. . . bet on it. The Lord’s in there somewhere.
I’ve written about Forrest and Lakin Huckabey before. He’s the shrimpy guy (despite this, his best high school sport was basketball) who did two tours as a sniper in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. Before being permanently disabled by his combat injuries. While Forrest was deployed, Lakin held down the home front at various army bases. Tall and slender with raven black hair, Lakin has the look in her eyes of a woman who’s trying to keep up with five inexhaustible kids-all while going to night school in her “spare” time. On Forrest’s “work ineligible” discharge from the Army, they settled near their families in southeast rural Kansas about 10 miles from Independence.
I got to know the couple a bit when I volunteered for Project Sanctuary last spring in Granby, Colorado. Insistently, their story tugged at me. Well, actually it was probably more like the Lord: “You know you have more to offer this couple and their kids beyond just handing them a paper plate while they wait in the lunch line for cold cuts and chips at this Project Sanctuary retreat. Why don’t you do it?”
Out on a limb
Our family has a nice condo in Silverthorne, Colorado-smack dab in the middle of some of the prettiest country of a state that has no shortage of pretty country. And, on top of that, plenty of fun, family activities that draw hoards of tourists to this part of the Centennial State.
My wife, bless her soul, has spent many hours making that condo “just so” for our family of five and our five grandkids. There’s lots of room for the ten of us-and more.
So, I had to work up my nerve to even make the ask: “I met this Huckabey family at the Project Sanctuary retreat. He’s disabled by his combat wounds in Afghanistan. He and his wife have 5 young kids. What,” I concluded, “do you think about letting them use the condo for a week this summer? I think they’d really appreciate it.”
It wasn’t easy for either of us, but we finally came to a “Yes” in May. And then the work began-with all deliberate speed.
Johnny on the Spot
John Greene’s an old friend from church. A navy vet, he was a globe trotting petroleum geologist before retiring in the Silverthorne area. Until, that is, his first wife passed away. At which point he moved to the Denver area, joined our church, Greenwood Community, and met his second wife, Diana. John and I got to know one another through the Under Construction ministry that does “fix-it” type work for people, in and out of the church, who need a hand.
John’s a “can-do, take-charge” kind of guy. So, when I finally confirmed that the Huckabeys were coming to the condo, he was the first guy I called. After telling him the Huckabey’s story, he hesitated-about a second-before diving into the deep end.
“I worked with Rob,” began John, “who was a Green Beret and a Vietnam vet when I went to the Dillon Community Church up there in Silverthorne. I think Rob would be glad to lend a hand. And,” John continued, “since Forrest was with the 10th Mountain Division, we could take them over to Camp Hale and see where the Division trained before World War II. That would also give us the chance to show them Vail and then swing around to Leadville. There’s lots of really neat things to do up there.”
And that was just the beginning
Silverthorne has a nice rec center, swimming pool, climbing wall, skate board park-the works. But for a family of seven on a tight budget, it all can get to be a bit pricey. So after some snooping on the internet, I called the Town Manager, Ryan Hyland, and told him the Huckabey’s story. Again, with no hesitation, he jumped in and the family had a great time at the rec center and skate park, courtesy of the city.
Next, I talked to my church. Again, with almost no prompting, they came through with a $100 gift certificate for use at a local grocery store.
A few weeks before, I’d sent the family a package of material about touristy things to do in the area. One of the brochures was for the County Boy Mine in Breckenridge. It particularly caught the imagination of the older Huckabey kids; during one of our many email exchanges Lakin said the boys were fascinated by gold mining.
Even though Breckenridge, just down the road from Silverthorne, has a proud mining tradition, I was at a loss about what to do until I was in bed the night before I was scheduled to meet the family at the condo. And then, like a bolt out of the blue, Robin Theobald came to mind. An elementary school chum of mine, Robin probably knows more about Breckenridge mining history than anyone else alive. But it’d been decades since we’d talked. Nonetheless, when I called the next day he acted as if he was expecting me. “No problem,” he said, “I’ll speak to the manager, Mike. If he’s around, I’m sure we can make it happen.” And Robin was as good as his word; the Huckabey family had a great time poking around at the old mine site.
War at Home
Sure, it was fun and a privilege to be a bit player in how the Lord made this week come together for this family.
But life’s probably never going to be easy for the Huckabeys. If you doubt that, consider this “War at Home” post put up by Lakin that she described to me as “real or . . . raw?” Now, there’s an understatement: not easy to imagine an any more graphic description of the physical, emotional, and mental scars that these wars have inflicted on a young man, a young woman, and their five young children.
And yet, the wars drag on. And on. And on. Lord, have mercy.