June 17 • 01:00 AM

Rear window viewing offered sisters a glimpse of 'Army guys'

October 15, 2008
We're sitting in the "very back" of a blue Pontiac station wagon. My sisters and I take turns at the prime seat, the one that lets you view travel down the road from the opposite direction. It's the kind of nonsense that's really appealing when you're a kid—and that's what we are, on our way up north.

It's the annual summer vacation. The one week a year where we connect with the only little "hometown" we've come to know—Charlevoix. We connect with the land, nature's beauty, and our parents' nerves, too.

We're more than half-way there, having stopped in Pinconning for a "nice lunch." It really is, too. We get to look over the menu and order for ourselves—yet another highly anticipated aspect of the vacation. We get spoiled for an entire week.

My little sister Virginia actually quizzes the waitress—Virginia's all of seven years old and skinnier than all get out. Still, we've been brought up with a certain amount of decorum and inquisitiveness and we mind our manners.

Virg is considering a burger, but wants to make sure she'll get the full value of the meal.

"Does that come with a fair amount of fries?" she asks.

Dawn (my other little sister) and I keep our eye rolling to a minimum. Miss Virginia, it turns out, would graduate as valedictorian from Mercy High School in Farmington Hills and go on to earn a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. She runs her own company and as far as I know these days, she still concerns herself with what is fair.

Anyhow, once we're back on the road in that station wagon, the singing begins. Simon & Garfunkel (The Boxer's my dad's favorite); James Taylor (Suzanne's another one); traditional tunes we learned in elementary school that make no sense but are fun to sing.

We're approaching Gaylord when we start to see something really unusual and exciting. It's also something that doesn't make much sense to us in the context of our world, but we instinctively know it's important. We feel lucky to see it—convoys of Army guys.

Some of them are in the back of a camouflage truck. Others in jeep looking things, also camouflage. We get all excited and ask the folks if we can wave at them.

"Of course, wave at the Army guys," my dad says.

From the very back of the station wagon we get to look at them for a long time. We grin and wave shyly—they're grown men (or so we think at that age) and they look so official in their camouflage uniforms and boots and caps.

We wonder about what they're doing. We know very little about Army guy stuff, but imagine that it's secretive and paramount to our safety—which is in no way in jeopardy at the time. Like the annual trek to Charlevoix, seeing the Army guys become a ritual part of the vacation. Soon enough we pass the convoy and the magical spell is broken...

...I now know way more than I want to know about Army guys and what they do.And Dawn knows even more, what with a son serving in Iraq for the past two-and-a-half years.

I want to cast a magical spell around my nephew, who doesn't have the luxury of waving to silly little girls giggling in the very back of a station wagon on I-75 because he's in some crater-infested bombed out part of Iraq living with 200 other Army guys in a burned out casino that has but two restrooms.

On his second tour, David's been in the thick of things for 14 months now and I've just gotten word that he'll be getting out soon. Like in time for Thanksgiving...

...There's no more station wagons with "very back" seats, and the silly little girl is now a somewhat silly idealistic adult who hopes my nephew gets lots and lots of waves.

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Castle Creek
06 - 17 - 19
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