Not many people will read this and even fewer will know that what I am about to write is absolutely the truth.
At 9:40 p.m., Monday, February 19, 2007 there appeared at our front door two men dressed in green uniforms. Yes, they were to tell my twenty-three year old daughter that she is now a widow. It is the most gut wrenching experience I have ever had to personally witness. It is just like you see on TV and in the movies… “On behalf of the United States Army we regret to inform you that your husband Sgt Buddy James Hughie has been killed in action.” As her daddy I just had to stand there and watch it all unfold. I was powerless. I encourage each of you who find your way to this post to GOOGLE “Sgt Buddy James Hughie” too see what a remarkable young man (25yrs old) he was at the time of his death.
But that is not the purpose of this post, I will reveal that later.
I never had a son and what most people don’t know about Buddy is that he never ever, not once met his father. He didn’t know anything about him. Buddy worked with me in my business for nearly a year. Side by side each day we rode in that work van. One day we sat down for lunch and he says to me; “Before we eat I have to ask you something. I would like your permission to marry Alexis.” That was just the kind of guy Buddy was, old fashioned, honest and not wanting to offend or hurt any one.
Buddy volunteered to go back to Afghanistan. He had already made one tour and didn’t have to go back (yet). I can still see us standing in my back yard, him telling me that he was thinking about making being an Army medic his career. And I can still see in my mind’s eye me telling him (face to face) “yeh, but Buddy, don’t you understand there will be people shooting at you. Right?” He said that he would be okay. And ultimately on an eternal scale he is but it is very difficult for us.
I have run the course of emotions over the years. The emotion or “character flaw” (in me) that bothers me the most is that I now have an inherint distrust of all Muslims. I mean, it was a Muslim,Taliban sniper who shot and killed Buddy while he was saving (ironically) another Muslim’s life.
One day I received a forwarded email from a friend and they wrote “I thought you would like this”. I read the email and it was confirmed through Snopes that Tyson Foods, through Union negtions had given their Muslim employees October 1 as a holiday instead of Labor Day. I thought “so what’s wrong with that?” I mean as long as they don’t get both paid hollidays, what’s the big deal? Then it dawned on me. People have come to know me a Muslim hater. My admitted hattred of Muslims would grieve Buddy’sheart. My hatred would basically say to him that he was clueless about the people he gave so much to help. Buddy really loved the Afghani people and they loved him. The locals even made a beautiful wooden chest for baby Cooper and inscribed (with inlaid gold) Cooper’s name on top of it. For dirt poor Afghani locals to make such an effort and sacrifice to honor a man who’s son they will never meet tells me volumes about their character and the character of the man they are honoring.
Here was the clincher for me. I remembered Timothy McVeigh a caucasian, American citizen. Although McVeigh was not a Christian but rather agnostic… How can I hate ALL Muslims for what some extremists and yes even that lone sniper are doing if I am not willing to do the same for fair skinned people?! I have come to understand that it is much easier for me to justify my hatred if my hatred is focused on an individual or group who is “different” than I.
I can’t imagine the difficulties that many loving and honest Muslims face day-in and day-out. Over these few years I have come to better understand my (personal) biases. I won’t be so bold to say that I have conquered them but I can say with a high degree of certainty that I do readily and purpousfully try to evaluate each individual or incident that I come into contact with based on the facts (as I currently understand them).
How can I BEST honor the legacy of Sgt Buddy James Hughie?