Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Veterans

Ever since the first cave men grouped together around a fire, there have been those who wanted to steal that light and warmth from them.  Accordingly, there have always been the warriors who would step beyond the safety and warmth of the campfire to protect the young, the old, and the infirm. When these men, and sometimes women, would return to the circle of firelight, they would be different.  Maybe they would be scarred physically, but they would always be changed.  They had gone into the night, and willfully looked for those things that most of their group had fled.  They knew just how precious the women and children, the good food and warm fire, and the safety of their group was.

So, as long as there have been people, there have been warriors.  Almost as long as there have been warriors, there have been veterans.

Don't take this to mean I place myself in the warrior grouping.  I was just an intel weenie in a mostly peacetime army.  I was closer to Sad Sack than to Sergeant Rock.  But as the man says, I served in the company of heroes.

92 years ago tomorrow, the guns fell silent on the biggest, most deadly war the world had ever seen up until that point.  On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, the meat grinder shuddered and sputtered to a halt, at least temporarily.  An entire generation of mankind prayed in vain that it would never be restarted.  When it roared back to life a generation later, the best of humanity stood up to make other men free, and stood guard over the world trying to contain the beast for yet another generation.  Sometimes they just watched it, sometimes they fought it. Now, another generation is fighting against those who would steal the peace and the light from the world.  My prayers go out for their success and their safe return to our campfires every night.

I was lucky to meet an extraordinary man, Robley Rex, several years ago.  This man joined the Army for World War I, but didn't get to Europe until after the fighting was over.  He lived out his life quietly here in Louisville, and in 1986 devoted himself to his fellow man.  He volunteered regularly at the local VA medical center, and never seemed to meet a stranger.  I only spoke a few words with him, and only learned his story after he passed away earlier this year, but his example touched my life.  That is what a veteran is to me.  After a youth dedicated to his country, he gave his older life to us as well.

So, if you're a veteran or are currently serving, thank you.  When you get to Valhalla, look me up and we'll tip back a few.  For those of you who are protected, please take a few minutes out tomorrow to remember those who place themselves outside the circle of light and warmth for our sake.

Psalm 91

 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”  3 Surely he will save you
   from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
 14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”

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