By Toni W. Riley
Rich Dubois comes home and gives Ozzy Hogborn, the potbelly pig, a scratch and feeds him a cookie. He goes outside and starts removing lids from various tubes and a cacophony of sound arises from the back of his 3-acre property on John Rivers Road in Pembroke.
Hogs start grunting, chickens start clucking and the goats become vocal as they all know the tubs Rich is opening contain their evening meal. More importantly, the tension Rich has from his work life starts to melt away.
Since 2014, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rich Dubois has been serving on casualty duty at Fort Campbell. With this assignment, Rich is one of the soldiers who knocks on a family member’s door to bring condolences from the Secretary of the Army. Another part of his job is working with survivors to make sure they complete all their paperwork and receive their entitled benefits.
Rich began his military career in the Navy as a search and rescue specialist. He also built, dismantled and maintained the Navy’s stockpile of mines. In the Navy, he served three tours in Iran.
In 2007, he joined the Army so he could fly helicopters, because his eyesight made him medically ineligible to fly for the Navy. He came to Fort Campbell in 2011 and served two tours in Afghanistan as the pilot of an Apache attack helicopter.
Rich knew after he finished his last tour in 2014 he needed to de-stress. He had gone through a divorce and was ready to settle into a calmer life.
He had reconnected with an old girlfriend from his teenage years named Amanda, and they were planning to get married and blend their families. He wanted a home life more like the one he had growing up in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I come from a very close-knit family,” Rich said. “Both my parents were in the Navy; my mom was a flight simulator pilot and my dad was a Navy chief, and we always go back and visit.”
So, the search for some acreage in the country began. The home he and wife Amanda were hoping to find had very narrow parameters. The property had to have acreage and a home with at least four bedrooms to accommodate their blended family of five. The couple looked as far as Ashland City and Springfield before they found the perfect spot, just a few miles from Fort Campbell.
The family moved in September, and Rich immediately began developing his life as a “gentleman farmer” at their new home. He was given a goat named Fettus from one of his clients, and a neighbor gave him another goat to keep Fettus company. He also bought several chickens and five hogs from a soldier who was moving.
Rich showed off his first pork harvest from one of the hogs, gleaming with a huge sense of pride.
“It sure is good,” he exclaimed when describing the pork chops and sausage.
An important goal of his was to make sure the children weren’t couch potatoes just playing video games. He wanted them outside learning about the animals and helping with the chores.
Amanda’s sons, Brent, 11, and Aidan, 9, have many of the same interests as Rich. Brent said he is still getting used to the country life but really liked the things Rich was teaching him, “like how to build a tree house.”
Amanda was just as excited as Rich about living in the country.
“I love where we live,” she said enthusiastically. Amanda grew up near the little town of Greenhill, Alabama, where her great-grandfather had a farm and her grandfather raised goats and chickens.
She said the kids really like the big yard and the privacy of the country, a stark difference from where they lived in Clarksville. The only downside, she said, is they don’t have Internet.
Amanda is most content about what country life is doing for Rich.
“He definitely has plenty of projects to work on and he loves taking care of all of the animals,” she said. “He really likes living in the country. It’s much more peaceful for him.”
This year, Rich plans to cultivate a garden and build a separate cabin for their parents to use when they visit.
“I was tired of the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. I needed something peaceful. I wanted to know that if I heard a gun go off it was someone hunting,” he said with a huge relaxed smile.