David Klovis grew up in Fresno. His father had been in the Air Force, loved everything about airplanes and moved his family into a new home within a mile of the airport’s runway.
David had inherited his father’s love of all things associated with aviation. He never tired of watching the aircraft land and take off–or hearing the growl of the ANG–144th Fighter Wing, F-16 Fighting Falcons.
So it was that David had a house built as close to the airport as the one he had lived in as a child. At most, it was a ten minute drive from home to work–The Air National Guard. Eight years ago Staff Sgt. David Klovis had made a career of the Guard and he had never regretted his decision.
At thirty years of age he was very satisfied with life. He had a wife, young daughter, and two lovable male Labs–one black, one chocolate. He had a job he enjoyed and magnum xt pills going home at the end of the day was always a pleasure. His wife, Ellie, with her ready smile and welcoming embrace was something he looked forward to. Shortly after arriving home he’d usually find his daughter, Ginene, in the backyard with the Labs.
The two “boys” and his daughter were inseparable. David had brought the siblings home six months before his daughter was born. They were gifts; one for his wife and one for his unborn daughter. Ellie had named them–the black pup was Duncan, and the chocolate pup’s name was Hunter.
Today they were celebrating their fifth birthday. True, the boys’ birthday and Ginene’s were six months apart, but his daughter insisted that their birthdays be observed on the same day, as they were all family in her eyes.
He and Ellie had a special evening planned for Ginene and the boys. A DVD rental, popcorn, and drinks. David was to get take-out Chinese food for dinner. After their meal they’d all gather in the family room to watch a Disney movie, “Homeward Bound.” Ellie was not too big on cake. Neither were the boys. Popcorn was everyone’s favorite and was a must when watching a movie. Ice teas or diet colas were the cool frosty beverages of choice.
When the night wore down and David and Ellie found the little ones snuggled together on the soft carpet, with pillows all around them… it was time for bed. David went to Ginene and talked quietly to her, while rocking her shoulder in an attempt to awaken her. He ended up pulling his daughter into his arms and carrying her to her bedroom. Ellie convinced the boys it was bedtime and directed them to follow her. Reluctant, with sleepy faces on, they shuffled behind.
David gently settled his daughter into her bed, pulled the covers up to her chin and kissed her warm cheek. Ellie nodded to the boys. They circled three times, then laid down beside Ginene’s bed. Within the hour they’d be nestled ’round Ginene. All three breathing deep and steady, dreaming dreams and sighing contentedly.
After changing into his sleeping clothes, David lumbered into the kitchen and prepared a pot of coffee. He pulled out a chair and sat at the table. He was dearly hoping the coffee would clear his mind, anchor his thoughts, so he could sort out the frantic reality that was delivered to his inbox earlier in the day.
“Honey, something the matter?” Ellie walked over to him and gingerly put her hand on his neck. Her skin was cool and silky. Her touch, calming. She sat down beside him, squeezed his knee reassuringly.
His voice was rough, subdued. “I received orders today.” He turned to Ellie. “I’m being sent to Iraq.”
Ellie drew in a quick breath, then bit her lower lip. Her eyes grew wide and gleamed with sudden tears. She nodded, flashed him a weak smile, put her hand to her mouth and wept.
David pulled his wife to him and shut his eyes against the bright heat of his own tears. Stroking her hair he repeated the only thing he was able to utter…. “I love you. I love you, Ellie.”
The night before David was to leave he tucked Ginene into bed, sat on the edge of the mattress and studied the drowsy face of his little girl. Images of the day-to-day moments he shared with his family played out in his thoughts. That is what he’d miss the most–the simple pleasures that gave life to the heart of him. He shook his head, then looked out into the night. Winter’s cold breath had frosted the edges of the window. Unawares, David shivered.
He felt a tug on his sleeve. “Daddy, what’s the matter?”
David turned to his daughter. “I’m going to be gone for a while. I’m leaving tomorrow and you and Mommy will come to the airport to see me off.”
“Will you be back before dark? Will you be here to tuck me in at night?” A troubled expression creased her brow.
David smiled. “I’d love that. But I don’t know when I’ll be able to. Soon, I hope.”
“Me, too!” She pursed her trembling lips. “I don’t much like the dark.”
“Ah, Honey, I know.” He nodded to the Labs. “Hunter and Duncan will keep you safe.”
Ginene looked from the Labs to her dad. She then reached out and hugged her father around the neck.
It had been a splendid spring day. From her swing Ginene watched heavy, fat clouds with gray bellies traveling west from the Sierras. The setting sun cast clean, bright light out, limning the clouds in an orangy glow. A breeze kicked up and blew over Ginene like a sigh.
Hunter and Duncan were tussling on the lawn. They suddenly looked up and whined happily.
Ginene climbed out of the swing and stood watching the Labs. Curious as to why they were behaving so oddly.
“My sweet daughter, you have grown some since last I saw you. Oh, how I have missed you.”
Duncan and Hunter whimpered and wagged their tales. Ginene crossed over to them and looked around.
“You two take care of her, will you?” The Labs stood, one to each side of Ginene. They were panting and smiling–their whole bodies wagging their welcome.
Then, with the senses that children and a few gifted adults possess, she gazed out toward the sunset and muttered one word… “Daddy?!”
That morning the global war on terrorism had claimed the life of many American patriots. David was killed in a grenade attack on the Iraqi-Kuwait border. His name, rank, and cause of death would be added to the growing Memorial of National Guard men and women who had given their lives for the freedom of strangers.
To their family, they are everything. To their country, they are the blood of the nation. The fiber of integrity, and valor. They are the spirit of freedom and every American should be proud to call them “kin.”
May your day be blessed, and every day that wakens you anew…
For all the men and women who have served their country, I dedicate this story.
Copyright 2005 Kathy Pippig Harris
I live in central, sunny California, where I share my life with my husband and our furry family. I work full time for a living, and I write in order to live fully.
My works have been featured in many online publications and in traditional print.