Tuesday, February 2, 2010


It is an uncommon word.

And a more uncommon name.

It's my dad's first name.

Why? I asked my grandmother that question.

"I heard it one day, and I just liked it. So that's what we named him."

Pops has been called Hershcel, Hashmill, and a thousand other twisted versions over the years.

When Pete was born, he was named for his two grandfathers. Peter Haskell Burks.

The day after Pete was killed, I was sitting at the dining room table with Hardtail, just trying to make sense of all that was going on.

My cell phone rang. "Unknown" said the caller ID.

Thought about letting it pass, but I answered it.

"Alan, this is Rick Perry."

Rick Perry was and is the Governor of Texas.

I had never met him, never made a contribution, never known anything about him.

Governor Perry, or Rick as he insisted, talked to me for 35 minutes that day.

He is the Governor of a state of 25 million people.

But he talked to me that day as one father to another.

He wanted to know about Pete, his family, his time at Texas A&M, his fiancee.

There are over 400 Gold Star families in Texas from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect Governor Perry has talked to them all.

I was invited to a fundraiser tonight for Governor Perry. He is in a competitive primary facing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

I'm not real polically active, but I went because I wanted to meet Rick Perry and thank him for that phone call.

The function was at a mansion in Highland Park.

There were at least 400 people there.

I got in the greeting line.

When it was my turn, I put out my hand.

"Governor, we've not met personally, but we have talked before. You called me the day after my son was killed in Iraq."

"Alan, it is so good to meet you. Pete's middle name is Haskell. Named after his grandfather. Thank you for coming tonight."

"Governor, I just wanted to come say thanks for that phone call. It meant a lot."

With a greeting line of hundreds of young Republicans eager to shake his hand and have a photo taken, he took me by the arm and we walked to a far corner of the room. I could see the security guy and his aides eyes open wide.

We talked for about ten minutes. He expressed his appreciation for Pete's sacrifice. He was aware of the Unsung Hero Fund and our shipments to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wanted to know how everyone was doing.

As we ended the chat, I noticed a tear in his eye.

"Alan, I want you to know you and your family have been and will be in my prayers."

He went back to the greeting line and gripping and grinning.

He didn't have to call me that day.

He didn't have to spend the time with me he did tonight.

But he did.

That says something to me about the character of the man.

I'm sure that Kay Bailey Hutchison is a fine person.

But I do know that when I went to Washington, D.C. last year, she was the only Texan in Congress that didn't meet with me personally.

And for whatever reason, her letter of condolence about Pete arrived almost a year after his death.

I don't know Rick Perry from sic em.

But I do know he took time out of his life to console me and to express his interest and concern for my family.

Interestingly, Rick Perry was born and raised in Haskell, Texas.

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