August 17, 2005



Start:
Cincinnati, Ohio
End:
Akron, Ohio
Mileage: 285 miles
Route taken: Interstate 71 northeast to Route 72 east to Route 22 northeast to Interstate 71 east to Interstate 77 north.

 

        Leaving Cincinnati I was forced to take the Interstate, but got off of it as soon as possible. I found a little highway about 30 minutes north of town that led me to one of the best side roads I have been on so far.

        Highway 22 parallels the interstate for much of its path, but treats users to pieces of Amish Country; green, rolling farmland and deep cornfields that stretched toward the Pennsylvania border.

        It was a path that required no map and provided no stress. It meandered instead of rushed, glided instead of pulled, and flowed instead of pushed.

        The towns were genuine, not manufactured to accommodate a thoroughfare, with friendly people and history and character.

        One of those is Sabina. A town of an approximate 3,000 people, it didn’t even warrant mention on my map.

        It is a Rockwellesque town, with a policeman who waves hello and smiles, and people that sit on their front porch and rock the late afternoon away. Kids ride bicycles up and down the street, not having to worry about strangers confronting them.

        The local paper is four pages long and has Bible School announcements on the front page.

        Ice cream socials are hosted for people who already now about the event before the paper published it.

        Everyone knows everyone and a strong belief in God and hard work has kept this town thriving for 175 years.

        The supermarket is down the road in the next town and there are no chain restaurants. One of the eateries is a Frosties on the right side of Highway 22 right when you pass the town’s sign that proclaims Sabina, “The Eden of Ohio.”

        Inside a young mother was treating her three boys to ice cream. Two booths down sat Jim, a local senior citizen who drank coffee and talked to other retired townsfolk for at least an hour.

They are joined by Libby Hughes, who came in for a late lunch.

        Hughes sat next to the family and smiled when the youngest was struggling to keep his ice cream in the cup.

        The grandmother of three has two sons of her own, 34 and 35, raised them herself. She smiled at the mother she called by name and was glad her child rearing days are over.

        Those days were tough, being a single mother isn’t easy. They were made tougher when her oldest son enlisted in the service, fighting in the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

“I never had gray hair until he went over to fight,” Hughes said. “It worried me so much.”

Hughes’ son came home, lives in a town about 10 miles away, and visits often.

Another Sabina resident, Pam Saville, wasn’t so lucky. Her son, Brett Wightman was killed Aug. 3 in Iraq.

                                                

 

There won’t be any grandchildren, no surprise visits, and no phone calls asking how her day was. Saville got an American flag and a letter of condolence from the government.

        The 22-year-old Wightman enlisted in the Marines before he even graduated East Clinton High School in 2002. The armed service was all he talked about. He was captain of the football team and homecoming king in his senior year.

        He was a Lance Corporal and was sent to Iraq with his unit in March. He died when the amphibious assault vehicle he was in hit an explosive device while on maneuvers.    They buried Wightman on a summer Saturday, had a public viewing in the high school gymnasium and a service on the high school football field.


 

        Hughes said she heard there were 178 cars making the processional through the town to the White Oak Grove Cemetery.

        Wightman went to Iraq for something he believed in and he is being honored by the town for that service. There are yellow ribbons on houses, telephone poles, businesses and trees in his honor and the proceeds benefit a foundation set up in his name at the local high school. American Flags are flying at half staff and signs thanking Wightman are evident around the quaint community.   

                                                                                                     

        But Wightman’s legacy might have another effect. He and the 13 other Marines that died in the single deadliest roadside bombing thus far have made people in his town and other small towns question why there are there.

        The blind allegiance to the war was unwavering two years ago, but now quietly people in small towns that are losing their children are beginning to ask why we are there.

        “I think it’s made a lot of people open their eyes,” one woman said. “Brett was a good kid, he didn’t deserve this.”

        As of August 17, 2005, 1,857 members of the armed service have died in Iraq. Wightman’s mother told a local television station she is not sure she knows why her son – or anyone’s child – was there in the first place.

        Hughes was pondering the same question when the youngest of the three boys – who had more ice cream on his shirt than in his mouth – was walking towards the front door.

        “Casey,” Hughes said in a slightly rising voice of warning to the mother, “grab him before he goes out into the street and gets hurt.”