I was bad last night. I was bored, watching mindless TV and my wife was willing to go to the store (so, I blame her) for some ice cream. When she came back she handed me a pint of dark chocolate ice cream with every kind of chocolate known to man mixed in. Of course, all things in moderation...well, lets just say that our freezer still has space left in it. The result, besides self loathing, was a surge of energy that kept me up for half the night. My mind was racing and my eyes refused to shut. As I lay there, trying not to blame the wife that God gave me, I began to think about what I was going to write for my blog today. As I remembered that it was Veteran’s Day, I began to reflect on God’s providence and how many veterans that he has blessed me to be able to serve as their pastor. What a blessing it was to lay there and remember the number of lives that God has caused to cross my paths.
There were the men in Ohio who had served in WWII. They rarely told their stories but I can remember being amazed at how much they seemed to be transported right back to those moments when they did share. They spoke of the sound the bullets made, of being afraid of the ones that did not make a sound, of crawling next to buddies who did not make it, and of being dropped behind enemy lines in order to send information back to headquarters. While they hardly ever reflected on how those years shaped their lives, I could see the evidence of men shaped with integrity, purpose, and soberness of life.
There were others who shared of climbing the cliffs on D-Day, of hiding in homes behind enemy lines for weeks, and being held prisoner of war for nine months. I went and read about these times and came back and shared how much I learned about their heroic battles. I asked why they had not shared these stories with their families. It was interesting to watch as they tried to minimize what they had done. Often it simply seemed that they wanted to keep those memories in another life. That those stories were meant to keep in another time and space.
Men and women shaped by serving our country are special people. They may not always share about the scud missile that did not detonate, or the sounds that would pierce the night, or gun fights that last seconds but seem like forever, or the adrenaline rushes that wreak havoc on their bodies, or all the countless hours of training and exercises, but all those events have been used by God to shape them into the men and women that we admire and love. They are some of the most impressive people that I have ever met. Full of purpose, integrity, courage, humility, and discipline. They fully understand what it means to serve and stand for something bigger than yourself. They are the finest examples of people of character that I know.
I would never salute you because I have not earned that right but I do give all of you my utmost respect and gratitude. You all literally (and I use that word purposefully) stand out as shining stars in my memories of ministry. Our country is not only safer because of your service but our church has been blessed by your service for Christ among us. Thank you for the impact God has allowed you to make on my life.