I had a great day Wednesday. I woke up at about 5:30, before the alarm went off and felt refreshed and rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep. I turned on the coffee pot and our dog, Rachel, took me for a walk. It was a beautiful morning. Not a cloud in the sky and a distinct feeling of fall in the air. Both papers were in the driveway and the garbage men had emptied our big green container. I had hit the trifecta!
I spent an hour or so of solitude, reading the paper. Not a single Georgia player had been arrested in at least 48 hours, and I even solved the crossword puzzle without having to peek at the solution. Well, maybe I did peek a couple of times, but just to make sure I had spelled a word correctly.
After a great breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast and grits I recorded my “What the Huck!” segment for the Moby in the Morning Show and headed off to school. I spent a few minutes standing in the commons area, chatting with my good friends about college football and the price of cotton and then enjoyed a splendid day teaching history to some of the brightest 11th- and 12th-graders you’d ever want to meet.
When my work day was done I came home and checked the mail and didn’t have single bill. I did, however, have a nice letter from the inimitable Dan Magill and it is always a pleasure to hear from Dan Magill. I also had a quarterly statement from my 401(k) and was delighted to discover that my account had actually gained a dollar or two between July and October.
I swapped texts with my kids and all seemed to be well with them. I switched into my workout clothes and went for a 4-mile walk. The sun felt good on my arms and face, but neither the temperature nor the humidity was so high that I became drenched with sweat. After my walk I made my daily run to the store where “shopping is a pleasure.” Charles, my guy in the seafood department, had put out some Cajun crab spread samples that were to die for and fresh tilapia was on sale. The day just kept getting better and better.
I prepared our dinner — fried tilapia, baked sweet potatoes, steamed asparagus — all good and good for you — and had supper on the table when my lovely wife, Lisa, got home from work. We enjoyed our dinner, went for a short walk and then showered and got ready for a nice relaxing evening of television and conversation — basically in that order — and then turned in early.
Like I said, Wednesday was a great day. Nothing earth shattering, understand, or even out of the ordinary. It was just a great day to be alive in the North Georgia Piedmont.
Halfway around the world, however, a young man from Columbus, a 22-year-old graduate of Shaw High School, Class of ’06, I think it was, wasn’t having such a good day. He had nice weather where he was. In fact, the low was 58 and the high was 83 — very similar to Conyers.
I’m not sure if he had morning coffee and am almost certain that he didn’t have time to sit around and read the newspaper and eat a hot breakfast. I would be shocked to learn that he’d been able to enjoy the luxury of sitting down to work a crossword puzzle. The guy from Columbus, you see — his name is Raymon Johnson — doesn’t teach school for a living. He is — or was — a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps.
While I was enjoying the good life Wednesday — the fruits of Lance Cpl. Johnson’s labor, if you will — he was leading a patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, looking for bad guys — people who would do us harm and destroy us if they could. He was leading the patrol. He was the point man. The point man is always the first to encounter danger.
And he did encounter danger. He stepped on a mine, hidden in the desert sands of that God-forsaken place 7,500 miles from Shaw High School in Columbus. I don’t think we call them mines, however. I think the correct term is “improvised explosive device.” Whatever the name, Raymon Johnson lost his life when it was detonated. He was 22.
While Raymon Johnson was walking point in Afghanistan on Wednesday, my own son, who is almost the same age, was living the good life at college. All over this country we were going about our business, doing what we do.
We have problems in this country right now, but our problems do not outweigh our freedoms. Our problems do not outweigh our opportunities. And it is people like Raymon Johnson and all the men and women of our Armed Forces, who have purchased our freedom and preserved our opportunities. So the next time you are having a good day, please remember to thank a soldier.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.