The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny – it is the light that guides your way. — Heraclitus
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I look at my watch as my eyelids start to gradually droop. “There’s no way…” I think to myself. It’s 11:30 am and I’m quite honestly physically drained. No, I hadn’t slept much the night before but it wasn’t the lack of sleep. Merely being around the ranch and that cowboy lifestyle was enough to wear me out. But man, I loved the feeling of accomplishment. I remember the days of training up for Iraq and feeling this sense of accomplishment. The Army prides itself on the mantra of “doing more before the sun comes up than most do all day.” This is the kind of tired Green Beret Tim Kennedy spoke of when he mentioned living a purposeful life. I can still hear Tim’s words,“You should be so tired by the end of your day that you’re falling asleep before your head hits the pillow.” This is the way of the cowboy. I already had enough shots to make up an entire project and it wasn”t even noon yet.
The sky is pitch-black with starlit traces peeking out harmoniously in some beautiful, entropic fashion. A windmill, big porches, feeders, horse stables, and hundreds of acres of God’s great earth. It’s 4:00 am and I’m tired but I’m still ready for the day. It”s early but that Texas heat is already starting to make an appearance, showing its face even in the midst of a slight breeze. Former Green Beret, Bert Kuntz, and I are just outside of Ft. Worth at his boss’ house. I like his boss immediately. He’s barrel-chested and he has that “country strength” that makes you immediately realize this is a man you’d want having your back in a barroom brawl. He shakes your hand and you feel that leathery-skinned vice grip that a man has when a handshake means everything. I didn’t know Buster Frierson when we first met, but I immediately trusted him. He reminds me of men I’d met in a lifetime before in my infantry company. I can tell he’s a good man and just so happens he’s one of the best cattlemen in America. “Tim did you serve?” he asks. “Yessir. I did serve in the Army and spent 9 months in Iraq.” You can hear the enthusiasm in his thick drawl, “Tim, thank you for your service. I want you to know I’m grateful.” Somehow, it means more to me than the last 1000 people that have thanked me. Maybe it’s because Buster is so used to a thankless lifestyle. Maybe it’s because with a man like this, his word is his bond. He doesn’t throw that bond around loosely, the way so many do. I don’t know. Whatever it is, his “thanks” means more to me than most. Bert and Buster didn’t know much about each other’s lifestyles before they met. Still, they were the most likely of friends.
Some years back and thousands of miles away, Bert’s going over his gear for the thousandth time because that’s what an effective warfighter does. His fingers move nimbly as he carefully places each metal 5.56 round into his magazine, his eyes dart back and forth over his aid pack making sure no items are forgotten, he checks again because he knows lacking equipment can mean death on the battlefield. There are no options for shortcomings in this world of warfare. Green Berets are some of the most elite warriors in the universe. They demand perfection. Yet when Bert prepares to head out on a mission that will ensure the livelihood of others back home, there are no cheering crowds, no articles in papers back home about his unit’s accomplishments, no teens idolizing him in their favorite replica of his uniform. He heads out into the most dangerous parts of an already dangerous land not knowing if he will make it back to base. It’s the lifestyle he chose though, and to him, there’s nothing better.
A half a world away Buster is doing much of the same, in a different capacity. Training horses, rounding up cattle, constantly checking and rechecking to make sure the job is done exactly right. There’s no glory. The best quality of work is always explicitly demanded, though. There isn’t a lineup of adoring fans waiting outside the gates of the ranch to thank him after he’s done with the day. Having spent a day with him, I can’t imagine Buster even desiring any of that. He does what he does because he truly loves it. There’s no prestige or fame here. The job is anything but simple and truthfully without it, America wouldn’t be America. The American cattleman is the foundation of our expansion. The Buster Friersons of this world made our country possible. I don’t normally do this because this blog isn’t about anyone other than the veteran I’m covering. But, it would be a mistake to overlook certain things I’ve experienced as I bring you Bert’s perspective. I think Bert would want it this way. So with this story, I bring a little bit of Bert’s boss into it. There are too many close connections to ignore.
I watched Bert move as he worked the gate while they were doing pregnancy checks on the cattle and other forms of ranch maintenance. Buster was always patient but a couple of times he raised his voice to let Bert know he wasn”t doing something right. Did Bert get his feelings hurt, throw his gloves down, stomp off while he retorted with his accolades and all that he”d done for this country as the tip of the spear? Nope. He simply offered up a, “Yessir,” and fixed the mistake. The level of humility that takes can”t be overstated. It takes a humble man to be an expert in the field of taking lives and defending innocents, then to start a completely new profession at the lowest level. Then again, that”s what makes the Green Beret as versatile of a soldier as they are. They”re teachable at all times. The profession demands constant learning so an attitude of teachability is a necessity. Here”s Bert.