Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Cannot Imagine

I hung out with three veterans today on Veterans' Day.  Two pilots & one logistics/admin type.

One is my Mom's husband Leo.  Leo was a USAF pilot who flew various fighter planes throughout his career.  As a squadron commander in Vietnam, he had to write those terrible letters to brides & parents & children that begin, "It is with great regret..."  He knows the sound of anti-aircraft fire hitting his plane & the look of the trails made by S.A.M. missles coming toward the plane he was flying.  He once landed a plane with one of the two engines knocked loose by a-a fire; the plane was scrapped because of this.  He knows how to drop close air support ordinance on enemy troops, thereby greatly assisting our own troops.  I cannot imagine.

The other two are my brother Jim & his wife Sandi.  Jim flew anti-sub P-3s for the U.S. Navy around the Atlantic during the bad old days of the cold war.  He knows the chill of pre-flighting a plane and seeing nuclear weapons attached, and knowing that a certain set of circumstances + commands could've resulted in him launching & thereby beginning a nuclear war with the (then) Soviet Union.  He knows how to identify a submarine as a "fast attack" or a "boomer" (missle-launching) sub.  He knows the screech of the missle-lock warning in his ear that signalled that they had been "locked on" by enemy ships' anti-aircraft missle systems.  I cannot imagine.

Sandy was also an officer in the USAF for her career.  She worked in supply & logistics & in hospital administration.  She knows that behind the budget numbers & boxes of requisitioned supplies are military men & women needing medical care.  I cannot imagine.

Had we been in town today, at church I'd have seen my friends Jim & Lance.  Jim served in Iraq with the Marine Corps, and Lance served with the Army.  I might have seen my friend Bob.  Bob was a pathfinder with the U.S. Army during the Normandy invasion in 1944.  His were literally among the first Allied boots on the ground in our invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe.  I would likely have seen my friend Philip, who served as a gunner on an armored personnel carrier in the Army.  I would also likely have seen my friend Gary, who serves with the Army, and who has served in Afghanistan.  I cannot imagine.

One of my students does missle defense; he returned from a year deployment earlier this year.  He knows the sound of his defense systems taking out missiles aimed his way.  He also knows the rumble of the explosions caused by a couple that they didn't knock down before hitting the base.  Another friend from WCU is a crew chief on a cargo plane.  He has accompanied caskets home from the middle east.  Caskets that were flag-draped and were not empty.  He has greeted the grieving families "on behalf of a grateful nation."  I cannot imagine.

My Dad served with the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the USAF.  His first duty post was with the Army of the Occupation near Nagasaki, Japan.  Just after a nuclear bomb there helped end WW2.  Lisa's Dad served as a combat medic in Korea.  He was assigned to a rifle company very much in harm's way.  He knows the sounds of bullets pinging off the rocks around him as he was tending to a wounded soldier.  I cannot imagine.

A day is coming when soldiers & sailors & airmen will no longer be needed.  When "He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4) 

I. Cannot. Imagine.

But just as the veterans mentioned experienced & trained for things that I cannot imagine, so we will all one day experience war's end, when the Lord Himself will render war obsolete.  Until that day, I honor those who put on a uniform & take a pledge & stand in harm's way on behalf of a nation conceived in liberty.  I thank God for raising up men & women exemplified by the few I've mentioned here.  It's easy to build a monument and to salute a flag.  That requires very little courage.  But what our veterans have done?  Courage beyond measure!

Whatever your thoughts on the current administration or on any particular current military conflict, I hope you took time to honor our veterans today.  I hope you take time to honor them every day.  For truly, every day that we are free is Veterans' Day.

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