The white sticker on the rear window of the Ford truck is hard to miss: “Afghanistan Veteran 2011.”
In the middle of building a saluting U.S. soldier for the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce fall promotion featuring handmade scarecrows, I was having trouble finding what I needed to respectfully outfit the soldier. When I saw the window sticker on the truck two cars in front of me at Cashmere’s Cotlets Way intersection, a light went on in my head.
An impromptu two-car caravan commenced and ended a couple of miles later at the end of a long driveway on Pioneer Drive.
Somewhat apprehensive, I got out of the car, introduced myself and shook Clete Hamilton’s hand, thanking him for his service to our country. His firm handshake and calm demeanor quickly put me at ease.
I briefly explained how our son, Robert, is currently an infantryman in the Army and nearing the end of his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. I then told Hamilton of the chamber’s scarecrow promotion. More than 40 businesses in Cashmere have put up scarecrows throughout town for October. I was joining in the fun by building a soldier to honor all military members, past and present. But I wanted my scarecrow to display authentic military attire.
It will be placed in Ardeta Park near the flag, and it will be at full attention, saluting the flag, I told Hamilton. It will be up the entire month of October to remind everyone of the sacrifices brave young men and women have made and continue to make for our country.
The Army veteran with 13 years of service, including tours of duty in Iraq (Desert Storm) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), was on board immediately. He graciously gave me a complete battle-worn uniform, including shirt, pants, gloves, hat, sunglasses and boots.
“This entire uniform saw battle in Afghanistan,” Hamilton said. “The boots still have Afghan dirt on them.”
Can’t get more authentic than that. Thanks, Clete.
I invite you to visit Cashmere to see the more than 50 scarecrows throughout town. I also ask that you respect the saluting soldier and what it stands for.
You can download a map listing all of the scarecrows at www.cashmerechamber.org. Or stop by the chamber office at 103 Cottage Ave. to pick up a map.
Steve Godfrey is a local writer who has lived in Cashmere 14 years. He and his wife, Irene, are veterans of the U.S. Air Force. Their son, Robert, marks three generations of military service.