The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28, verse 1.
Last Friday was Veteran’s Day and there are fewer days in the year when I am more aware of how it was an honor and a blessing from God to be able to serve my country. I spent 12 years in the Air Force: 11 active and another in the Reserves before I hung up my blues. Now, I’m not going to get all sentimental and melancholy, nor am I going to try to ennoble my service as something it wasn’t. Yes, it was a calling, a team, a mission and a movement. For an uneducated kid from Southern Indiana who didn’t have the money to go to college, it was also a job and a way out. I willingly got out of the military for my own reasons, all of which were valid at the time and few of which I regret. We make the best decisions we can at the time as much as God gives us the ability to see what He wants us to do with those decisions, and
I’ve been out 15 years, though, and since then, in every job, I’ve looked for one that was as much of a calling as my time in the service was. Sad to say, I’ve not yet found one. I doubt I will because, especially in an all-volunteer force in wartime, you won’t find many regular jobs where your brothers and sisters have all volunteered to stand with you, righteous and bold as lions. Especially in that volunteer force – and even more so when those volunteers are fighting multiple wars at the behest of 330 million people who can’t or won’t stand beside them – you come to realize that you’re part of something much bigger than just yourself.
The wars in which I ‘fought’ were not hot wars, not like the ones we fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and now Uganda. The Cold War that defined half my service (and half my life until then) was one in which the bold righteous had to stand against the wicked unrighteous. I have known a number of former Soviet people since that war ended, several of whom became my good friends. I found them to also be righteous, upright decent people who felt they had been imprisoned under an unrighteous ideology. They told me they felt powerless to have done anything about their situation; it was what you grew up in and they loved their home as much as I did. But it was inculcated into them that, if you stood up against the powers in control you would be silenced, and they knew well the underground stories of a hundred million of their countrymen and women who had been silenced. Can you blame them for ‘going along,’ even fleeing when nobody was in pursuit? History will note that their Soviet overseers told them ruthless, greedy and bloodthirsty Americans were in pursuit of them. It will then also note that, when opportunity came to throw off the Soviet yoke, they did so peacefully and then joined (or tried to) the American model they had for so long fled.
My sisters and brothers and I stood against things like this, standing watch for others who couldn’t or wouldn’t. It was our choice as much as it was the choice of my peers to go to college or work or start families. Nobody forced us to stand up and defend our home, even when defense meant preparing to fight the unthinkable nuclear war. Nobody conscripted my generation to kill Asian Communists in black pajamas, then come home to peers who had occupied public consciousness while forsaking them in the name of free love, marijuana, bad music, and cowardice. We did what we did out of choice, our choice. It’s one of the few choices I’ve made in this life of which I’m unabashedly proud. You learn in the service that it doesn’t matter what the person next to you is like, where they’re from, what color they are, or what they want in life. They’re on your team, they’re your brother and sister, and they’re there for the same reason you are. They made a righteous choice.
I won’t wax nostalgic, nor will I try to ennoble the idea of preparing to kill your fellow man in the name of following orders. Let’s keep this real by remembering that’s part of what you do in the military. There is nothing noble in killing, even when it is done so in the defense of liberty and God. If you’d asked me then why I was in I would have told you it was because I needed the job. I would have downplayed then what I embrace now, namely that I wanted to be a bold lion righteously standing my watch with other lions. I wanted to be part of something more than just me and my parochial outlook. I wanted to serve, not be served. It took me living after the experience, watching and supporting our current wars from the sidelines, to see how there is no freedom without God, how true liberty is not a libertine thing where the fact of having a choice means freedom from the consequences of bad choices.
To those who would ‘occupy,’ let that thought occupy your mind for awhile.
Last Friday, I went to see my Mom. I took her to a doctor’s appointment, I did some chores around her house, and I set up her Christmas tree so she can get the jump on decorating it. She’s 82 and it takes her awhile, but she loves to decorate for Christmas, so I figured it would be a good time to do so. We talked a lot, and we broke bread over agreeing about the brave state of those who stand the martial watch now. About how they face real evil on par with the Nazis who threatened the world during her youth, and the Soviets who threatened it in mine. And we agreed that those who would simply talk about evil while refusing to do something about it are mere shameful occupiers of time instead of being blessed masters of it. They flee wickedness instead of facing it to defeat it. They are veterans of their own shame, and nobody will take good note of their self-serving ‘sacrifice,’ or pause to take a holiday in remembrance of them.
Thank you, again, to my brothers and sisters who served in the long gray line of history, and especially to those who stand on the front lines in our wars against the utopian hatred of radical Islam. You stand for liberty and what is good and right, just as your forbears did. Don’t believe the media pablum that people are weary of your stand, or that your struggle is in vain. The task of those who stand is righteous, and you are as bold as lions in doing so.