leavenworth. We had been warned to bring our Passports!
Before we could find our way to Trails West, we needed to be processed at the Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center looks like a small non-descript jail. It has very small windows and there was only one entrance and exit. I kept thinking that we were entering another country. And truly, the experience was like going through immigration in a foreign country.
We signed in with our Driver’s License (They don’t take Missouri Licenses as proof of citizenship. But we had to have them anyway.) and Passport. We waited.
I was processed by a handsome soldier who looked bored. He commented that I had been to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Korea. “Wow!” I explained that we had visited a lot of countries. I asked him where he was from., “Leavenworth.” That is lucky, I said. He was not amused. He had been trying to get out of Leavenworth. He wanted to be fighting a war and protecting his friends. I suspected that he had other skills. “Yes, I am trained in IT.” That made sense as to why he was assigned a desk job.
We talked about war. “I can shoot 40 of 40 perfectly.” I did not know what that meant, but assumed he was a great marksmen. He wanted to be in the action. I told him about Maimonides who encouraged oppressed Jews to live, not die, for their religious beliefs. As I recall he said, “Recite Allah and Live,” which meant that it was preferable to submit to Muslim domination in Spain if it would save your life. Of course not all Jews agreed with him.
The soldier was very strong. “I won’t die. I will save other soldiers.” I said, what about your back and side and beneath your feet? How can you control that? War is more than shooting. I asked him how old he was. “Thirty-two.” Then we talked about the great benefits of being in the military and it was time to leave. He hand-wrote out my one-day pass, and I left.
Trails West Golf Course was deserted. We only saw a few other people. The gorgeous four hundred year old trees kept company with us. I was so enthralled with the trees that I did not see the military cemetery on number two hole. As we approached number five, I was startled by the thousands of white headstones across the street and up the hill. You could almost hear the voices of all of those service men and women and their families.
We visited the cemetery after we golfed. The inscriptions on the headstones tell a heroic story about people who gave their lives in protecting the Western front, the Civil War, Spanish-American War, WW I and II, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, and so much more. Wives and children are buried along with servicemen and women. There were a number of unknown soldier graves too!
People in the military might not be recognized during their lifetime, but here in this cemetery, they are memorialized and protected forever–or at least as long as Ft. Leavenworth owns the property.
I thought of the soldier who processed me. This is where he will be buried some day, perhaps. And I thought of Mother Jones who said, “Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living.” I understood his zeal for fighting an enemy and protecting his fellow soldiers.
Ft. Leavenworth is a gorgeous military base with homes and buildings that date back to the 19th century and earlier.
Once we passed through the gates, it was a welcoming place. We did not have time to visit the museum, but we will return. On the way out of the 5,600 acre fort with 1,000 buildings and 1500 quarters, we stopped at the Buffalo Soldier Memorial/Monument.
Tom and I had discovered the African-American or Black Calvary years ago in sites we visited in Kansas. (Just google “Buffalo Soldier Memorials” and be astonished!) Most recently we learned that they were stationed in Skagway, Alaska in order to keep the peace during the Gold Rush. Dedicated by Colin Powell, the Buffalo Soldier Monument was stunning. It captures the dedication of men and women (yes, at least one) and their zest to protect our country. Most of us were never taught that the first responders in the Western expansion were Buffalo Soldiers, and I don’t recall any “Cowboy or Indian” movies with black soldiers!
Today was a rich cultural experience. We learned to appreciate our military and its history even more than we did — before — our golfing experience.
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge