Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Small town America used to give Bush and friends all their support for his war in Iraq. No more. I'd like to say its all out of concern for America's foreign policy, or about imperialism, or something so noble. However, its about something else. It's about their sons and daughters who are paying the price, often with pride, but paying the price all the same.

They've just damn tired of burying their kids in a war they are being forced to see as lost.

Last February, KXMBTV in Bismarck, North Dakota reported on the impact of the war on small towns. They reported that nearly half the more than 3,100 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq have come from towns with fewer than 25,000 people. And one in five are from hometowns of less than 5,000 people.

And, of course, the vast majority of those towns had average incomes well below the national average.

Recently, a poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Strategies found:

War support is declining. Forty-five percent of rural respondents said the country should "stay the course" in Iraq, down from 51 percent in 2004.

Rural people have a personal connection to the wars. Sixty percent know someone serving in the wars. One quarter say they have a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

These are the people who yearn to be proud of their country, who don't shirk their duty to serve and defend it. The highest rates of enlistment in the country are from rural areas and small towns. These are the people who want to believe their President cares about them. These are the people who are directly finding out that he doesn't give a hoot.

And yet the same poll quoted above found that despite their very human losses rural America remains a deeply conservative place and there is little evidence of shifting ideologies in this survey.

These people are clinging to something.

Now, I'm not here to defend the ideology of small town and rural America that leads to all this. Not at all.

But if it is ever to change, we'd best find a way to deal with it and that just might mean, horror of horrors, mingling with these folk often dismissed as just a bunch of red necks.

The following is from the Garden City, Kansas Telegram.

A soldier's return

It was to be about three weeks from the first part of August that Garden City resident Travis Bachman, stationed in Iraq, was supposed to come home to his wife, Amber, and two children.

He'd told her he couldn't wait to come home, to spend time with them, including his son, Tyler, 4, and 8-month-old daughter, Kaleigh, and to be a family again.

On Thursday, Bachman, 30, came home, but not in the way Amber Bachman, her parents, Tom and Kathy Howard, and Travis' parents, Rodney and Connie Bachman, had hoped for. It wasn't suppose to be like this.

Amber Bachman said she'd flipped her calendar to "August," so excited because it wouldn't be too much longer before she'd be picking him up. That was shortly before she got the news.

Bachman, a sergeant first class for the Kansas National Guard, was killed Aug. 1 when an improvised explosive device went off near his vehicle, according to the Adjutant General's Department.

For about a week, various events led up to Bachman's homecoming, including workers from his former place of employment, Home Depot, showing up at the couple's home to make needed repairs. And crimson and cream ribbons -- Bachman was a fan of the University of Oklahoma -- are being displayed throughout the neighborhoods along Sioux Drive, Pawnee Road, Apache Drive and Fair and Summit streets.

It all led up to the moment Thursday morning when Amber Bachman, her children and the rest of the Howard and Bachman families stood, along with community members, as the side door of the Kalitta Charters plane, which had just landed at Garden City Regional Airport, lifted.

The raising of the door gave way to shiny, black shoes that could be seen stepping about within the plane as officials prepared to unload the casket containing the body of Travis Bachman and take him to Garnand Funeral Home, 412 N. Seventh St. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at First Southern Baptist Church. Burial and military graveside rites will be at Valley View Cemetery.

Sunlight gradually hit the casket, covered with an American flag, as it was slid from the darkness within the plane and out onto a platform, which was then lowered for members of the military to carry to the hearse.

"I'm more at peace knowing he's at home," Amber Bachman said Thursday.

She said her first thought when the plane arrived was that "this really is happening," but "there was no more anticipation of him coming home."

The morning began with Legion Riders and Patriot Guardsmen meeting at Country Corner, at Campus and Fulton, making sure everyone knew their duties.

"Let's roll," said Ralph Rojas, of the Patriot Guard, with bike engines starting up at about 10:46 a.m. and those participating heading to the airport.

The Patriot Guard, a national organization, was formed to honor fallen U.S. military personnel and oppose the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members often protest at the funerals of fallen military service members. The church's members protest at funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, declaring the deaths as God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. According to a press release from Westboro Baptist Church, members of the church will start picketing Bachman's memorial service at 9:15 a.m. Saturday.

Rojas said Patriot Guard members don't consider the presence of the Westboro picketers when planning a mission.

"We're not there for them," Rojas said. "We're there for the families."

As the riders rolled down the highway, they signaled with their right blinkers, pulling into the turn lane and then into the airport drive, passing light poles adorned with the crimson and cream ribbons along the way. Riders mixed with area residents outside the airport, facing the runway and standing in silence as the casket was removed from the plane and readied for transport. The sound of digital cameras clicking, locking in the image, could be heard.

The hearse could be seen from the back of Arnold Riggs' motorcycle as he rode in the color guard as a member of the Patriot Guard and Legion Riders with Harry H. Renick American Legion Post No. 9.

About 100 riders, with the help of the Garden City Police Department, Finney County Sheriff's office and Kansas Highway Patrol, encircled the vehicle carrying Bachman's body during the procession from the airport down U.S. Highway 50.

The procession exited the highway and took the bypass around to Main Street. Vehicles pulled alongside the road and stopped as the procession passed, with some residents standing outside of their vehicles with their hands or hats held over their hearts. The procession was greeted by business owners and area residents lining Main and Pine streets.

"He gave his life for his country," Riggs said of Bachman.

Riggs joined the Patriot Guard at about the time of the funeral for Garden City resident Spc. Clint Upchurch, 31, who died after the convoy he was leading in Sammara, Iraq, hit a mine in January 2006. Riggs said he'd never served in the military but that his father, grandfather and uncle were in the armed forces.

"That's my way to serve," Riggs said of his participation in the Patriot Guard.

Riggs said the purpose of the riders and events such as Thursday's was to honor those who'd fallen and celebrate the freedoms they died for. He said that while the community was always glad to see the riders, they also were glad to see the community.

"We all celebrate freedom together," Riggs said.

Jeff Draper, an officer with the Garden City Police department, stood near some shade with his wife, Misty, and their four children, looking across the way to Garnand Funeral Home, where officers stood guard and family and friends spoke to and comforted one another. Draper, who serves under Travis' father, Rodney Bachman, at the department, said he and his family attended the procession to show support and respect for the cause and for a man who gave his life for others.

"He's done something a lot of us wouldn't be able to do," Draper said of Bachman.

Rojas rode with other Patriot Guard members about eight months ago to welcome Bachman home when his daughter, Kaleigh, was born. On Thursday afternoon, Rojas and Tim Parker, Patriot Guard ride captain for Garden City, folded the U.S. flags flown on the backs of their motorcycles for Bachman's procession to the funeral home. Both said they were pleased with the community's turnout during the procession.

"The community stepped up," Rojas said. "It takes everybody -- the entire community to welcome these soldiers home."

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