This Veterans day I am deeply grateful for those who have – and continue to – set self-interest aside and sacrifice to preserve the freedom I enjoy each day. I wrote this brief contemplation several years ago and read it again when I got up this morning. “If laying down my life” is Jesus’ gold standard for love, thank you to all who are serving. I Hope it is a helpful part of your Veterans day reflection.
“Grade school began each day with the “pledge” to the American flag. The principal would announce over the loud speaker, and every person in the school would place our hands over our hearts and in unison we would stand and say, “I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, One Nation, under God – with Liberty and Justice for all.” This used to give me goose-bumps all the way up my back. Together with my positive experiences in scouting, it never dawned on me that there were people who thought our country was less than great. This all changed for me in the early seventies.
When I was 19, the Vietnam war was in full swing and incredibly unpopular. I didn’t feel right about working around my low number in the draft lottery (like heading for Canada) so of all things I joined a military police National Guard unit. As my long hair hit the floor in a basic training processing center, I sincerely wondered what I had done. Over the next eight weeks I lost six inches from my waist and looked like a laundry sack tied in the middle. I can still remember eating my mess hall meals in the ten steps it took to get from the serving line to where we dumped our trays. My drill sergeant would stand and eat my dessert while I did sit-ups and push-ups. For the next six years I rubbed shoulders with sheriff’s deputies, police officers, and other guys in law enforcement (a real mind-blower for me).
My military experience helped me in several ways. In basic training I thought I was going to lose it. Never before had I been in a situation where someone had complete control over my life. Yet I survived. Getting to know these men made me realize just how hard it is to be in enforcement. I learned a great respect for the authority they wielded and why such oversight was necessary (in stark contrast to the “pigs” I had heard so much about in my longer-haired days).
The other good thing that happened during my time in the military is that I became a grown-up patriot. The sense of gratefulness and pride I feel at an event as the national anthem is played is hard for me to describe. Over the years I have had the opportunity to talk to veterans from several wars. I used to watch my father-in-law’s nerves activate as we asked him about missions over Germany, as well as old friends found and lost. It has become impossible for me to minimize these sacrifices made in the past, as well as those which are being made by thousands of families even as I write.
The world is a dangerous place. I am grateful to live in America. I am thankful for my freedom and thank God for the privilege to flourish in a free society. I hope our leaders will continue to protect our freedoms in the future. I am concerned for my grandchildren. There appears to be a serious leadership vacuum all around us. Rejection of law has opened doors best left shut, and corruption of heart is leading to sliding ethics of epic proportions. The proposition someone would aspire in life to become a man or woman of God is rare. So we experience leadership without the underpinnings of law or character. I am concerned for my grandchildren.
As the world has changed and my faith in God has grown, my confidence in humanity has taken a hit. My observation is that the human solution is not social, political, or economic – it is spiritual. I have long ago given up the idea that mankind is evolving upward. We are just as needy as we have ever been, perhaps just a little more sophisticated. This is one factor which drives my faith, and is a distinct turn around for my 60’s brain.
We find ourselves in a culture war. How can we be effective in it? What are the pressures our neighbors face? How can I be a good listener? In what ways am I an effective heart-influencer of others?” – Dave Nadler, Curious Journey