Cowboys, Soldiers And Cowboys Again

by Colonel Dan


The Cowboy Chronicle

December  2007

“I grew up dreamin’ of being a cowboy and lovin’ the cowboy ways….” ~ Willie Nelson ~

It’s that time of year again when I leave politics in the back of the wagon and touch on more personal things.  I’ve written many articles over the years, both free lance and as part of an international news publication.  One thing I’ve learned about my personal writing effort is that when I feel strongly about a subject, the words write themselves.  When I don’t really care about it, the words never come.  This is one of those subjects wherein the words wrote themselves and I’m confident it’s one which my fellow former military comrades of SASS will recognize as they recall having had similar feelings and experiences.

As a child, I dreamed of and “lived” two lives, that of a cowboy and that of a soldier.

Growing up, I was the neighborhood two cap gun totin’, cowboy hat wearin’ gunslinger…and I have pictures to prove it.  At other times I was that helmet wearing, machine gun totin’ soldier with web belt and canteen whose heroes fought in WW II or who just came home from Korea …I have pictures to prove that too. 

These guys were ten feet tall in my mind and as my great luck would have it, there were two of those heroes living close to me.  One had a wooden leg from the role he played on D-Day and the other spent the war lugging his Garand all around Europe .  How lucky Billy and Dave were to have these men as their dads!!!  Wow.

Not surprisingly, I was, from the beginning a cowboy and soldier at heart and that’s all there was in life as far as I was concerned—school was just a time consuming distraction.

When the day came, I lived out my dream of being a soldier for nearly 24 very short years.  But then in 1995, I faced the inevitability of retiring from that dream. 

The Army had been a unique and very meaningful life for me.  In the Army, I found what I always knew existed—a breed of men that would give everything they had to give for something many might never understand.  They would give all God ever gave them to give for a buddy.  They would give all God ever gave them to give because that’s what soldiers did and at times, they would be willing to give all God gave them to give for no other reason than because I asked them to.  A burden I carried and not lightly.  The memory of a burden I still carry in ways but a burden I carry with a great deal of pride.  Pride not in what my rank and position was able to ask of them but a humbling pride in that I was, for a short period of my life, counted as one of their number.  Pride that I was an American soldier along side every Private, every Sergeant and every Lieutenant throughout our nation’s heroic history.

I came to know soldiers as some of the most special people the good Lord ever created and placed on this earth.  As Christ himself said, no man has a greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  To me and my chosen career, He was talking about our soldiers because when soldiers lay down their lives, it’s not politically motivated.  I know of not one soldier that did what they did with some political slogan in mind when the bullets were actually coming their way.

So why do soldiers do what they do?  Christ told us.  Soldiers lay down their lives willingly for their friends.   They do what they do for the guys on their left and right.  They do what they do because they never want to let their buddies down or fail them in any way—and that’s the stark truth of it.

That dedication forms and strengthens a bond that those who never walked in combat boots will ever understand or be able to comprehend.  It’s a bond that passes between soldiers without the need of words.  They just know and understand that bond and it lasts a lifetime.  Ask me about Bill Bowers one day.

This was the life and the people I was about to leave when faced with that decision in 1995.  I admit; I was at a low back then.  I had lived, worked, laughed, cried and died along with every one of those soldiers I met along the way—those that came and went home; those that came and never made it home. 

How would I make the transition?  These soldiers were a band of my brothers.  Whether I served with or led them didn’t matter—these men were my friends.

On 1 August 1995, I made the transition—like it or not, my time had come to dismount and let someone else ride that horse.  I just knew a void would be part of my life but so be it—I had to move on as all soldiers do.

Although I went directly from the Army to my current company, it took me awhile to settle back into my other comfortable mindset—that of being a cowboy once again. 

In 1997-99, our family traveled the rodeo circuit when my son and nephew started riding bulls.  For anyone who has never traveled the circuit let me just say that it’s a life of extreme highs and lows.  The lows—when you spend all night in a hospital emergency room.  The highs—when your son is named Rookie of the Year on the local circuit.  It all comes with the territory that surrounds the arena and the life of a rodeo cowboy.

Fast forward to April 1999—I joined SASS.  Why did I join?  My heroes had always been soldiers and cowboys—what more need I say?  Did I expect to find more than shooting acquaintances dressed in cowboy garb?  Not really.

What I did find was the spirit of soldiers and cowboys living another life.  To merely say that I found a few new friends would be to short change more fine Americans than I can count. The cowpokes of SASS have the same kind of heart as those soldiers I knew so well and those young cowboys that rode the circuit—a pure American heart; no hyphenated American hearts here, just pure down home Americana .  Hearts that sprout from the very same branch as their forefathers—hearts where the term “politically correct” is not understood, accepted or used.  How refreshing, encouraging and inspiring that alone truly is.

I’m comfortable now with a rucksack of memories of those great soldiers from all my yesterdays, a saddlebag of memories in the making from those cowboys of my todays and a wagonload of future memories I’m sure to find along the trail of all my tomorrows.  Merry Christmas my good friends!


Just the view from my saddle…

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