Count the Brave, Count the True

If you’ve seen any news this week, I don’t have to tell you what is happening in Afghanistan, especially since I don’t really know. Anything I might say would be based on the most superficial information there is. The only people who really know are the ones who are there.

But we have all seen the photographs. We have all watched the videos. For most of us, in our comfortable lives, that is enough.

The sight of those people, captured in photos, their mouths open in silent, frozen screams.

The sound of those videos. The frantic, high-pitched keening of hundreds, thousands, of desperate people running for their lives. Driven to leave their own homeland. The country many of them have been working so hard for so many years to make better. To make freer. To build into the home they want and deserve.

But this week, I also saw something most of you did not. I heard things most of us never hear as we go about our comfortable lives.

Because the exact week Afghanistan fell, our son-in-law graduated from Air Assault School at Fort Campbell.

Twenty years ago this September 11, Tavis was eleven years old. Our own son was seven, our daughters, thirteen, eleven, ten, and five. An entire nation of children remember that day. They always will.

As horrific as it was for every child, for some, that day held the certain, unshakeable knowledge that their parents would be deployed. While Tavis sat in a sixth grade classroom in Jacksonville, Illinois, the public school-issue television turned to coverage of what would forever change our lives, that was the only thing in his mind. 

And he was right. His father, Colonel David Ciochetty, left some six months later, for Afghanistan, on his seventh deployment.

Three weeks after his first child was born and seventeen years after 9/11, Tavis commissioned into the U.S. Army. We celebrated his service. Helped them pack. Watched them move. Then helped them move back, this time to Fort Campbell. 

I braced myself. “We’re in the real Army now,” I couldn’t help but think.

This week slammed up against just how real it is, when we stood with our daughter and his parents to watch him become officially Air Assault qualified, only hours after completing his pre-dawn, twelve-mile ruck march with a forty pound pack.

We stood and watched while our granddaughter held her hand over her little heart during the National Anthem.

We stood and watched while Black Hawk helicopters flew overhead, not as a special tribute, but as matter of mere routine. Training for what we always seem to ask them to do.

We stood and listened while hundreds of rounds of ammunition were discharged all around us. Again, no tribute. Simply men and women at work, preparing for what apparently, given human nature, is the inevitable.

We stood and watched, while Afghanistan fell. While at the exact same moment, our soldiers prepared themselves to go wherever we ask, whenever we need.

The words our then-eight year old son wrote all those years ago after 9/11 hold true today. And they always will.

But as much as we thank them, all of them, for their service, and pray for their safe return, even more I challenge every single one of us to pay attention

When the men and women in D.C. power suits make decisions in air conditioned rooms, it is beholden on us, the people who put them in those seats of authority, to make sure they are measured, controlled, and most of all, that they are motivated by unselfish, apolitical aims. 

It is beholden on us, because we are beholden to them.



We all have it. Don’t lie and say you don’t know what I’m talking about. That your brain is fine. Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here. Move along.

It’s okay. You don’t have to fake it ‘til you make it. Not around me, since my faking days are over.

Your brain is not fine. Everything is not okay. There is too much to see.

And no, please don’t move along, because this is just weird, and nobody knows anything, and we all are running scared.

Move over here, next to me. Only six feet away. That’s the new next to me.

Put your phone down. Turn off the radio. Throw away that newspaper (does anybody still carry a newspaper?). And for everyone’s sake, turn off the television (unless you’re watching infinite numbers of mind-numbing Gilmore Girls reruns. Then by all means, carry on).

The hospitals are full, people. It’s a four letter word I thought we would never see applied to hospitals in twenty-first century America. Which is where we live.


And it’s not just the little hospitals in rural areas of Kentucky. The kind who didn’t even have physical therapy thirty years ago, when we were young pups ourselves, and just starting out in the business of getting rehab out there where no rehab had ever gone before.

It’s the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The University of Alabama hospital complexes.

The Dallas-Fort Worth hospital systems.

It’s the biggest trauma centers all across our country.


No matter how you feel about this virus. No matter what you think about masks. No matter if you’re vaccinated or not, that word should scare all of us.


Doctors run ragged. Nurses barely able to function.

Babies unable to be babied in Peds ICU. Grannies unable to be grannied in CCU. Daddies who need stents in their hearts unable to be stented, so they can go on to become granddaddies to even more babies.

Uncles in car wrecks who can’t get put back together. Aunts who can’t get their breast cancer treatment. Teenagers with acute leukemia who can’t get chemo.


I’m not pointing fingers or holding up a protest sign, even though, like everybody else, I’ve got a lot of dogs in this fight. And some of them are pretty cute little pups; a lot of them are pretty special old hounds. At least they are to me, just like yours are to you. Show me your pics later. I can’t wait to see’em.

I got the shot, but I’m not going to tell anybody else they have to. Both days I felt that needle go into my arm, I had the most serious case of COVID brain yet.

Overjoyed to be getting it. Terrified to be getting it.

I’m a fairly sane (relative term to those who know me well) person. But that day I was seeing my life in a funhouse mirror, and it looked pretty warped.

There I was. There everybody else was. We all were either getting shots, or giving shots, or waiting the obligatory fifteen minutes to see if our lips were going to swell and our throats close up.

Fifteen minutes is nothing compared to the rest of your life with that shot in your system.

So I get it.

But I was also overjoyed when I felt that needle pierce my flesh. Even as I quivered in my chair.

Because I believed then, and I believe now, that it’s our best shot (ha! See what my COVID brain did there?) to maybe getting out of this with all my hound dogs, big and little, still with us.

But I won’t tell you that you HAVE to get a shot.

Just like I don’t drink, but I won’t tell you that you can’t. I will, however, respectfully ask that you abide by what I think is a pretty darn logical concept, and not drink and drive.

That seems like a pretty easy minimum to hold up for our fellow man.

So, this is about all my COVID brain can muster.

Let’s just do whatever our personal barest minimum is for each other. Kind of like putting on clothes (for some of us that’s a completely new, influencer-worthy outfit every single day, seven days a week. For others it’s a Sam’s Club shirt loosely categorizable as ath-leisure, that was just dug out of the laundry hamper).

We brush our teeth. We take showers (hopefully…still can’t wrap my brain around this Hollywood trend of going unbathed, and why?).

We wear our seatbelts.

That’s one that really only helps ourselves, but in the long run it helps everybody, because if I wear my seatbelt, maybe I won’t end up needing care for the rest of my days in a government funded facility. Maybe I can keep changing the water in my own pups’ water bowls, and shaking out their kibble, so nobody else has to do it for me, all on somebody else’s dime.

Whatever, those seatbelts help all of us.

Maybe it’s wearing a mask. Which, again, I’m not telling you that you have to.

Even though I fully support my kiddos wearing them at school. If the littlest can do it, then so can the biggest. At least that seems to make sense to me.

And it’s not going to be forever.

I stopped wearing my mask for a nice long time. And now it’s back.

Because why? The hospitals are FULL.

Still, my COVID brain jumps all over the place on this one. Like, I wear it when I’m holding a brand new baby.

Then I put the baby down, walk all the way across the room (which, granted, it’s a fairly big room), take it off and gulp down my Diet Coke.

See? COVID brain. But for right now, for this day, for these minutes, it’s the only way my brain can continue to function so that I can continue to function. I’m not even talking about long term healthy function.

I’m just talking about today.

And if anybody out there has connections to Washington, D.C., send them this message:

Stop acting like a bunch of idiots, running around arguing and fighting and grabbing all the toys for your side of the sandbox. All sides are pretty disgusting these days. No badge of honor there. Not for anybody. No trophy for participation.

Stop getting on TV or YouTube or Twitter and riling up your people on BOTH sides of the aisle.

There isn’t any aisle. We don’t have the luxury of an aisle, which implies an orderly chamber where men and women act like grown-ups.

When you’re in a crisis (that’s what this is…a crisis), There. Is. No. Aisle. It’s just one gigantic place called America and we ALL are in it together.

I’d like to keep all of us in it together until, whenever that day may be, we start shuffling on off to whatever hereafter awaits us beyond this mortal coil.

I don’t want COVID to be what’s speeding up our shuffle. We still have stuff to do.

I don’t want the friends I have in those hospitals, giving their all, day and night, to get pushed off either.

I don’t want COVID to win. I know you don’t.

So do your minimum. I’ll do mine. Just please make sure your minimum isn’t simply business as usual, because there’s nothing usual about these days. These days require all of us to do something, so that we still have some days.

That way maybe none of us will have to give to the max.

And that’s about the best my old, nearly senile, COVID-befuddled brain can do.