Duty-Honor-Country

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It was half-a-century ago. World War II was behind us, and the Korean Conflict had hit the history books. What was current was something called the COLD WAR. The world was rife with daily tensions between the United States and the USSR. The atom bomb that ended the war in the Pacific had morphed into an ever-escalating race to develop increasingly volatile nuclear weapons and defense systems.

Diplomatic “brinkmanship” prevailed in international relations. Everyday life seemed to go along as usual, but fearful anxiety was ever-present under the surface. One of the first tests in this tension was the Berlin Airlift. The Air Force flew humanitarian supplies into East Berlin over the wall that had been created to keep the free world out.

The U.S. kept a standing army poised for combat in Germany. A command known as “COM-Z” provided logistical support for those troops. Within that command was another known as “BASEC,” which stood for “base-section.” That’s where I served for two years at the Army’s 319th Station Hospital at Bussac General Depot in France.

Military life during the Cold War was a mixture of routine and readiness. I recall times when we moved out in convoy to set up a field hospital for several days of combat training exercises. One “alert” was different in 1958 when President Eisenhower sent a contingent of Marines into Beirut, Lebanon. Ordinance for that operation was shipped from Bussac by the trainload.

We had a motto during the Cold War that stood at the heart of who we were as United States troops: “Duty-Honor-County.” Those three words were central to our mission and bespoke a positive thread that laced our lives together at home and abroad. As a Cold War veteran, I have a license plate bracket on my car with those words. Every day I am reminded how essential that slogan was, and still needs to be, at the center of our national life.

Today wars and political incidents test our resolve to stand for freedom in a world where it is always threatened. It troubles me that we don’t stand with a central slogan like duty, honor, country binding us together, undergirding our society. Instead, we seem to have drifted into suspicion, distrust, bullying, and tribalism. Such does not strengthen us. It pulls apart the fabric of our national welfare.

“Duty” suggests a responsibility to contribute to the common good. We each pitch in and do our part. It isn’t all about “me.” It’s all about “us,” at our best, seeking the best for others. It makes our differences secondary to a sense of community. It allows for individuation without cut-offs. It’s a lofty ideal much in sync with the founding principles of our nation.

“Country” is our unique sense of place, nationhood, traditions, beliefs, and vision. We value patriotism, loyalty to our principles, and commitment to the common good. We are “Americans” first and foremost, and we pull together to resolve problems and enhance life for generations yet to come.

These are just a few thoughts to sprinkle over the mix of crucial challenges requiring us to be consciously grounded in ideals that transcend the muddled fray of tension that engulfs us. The first Cold War officially ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the reunification of Germany. Tensions, however, have continued to fester. Today it appears we are engaged in another COLD WAR, with nuclear threats, diplomatic leveraging, and challenges to individual and national integrity.

Perhaps in such a time we should dial-up again that motto, “Duty-Honor-Country” to keep ourselves grounded in the promise America offers at its best.

 

The Urgency of the Awesome

Hughs Wordquilts

68751972_1081560372035314_3139446971106852864_nRecently my brother, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley, sent pictures online of wind damage to our family’s homeplace. Trees were down, others still standing but split into pieces. Debris was everywhere.

My first thought was, this is an old family photo, probably from a time after I had left home (Jim is twelve years younger than I). It seemed like an awesome occurrence I should have remembered, so I texted him, “When was this? I don’t recall mom and dad ever mentioning it.”

“Yesterday,” came the reply.

That surprised me. Although I don’t pay close attention to weather reports, I do watch the news on TV and read the newspaper every morning. It seemed like this surely would have been reported.

Jim texted me again, “It was a microburst.”

“What’s that?”

“Straight-line winds in a thunderstorm.”

It was a new term to me, so I checked it out…

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The Urgency of the Awesome

68751972_1081560372035314_3139446971106852864_n

Recently my brother, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley, sent pictures online of wind damage to our family’s homeplace. Trees were down, others still standing but split into pieces. Debris was everywhere.

My first thought was, this is an old family photo, probably from a time after I had left home (Jim is twelve years younger than I). It seemed like an awesome occurrence I should have remembered, so I texted him, “When was this? I don’t recall mom and dad ever mentioning it.”

“Yesterday,” came the reply.

That surprised me. Although I don’t pay close attention to weather reports, I do watch the news on TV and read the newspaper every morning. It seemed like this surely would have been reported.

Jim texted me again, “It was a microburst.”

“What’s that?”

“Straight-line winds in a thunderstorm.”

It was a new term to me, so I checked it out. Wikipedia informs me that a microburst is “a downdraft caused by a thunderstorm or a rain shower.” High winds plunge straight down from the cloud bottom, then burst outward in all directions when they hit the ground. Next comes a cushion stage where the wind velocity dissipates. Damages can cover up to two-and-a-half miles.

While the term was new to me, I found it not to be so uncommon when checking the history of this weather phenomenon. I found a listing of 18 incidents attributed either to microbursts or storms that included microbursts and tornadoes. They covered a period from 1989 through 2019, affecting aircraft, buildings, businesses, homes, highways, vehicular damage, injuries, and death. Microbursts can also compromise wind flow across the wings of aircraft in flight, causing the engines to stall.

One incident in June 2010, involved damages from 75 mph winds in Charlottesville, Virginia. Another in July 1012, occurred the Fredericksburg area. Most recently, a microburst caused a crane to topple onto an apartment building in Dallas, Texas this summer.

So, I wonder, how is it I’ve been unaware of microbursts? Could it be that in an era when the internet has shrunken our sense of the world’s vastness, we no longer notice the small things? Perhaps terms like “awesome” and “newsworthy” are reserved for events affecting huge, sweeping damages.

Whatever the case, this was one microburst that hit home for me. In my consciousness, microbursts will never again be swallowed up in the urgency of the awesome clamoring for a loftier audience.

 

Return to Sanity

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We need a return to sanity at the heart of our national life. I believe the majority of Americans are decent, hard-working, honest people who honor their country’s values of freedom and justice for all. We make mistakes and learn from them. We seek the good in others, rather than scold them as bad people, or fear them because of differences of race, belief, or place of origin.

We live our daily lives within the context of conflicting pressures that often test our patience and perseverance. We admire the sentiments engraved at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, inviting those who are torn, weary, and desperate to a place among us. We are proud of our country and want it to stand on the high ground among the nations of the world.

That is not to deny the presence of intolerance, greed, self-aggrandizement, criminal exploitation, snobbishness, disrespect for others, and violence among us. In recent years these characteristics have come to dominate much of our conversation, and our presence in the world. Trust has disappeared. Decency has faded. Tribalism threatens to destroy the very fabric America has always represented. We must practice government “of, by, and for the people,” not a form of regressive feudalism.

It is abhorrent that we have allowed a president and his cadre of pirates to raid and trash our nation’s honor. We must restore respect to the office of the president. We must repair the brokenness he has wrought. The rights and humanity of all persons must be recognized from the Executive Branch, down. Trust and honor must overshadow political favoritism. The principle of innocence until proven guilty must be central.

Regardless of political affiliation, our nation needs a centrist approach that embraces the lives and destinies of all our citizens.

 

Vacation Muse

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Morning waves pound the shoreline.

Soaring, hungry seagulls screech aloft.

Energized waves swell, then tumble

into foamy, sand-laden disarray. Beach

bathers gingerly extend toes to test

the briny foam’s integrity. Sun rays

sport a game of hide-and-seek with

thinning clouds. An airplane’s motor

strains to tow a banner with its siren

call to more exciting pleasure coves.

Umbrellas pop open among the dunes

like fanciful, sprouting mushrooms.

Two lovers pause to share a kiss,

then save the moment with selfie smiles.

Such is life seen from a hotel balcony

one balmy July morning, while a worker

skims the froth from an adjacent pool.

Thirty-seven years ago, Sharon French Logan and I joined our hands, hearts, and lives together before God and people in the church where I was a pastor. We’d both been down such a path before, only to end up painfully divorced and feeling broken. We pledged to love, honor and cherish each other, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health.” The intervening years have held experiences reflecting the breadth of life embraced by that vow.

This week we celebrate our anniversary. Our bond of love still holds. We are more vibrant, stronger, and wiser for all we’ve been through. God has been our anchor. God’s love for us has enriched our love for God, each other, our family, and many people he has placed in our path. We stand before God now, as we did then, in gratitude, humility, and eternal hope.

A few years after our wedding, we moved to serve a different congregation. One of the families there owned a cottage at Nags Head, which they generously invited us to use for a week each summer. Those summer vacations became healing times of bonding and strength amidst the stresses of church and family life. We always found our spirits refreshed by the presence of God we sensed on this fragile strip of  North Carolina land that forms a seaside buffer to the Atlantic Ocean.

Even after the family who owned the cottage and we had moved on in our lives, the Outer Banks has continued to call us. It’s still a place of renewal we cherish. A few years ago when Sharon recovered from dementia via a brain shunt that corrected a neurological condition, one of our first acts was to spend a few days on the Outer Banks. It was restorative then, as always before. The same is true of our days there this week.

What a blessing. Thanks be to God.