Curt and those blinds he was playing with (along with the "confidence" displayed in the video) go back a long way ... back to a day many years ago when Mary was crazy enough to leave me at home alone with our three boys. As always, I was overwhelmed with trying to do what she did every day -- keep up with them. As I remember, Robby was about 5, Steve 3, and Curt 15 months or so. At one point the chaos had subsided enough that I had generated an unwarranted confidence that everything was under control. Robby and Steve were entertaining each other and Curt was quiet and therefore uncharacteristically not the object of my attention.
I had been so lured into complacency that I was actually sitting at the kitchen table reading a magazine. That's when Robby walked up next to the table and, in a detached kind of way, asked me a weird question, "Daddy, what's the most wrecked up planet?"
I gave Robby a quick glance and realized he wasn't even looking at me. He seemed lost in a thought, staring out the bay window of our eating area. I turned back to my magazine. "I don't know what you mean, Rob."
"I mean, of all the planets, which one is the most wrecked up?"
Noting that he hadn't actually changed his question at all, and buried deep in the article I was reading, I didn't even look up again. I responded with an absent dismissal. "Robby, I have no idea what you mean by 'wrecked up' but, maybe Pluto."
Robby paused for a second and said, "Oh ... then Curt must be from Pluto."
I shot a glance at Robby, wondering what in the world he was talking about. It was at that point I realized that he wasn't just looking out the window -- he was looking at the window, down near the floor. I also realized that there was background noise, and that it was metallic. I leaned forward in my chair to see what had Robby's attention and suddenly it all made sense.
Curt was sitting in front of the window and, with peanut butter and jelly-covered hands, methodically bending and twisting each slat in our brand new, custom-made, aluminum mini-blinds. Curt was a one-man wrecking crew. In Robby's mind, he had to be from Pluto.
Today, Curt is a Private First Class in the U.S. Marine Corps, an infantryman in one of the finest fighting forces in human history. Today he will board a flight to Afghanistan to fight an enemy that is hard to define, ruthless in its methods and mindset, and as elusive as the echoes of gunshots that melt into the jagged mountains that define its home. It doesn't take a planetary scientist to conjure up the images of danger that await him there. But Curt signed up for this with full knowledge of all that -- and he did so willingly. When he told us he wanted to join the Marine Corps, I asked him what would possess him to do such a thing. His answer was simple: "Our country is in a war. Somebody has to fight it. It might as well be me."
He was 17 years old.
I honestly do not comprehend the selfless courage of the young men and women who, since September 11, 2001, have willingly stepped up to defend our way of life. For those of us who served only in a time of peace, there is no way to compare that to what these brave heroes face voluntarily. I know this for sure because three of them are my sons. I do not say that only as a "proud father." I say it as an awed admirer of better men than myself. I thank God for what they do and I pray that every person in this comfortable, safe nation stands similarly in awe, with humble gratitude, for those whose service allows us to forget that they offer it. I just wish there was no need for them to do so.
Rob's apparent fixation with describing things using Solar System analogies hasn't changed, nor has Curt's silent dedication to the causes he takes on.
The Man from Pluto is headed to the Moon.
Godspeed, Curt. Be safe. Be smart. Don't think you have to come home a hero ... you have been one for quite some time.