A Halloween visitor from Alaska

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Column by Jim Clark

The Halloween carnival at the Southwest District Sheriff’s Office property Monday provided some happy moments for a lot of children, but in my eyes there was one incident I had that left me feeling a little bit sad and angry at the same time.
To be sure, the carnival was great. An awful lot of people volunteered to put on the event, and it seemed this year that the children were much more appreciative of what was going on. There were games and prizes, horses, rescue truck, bomb squad and dancing with a disc jockey, face painting and all those other good things that go with an evening of celebration.
At one point I was wandering around looking for cute kids to take a picture of. I saw this young couple with a little girl who seemed mesmerized by what was going on around her.
I told the parents who I was and what I was doing, and asked permission to take her picture (as a matter of fact, everyone I asked all evening was very friendly and cooperative).
After I took the girl’s photo, I asked my usual three questions of the parents: What’s her name, how old is she, and what part of town do you live in.
One of the answers got my attention. After the name and age, the mother, Francesca Rohn, said, “Actually, we’re from Alaska.” The husband immediately added, “I’m in the military, and we’re here visiting family.”
Before I could get another question out, his wife said, “He’s being deployed.”
It turns out that Steven Rohn, 21, has been in the Army for two years and is getting ready to go to Afghanistan.
We talked for a couple of minutes, and then parted ways as they headed for another attraction and I looked for more pictures to take.
A little while later I got in my car to go home, and I began thinking about that incident. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. Here was a nice young couple, presumably just starting out, thousands of miles away from home, and this husband and father was about to go even farther as he heads for Afghanistan.
I sat there wondering why. If we are so strong militarily, why haven’t we ended these hostilities by now, so we don’t have to send people like this away from their families, leaving this young mother to cope with a 21-month-old daughter.
With all the stuff about Khadafy (however you spell it) and about Iraq recently, Afghanistan has kind of been the forgotten war. This chance meeting put a real face on the battle, a face of those headed to that country.
It was some time ago that things were supposedly going our way in Afghanistan. Toby Keith was making jokes about the Taliban in their caves and singing about our victories.
But while those days have faded, Afghanistan hasn’t gone away. We got proof of that right here on the Corridor this Monday.
It’s too bad President Obama and some of our representatives and senators weren’t there Monday. It might have been enlightening for them to meet real people who are affected by their actions (or inactions).
Let’s not forget these young soldiers over there. All of us should wish the best for all of them, and particularly for Scott Rohn.
We should adopt him as one of ours … and hope that in a couple of years he’ll be back at the carnival treating Addison to another Halloween.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or at editor@smcitizen.com.