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A Matter Of Opinion

Jamie Neely: Maxfield update

Treat yourself today and give Jamie Neely's Sunday column a good read here.

Here's how it begins:

This fall Col. Darel Maxfield once again commands his social studies classroom at Ferris High School, not a U.S. Army unit in Iraq.

He's back from the war, with some timeless wisdom, several lingering wounds and a few bones to pick. Though we've never agreed on that war, our conversations, both in person and by e-mail during his time in Diyala Province, have been illuminating.

On a recent sunny September Friday, I visited his last class of the day. Freshman honors students filled the room to view Maxfield's slide presentation on the cultural differences he encountered while serving in the Army Reserve in the Mideast. A tall, gregarious man with a shaved head and a wide grin, he commanded the classroom with poignant memories, a rat-a-tat of facts and a seasoned comic's timing.

The slides zipped past: Sandy, the mongrel who befriended Maxfield in the desert. (After she drove out a batch of snakes from under the laundry facility to give birth to her pups there, Maxfield dubbed her "tougher than vipers.") The teenage faces of the Iraqi soldiers just a few years older than the students sitting before him in their jeans and bright red Saxon T-shirts. A shot of Maxfield and his fellow soldiers holding up the colonel's large American flag.

He paused.

"I'm going to sound like a redneck here," he said. As Maxfield described the mix of homesickness and pride his flag evoked, his voice broke.

"It was the symbol of home," he said.

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