This past Thursday Jean Kirchner was honored by the U.S. Navy in a formal ceremony as she retired from her remarkable career.
Jean saved many lives — many after their tours of duty. She enabled Navy personnel suffering from trauma, PTSD, suicidal tendencies, to be restored to their civilian lives, some to return to duty.
Jean, like so many, is a hero who will go unnoticed while at the same time she will be able to recall the lives she restored.
She and her husband Gary were among my first students and could never have known way back then that they enabled me to recognize that if this is what teaching is like, I don’t want to do anything else.
Like so many events today, the ceremony took place on ZOOM. So there I sat at home facing a group of senior officers honoring Jean. I was to close the ceremony with two poems.
What touched me so much was how profoundly sincere, personal, and serious in celebration each officer was, speaking directly to Jean. Voices cracked. Jean touched the corner of her eye. Her husband smiled.
Out of somewhere came the realization that sitting in front of me was the embodiment of courage; however, this time I recognized not only military courage which was most certainly evident, but moral courage. In the past week, these and many other senior officers had to display a kind of courage for which they have always been ready, but hope never to face: to firmly defend the Constitution against their so-called leader. This itself had to be traumatic. And there they were distinguishing one of their own in times that threaten the very stuff of people like Jean and Gary Kirchner.
Jean, we wish you quieter times. We thank you for your humane, life-restoring work. And we thank each officer we met that morning for defending our country against an inside force who does not know how to defend us, only how to defend himself.
Poem Beginning with Of Course
–for Jean Kirchner
Of course there are days when
the story slowly becomes one
we have known before: quiet
except for the highway
humming a mile away
while we still sleep within
the dream that hasn’t yet
awakened us. The morning
will slip away like the dew
on the hostas, ferns, and
will hang its heavy heat
on the spiders’ webs
while the cosmos droop
their startle of pink into
the bees’ bypass. Our ragged
cushions sit on the haphazard
disassembly of Adirondacks
we bought when we wondered
if we would stay where time
now settles into itself, the two
of us waiting within what lingers.
Rosemary Wahola Trommer’s new book Hush, winner of the Halcyon Prize for a collection of poems about human ecology, is a book-long love song to humanity and the natural world. It’s driven by curiosity and a willingness to dance in the unknown. You will want this one, I promise.
Ginger Rankin’s novel , Grapefruit Parlor, is out on Amazon a novel that explores human trafficking in terribly personal detail. Touching, terrifying, and hopeful by turns. You won’t forget it.
R.A. Kamin’s first novel, The Other One, is out on Amazon. A psychological thriller that has your heart firmly in your throat from beginning to end. Set in the West Michigan!
Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.