Those who know my wife Abby and me know that she and I have an undying respect and admiration for those who serve in the uniformed services — military and civilian. Although neither of us ever got the chance to serve, her family has a long and honorable tradition of service.
I thought of this at Abby’s family reunion last weekend, hosted for the first time by Abby’s cousin, Maj. Gen. Al Shoffner and his wife, Carron. Shoffner is currently the commander of the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill.
It’s easy to think of such high-ranking officials as insulated and untouchable, but Al and his family are just about as down to earth as anyone I know. Al and Carron gave us a tour of the historic Sherman House, where they are living during Al’s command, followed by a visit to his headquarters, then a trip to Geronimo’s grave.
It was great to see how interested Al and his kin were in the historic aspects of Fort Sill and the surrounding area.
The visit to the headquarters summoned a long-ago memory for me: In May 1982, one of my very first assignments as a young intern photographer at a Lawton newspaper was to cover the installation of a new commander at Fort Sill. Equipped with my very first Nikon camera, the FM, a 28mm f/2.8, and 50mm f/1.8, and a 105mm f/2.5, I recall doing a mediocre job photographing the event. A cold front had just passed through the area, and I had no jacket and was almost trembling in the cold.
Fort Sill itself took my memories back even further, having grown up in nearby Lawton. Artillery fire in the Wichita Mountains to our north frequently rattled the loose front window in our kitchen, and at night my sister Nicole and I played by the light of huge orange parachute illumination flares fired high above the hills.
It is encouraging in today’s climate of political and social divisiveness to see those in positions of command who serve with honor, distinction and stability. I happen to think that military service is a great career, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to young people who are searching for a career path.