Note: This is a classic Retorts column from 2011, originally published in the old Garden Grove Journal.
History is full of the exploits of great leaders, warriors and scientists. Society rewards them with medals, prizes and other accolades.
But not all the important struggles of the world make the headlines or the bibliography. As Uncle Billy said in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” about World War II , “Someone had to stay home. Not every heel was in Germany or Japan.”
As some of you may know, in my spare (ha!) time, I am a staff sergeant in the California State Military Reserve. On Saturday they handed out a bunch of military decorations and it got me thinking about how cool that was.
I mean, in the military world, you get to literally wear your accomplishments on your clothing. Someone can tell at a glance who you are, what you’ve done, how long you’ve been at it, and more.
Well, sitting there through another PowerPoint presentation about army staff organization, my mind began to wander to decorations and medals that the rest of the world could earn and display …
Pet-Bathing Cross: Getting your dog dunked can be an expensive thing, so a lot of us do it at home. It may seem like a simple task, but when you’ve two big chooch-y retrievers, it becomes quite the task.
First, you have to corral the beasts. They seem to have a sixth-sense when you’re going to bath them; they slink off or – if you crook your finger at them – sprint for the exits.
Once caught, you have to wrestle a flailing 85-lb. dog into the tub and hold him or her in place. Washing a dog is like firing a bazooka; it’s really a two-person task. And once you get the beast clean, you get soaked (if you’re not already) when the mutt decides to shake every drop off onto you.
Not as hazardous as Navy duty, but almost as wet.
Driver’s Training Badge: Pets can be a handful, but nothing tests one’s courage in the face of possible death and higher insurance rates like a teenager in pursuit of a driver’s license.
The learner’s permit has terrified more people than Stephen King and the draft board combined. You’re in your car with a totally inexperienced driver who is also in the grip of a hormonal storm which would sink a clipper ship. Most of what he or she knows about driving was learned from teenage pals or watching action movies.
Surviving is your highest goal, but lesser (but even more impressive) accomplishments include a) not grabbing the steering wheel more than once per training trip; b) biting your lip instead of screaming when he (or she) misses sideswiping a police car by two inches or c) walking from the car at the end of the trip without your legs shaking or your eyes rolling.
Memory Medal: This is probably a great test for men than women, but all married people will admire a person who earns it. We often end up judging our significant other by how well they can remember some arcane fact, anecdote or anniversary.
Marilyn, for instance, wanted me to memorize the first and last names of every player on young Michael’s junior varsity basketball team. I, on the other hand, expect her to remember every article that appeared in the Garden Grove Journal … from two weeks ago!
Mostly, though, this is a group commendation. “Honey, where did we put the [fill in the blank]?” If you have the right spouse, you’ll both turn the house upside down looking for said object without hardly a cross word. You probably won’t find it, but you’ll discover other stuff.
That’s how Columbus discovered America. I think Queen Isabella gave him a medal, too.