Dear Chuck Hagel

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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About the author: Chuck Hagel is a Vietnam veteran, former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, nominee for Secretary of Defense and syndicated advice columnist published in more than 30 newspapers nationwide. If you have a question for Chuck, please send him an email at 

Dear Chuck Hagel,

My wife and I are the proud parents of a beautiful and precocious seven-year-old daughter. We’re also both atheists, a fact that my wife has kept secret from her devoutly Evangelical parents since she stopped going to church her freshman year of college. Recently my in-laws announced they needed to come live with us for an extended stay, and though I get along with my wife’s parents, I’m also worried they’ll impart their religious views to my daughter and pressure my wife to return to the fold. How can I explain to them that we’ve decided to raise our daughter in a superstition-free household and still keep the peace?

– Godless In Brooklyn

Dear GID,

We were two clicks outside Da Nang when the rain started and Lenny began complaining of chest pains. He had woken up screaming every night in the weeks since Tet, and although I couldn’t blame him for getting the jits since Charlie last got the drop on us, I also knew he didn’t have the stuff to last long in the jungle. Lieutenant Foster had served two tours in Korea only to land back in another patch of mud nearly 20 years later. He was a hard man who didn’t take kindly to some country boy like Lenny who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Lenny was plenty scared of Foster, but it was the horror of these jungle patrols that had driven him mad.

Foster knew you couldn’t have a man like that on patrol. Lenny, screaming now about his phantom pains, wouldn’t be calmed down. We used a moldy old sock to gag him, but still the moans came, endangering the entire platoon. If Charlie heard even a whimper we’d all be in the ground by morning. Out of options, Foster reached for his sidearm and did the necessary thing. I looked away as the shots rang out, and when I opened them again I saw the lieutenant hunched over Lenny’s body, lifeless and gagged, weeping the tears only hard men shed.

Now you tell me, Mr. Brooklyn: What kind of God leaves men to die in a place like that?

– Chuck Hagel

Dear Chuck Hagel,

My dog Rusty and I have been together for eight years now. He’s the best dog a gal could ask for and I can’t imagine life going on without him. I also just got the job opportunity of a lifetime, which will take me halfway across the country. Money is tight, but luckily I have a cousin who’s agreed to take me in while I get myself back on my feet. She loves Rusty, but unfortunately her husband is deathly allergic, which means I’m going to have to abandon my best friend — possibly at a shelter — if I decide to take the job. Is it crazy to turn down an opportunity like that for a dog, or should I stick with Rusty until another opportunity comes along?

– Gotta Love Dogs

Dear GLD,

Bessie Mae was the first Negro woman I ever knew. She sang at the only jazz club in Lincoln and had a voice that put Billie Holiday to shame. I was just a kid at the time, no older than 17, but I loved that giant woman like the day is long. After she would finish her show each night, we’d drive out to a cornfield at the edge of town. She made me a man in a rusted-out farmhouse, and although she was some 30 years my senior, we made plans to marry.

But Bessie Mae had another lover in her life: heroin. She overdosed in the backseat of a red Oldsmobile one month before I graduated high school. It was then I realized there was nothing left for me in Nebraska. Within the year, I had joined my brother in Vietnam.

Cowards abandon dogs. Cowards like Ted Cruz. You stick with that animal and you love him like I loved Bessie Mae.

– Chuck Hagel

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Will Rahn