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2/12/13 at 01:13 PM 0 Comments

Hope Unseen (BOOK EXCERPT, PT 3)

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Captain Scotty Smiley made American history while serving in the military. The book Hope Unseen: The Story of the U.S. Army's First Blind Active-Duty Officer tells his story. This book excerpt comes from chapter 9.


Inner Strength

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, “It Is Well with My Soul”

Hope Amelia Solo was not always a goalie. Although she would eventually mind the net as the starter for the U.S. national team (and earn a shutout to secure the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics), Hope started her soccer career as a forward. She amassed 109 goals at Richland High School in the late 1990s, led the Bombers to a state championship in her senior year, and was twice named a Parade All-American. Then Hope Solo went to the University of Washington and became a goalkeeper—maybe because she grew tired of defenders like my wife.

Doug and Karen Elliott raised a son and three daughters. The first-floor study where Tiffany sat and waited for an e-mail after the Mosul mess hall bombing is now a shrine to my in-laws’ athletic accomplishments. White-and-purple Pasco Bulldog varsity letters—forty of them maybe—wallpaper the room. Between the four of them, Travis, Tiffany, Nicole, and Michelle played five different sports. Until senior year, when she shredded her ACL on the first day of basketball practice, Tiffany had planned to play college hoops, college soccer, or both. Michelle, the youngest in the family (at least, a few minutes younger than her twin sister), did grow up to play college basketball, at Gonzaga, winning two West Coast Conference titles and twice being named the Zags’ Most Inspirational Player.

My father-in-law has long believed that had he been able to bioengineer a combination of Tiffany and Michelle, he could have manufactured a superstar, capable of dunking home the winning bucket in an NCAA or WNBA championship game. In his test tube, he would have mixed two parts Michelle’s athletic ability and three parts Tiffany’s fire and determination. On the court and on the field, Michelle was talented but nice. Tiffany was not quite as talented and not quite as nice.

Just ask Hope Solo. Or ask Tiffany’s third-grade teammates. Even at nine years of age, Tiffany was a ball hog. The coach would tell her to pass; she would glare back and hold on tight. When she wasn’t dribbling or shooting, she would run down the court, screeching, “Give me the ball! Give me the ball!” People were shocked to see cute little Tiffany, a petite blondette with an angelic look, sliding across the floor, leaving thin slices of her knee on the free throw line. When Mom Elliott noticed Tiffany’s halo turning from mellow gold to blood red, she says, she would slouch a little in the bleachers and look around shiftily to see if anyone noticed the family resemblance.

In high school, Tiffany’s antics had turned from hogging the ball to making every move tough on her opponents. She would often talk trash in soccer and basketball games with competitors such as Hope. But Tiffany wasn’t all verbal intimidation. Battling a rival high school during her sophomore soccer season, Tiff shoved the other team’s star player to the ground. From the sidelines, Travis Elliott barked with approval, entertained by the spectacle of his sister’s toughness. The opposing coach was not as amused, interrupting the match and rushing onto the field to scream at Tiffany. The coach also happened to be the player’s mother. The referee quickly separated Mom Coach from a defiant Tiffany and doled out yellow cards to both.

A couple of seasons later, in the final game of her high school soccer career, Tiffany matched up against Hope Solo for what would be their last competitive encounter. Tiffany fought hard, wearing out Hope’s shins and fracturing her own arm, but Richland and Solo emerged victorious, stealing a win in overtime and moving on to an eventual state championship.

Mr. Elliott was well familiar with Tiffany’s tongue, and the shoving, and her aggression. As an irrepressible three-year-old, Tiffany had stood separated from a collection of sheep by an annoying electrical fence. She sized up the wire barrier and figured in her little brain that crawling under the bottom strand would be the best way to get to the animals. Despite her dad’s instructions to stay out, and despite three shocks from that fence, he says, Tiffany managed to crawl through and get to those sheep. That sort of determination is another thing that I absolutely love about my wife.


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