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     When they woke up this fateful morning they were just a bunch of soldiers about to go on a routine patrol. The same thing they did yesterday and the day before and almost everyday for months. The expectation of something happening had faded away long ago. They were not complacent in any way, after all, it was Afghanistan and they were at war but none of them had fired a shot or seen any action in a long while. This was a good thing. So they dutifully patrolled day in and day out enduring the desert heat, the dust, and the parched air. Although they keep keen eyes surveying the land as they rode along in the armored HMMWV (Humvee) their thoughts were of home and family and getting back to them when their deployment was over, which was very soon.

     The Humvee left a thick trail of dust as it sped along on the barren sandy road that led away from base camp. The sound of the well tuned engine was accompanied by all terrain tires digging into the layer of desert sand that lay atop the dirt road. Suddenly, there was no sound at all. The horizon rolled down and to the left then disappeared in a cloud of dust and debris. Images of loved ones from back home were vivid in their mind’s eyes. The soldiers were assaulted by loose gear bouncing around in the vehicle. The sound of nothing had quickly change to intense ringing. Ringing so loud that they could not hear anything else. An Improvised Explosive Device had detonated beneath the vehicle as they passed over it. Instinctively, each man ran through a bodily inventory in their head checking for damage. Only minor bumps, bruises, and superficial cuts. They struggled to dig out from beneath the gear. The vehicle lay on its side and both front and rear windows were still intact so they had to climb up and out of the driver side windows, which fortunately were rolled down, because the doors were crumpled and jammed shut.

     The men quickly armed themselves and secured the area the best they could while one of them radioed for help. No insurgents seemed to be in the area. Reinforcements on the way. The tension was still high and would remain so until help arrived from base. Looking at the toppled vehicle that could have easily been their tomb, the men were reassured that they were part of the greatest army the world had ever seen. The under armor was severely dented. Metal was twisted and torn. The front wheels pointed in opposite directions and fluids leaked from everywhere. A Humvee died so that men could live.

     These brave troops will not die on foreign soil the victims of terrorists who plant bombs on the side of roads in the dark of night. They will be reunited with their loved ones. Some of them will return to battle time and time again answering the call of duty to protect and serve their country. They are American Heroes!

All Hallows’ Eve

Every October, 31st as the sun sets for the night the streets gradually fill with little ghosts, goblins, zombies, and demons. They roam the neighborhoods visiting house after house armed with bags, buckets, and my favorite, pillow cases. They ring the doorbell and chant, “Trick or treat” in unison to demand that the occupant bestow them with candy or be the victim of a dastardly prank. The houses are adorned with cobwebs and candles. Jack-o-lanterns, perched on the porch with flickering eyes and glowing grins, light the way. Creepy carcsses rise from the dead. Grave stones and gremlins litter the lawn while witches watch from the trees.Halloween house

When I was a kid Halloween was right up there between Christmas and the 4th of July. In the weeks prior to this most evil night, my friends and I would boast about who would bring in the biggest booty, the largest loot, or in other words, more candy than you. Candy collection was a fierce competition, not only for the most candy but for the choicest pieces. Chocolate was of higher value than a box of raisins or an apple. A whole pack of just about anything was better than a single piece of something. Full size beats bite size. And anything edible always trumps a toy. But the ultimate goal, no matter what the treasure, was to fill your bag, bucket, or pillow case to the brim. Often we would double back to the houses with the most generous givers hoping not to be recognized as being a repeat customer.

Preparation for this wicked night was always filled with anguish: What costume would I where this year? (For me the home made costumes were more realistic looking than store bought ones.) What route would yield the most candy the fastest? What group of friends would I travel with? And how do you know when it’s dark enough to begin your quest? Is it OK to start just before the sun goes down or do you simply wait until you see other vampires and mummies on the move? A carefully planned route would ensure that you get the best candy before it’s gone. (There are a lot of other spooks and specters out there after your candy.)

In recent years I’ve noticed a radical costume trend shift. What happened to the crepe paper mummies and the oversized thrift store suits that made for an excellent Frankenstein’s monster, with the addition of a little of Mom’s makeup? In fact, it’s difficult to find a Halloween ghoul at all let alone a self-made one. The trend today has moved away from the freakily frightening and more toward the cute and cuddly. Vampires, witches, and werewolves are being overrun by ladybugs, pixies, and puppy dogs. Some of the older kids don’t even bother dressing up anymore. The threat of “trick” instead of “treat” is almost nonexistent. Doorbells ring, candy is deposited in small pumpkin shaped buckets, and the princesses and pixies calmly move to the next house. Fewer and fewer homes are decorated to their maximum potential which makes for a dull night of haunting when it used to be so much fun. The good old days are all but gone.

Halloween will live on, though. Whether it’s demons or Dora that lurks in the night they will always get their fill of candy and treats on this non-official holiday just for kids.