A Time for Personal Reflection
A Spiritual Fitness message from the ROA National Chaplain
I have had quite a time since our ROA Leaders Meeting in March. Since that time, I have been “grounded” by my MD and under his care and guidance. I had to cancel all my appointments and speaking engagements for the past 80 days—and I feel that I have counted each and every one of them, if you know what I mean. I have now recovered to the point that I can now do day trips and will be resuming my regular schedule soon. I still cannot fly until after my exam on 1 August but am much improved.
One of those days when my entire schedule had been turned upside down – to include sleeping and eating – it was 0500 and I could not sleep so I went to our front porch and sat in one of those Tennessee rocking chairs with my Bible and iPad trying to read and gazing eastward. As the morning sun appeared over the eastern horizon, my focus was upon those layers of Tennessee hills, knobs, mountains and my mind went to the Psalms where the writer exalts us to “Look unto the hills from where our help comes”.
In a following verse he wrote, “my help comes from the Lord”. Then I thought, I am truly a blest person with a view “from the porch” such as this. My mind then went from that view to how I got to this particular location and juncture in life. I soon not only found myself reading Psalm 121 and reflecting on the “help” I had received – not only from God Almighty but from a freedom and liberty few people in the world today have experienced.
My thoughts then went to family, loved ones, friends and total strangers who had so much to do with the “land of liberty and opportunity” with inalienable rights handed to us from Creation. I am a person in debt – not of finances but of such intangible senses and movements. My life had been saved and preserved through my years of risk, danger, and places I never dreamed I would be when I raised my hand and took my Oath of Office and Commission. I thought of an older Italian Officer with whom I had a conversation, years back, and he said to me,” You are the Chaplain from America, aren’t you? When I think of America, I think of freedom”! The look on his face told me even more than his words. Wow. It is so easy for me to take for granted those intangible things.
I recall my first time to hear TAPS apart from a movie or place of lack of bonding. I was a Lieutenant and prior to my Chaplain years. I served on a Combat Team and another Lieutenant and I became good friends. We had many missions together and talked just as good friends do.
I was single and he was married with three children. He would say to me, “Sherman, the only way to live is to be married, have children early and grow up with them”. We talked about many things as young officers do on our missions. One evening our team had arranged to connect at a certain time in final preparation for our mission but Pete did not make it. I discovered he was dead.
Our Major knew we were good friends, so he asked me to represent the team and crew and visit the family. What a task for a young inexperienced airman (I was in the Air Force then). At his burial in Ft. Rosecrans, I did what I was supposed to do with a heavy heart. Then in the distance came the notes of TAPS.
This time it was so different. The loss was so heavy and the tears flowed freely as I thought of his wife and three young children. The military service was taking on a whole new meaning now. The return to duty had an entirely new dimension as well.
Later, I received an air mail-gram thanking me for my friendship and care for their son and family. It was signed by a mother and father who was a US Ambassador. As much as Pete and I had talked on those special times, he never mentioned his family roots. I still have that letter today.
The older I become (and someone recently told me that growing old is not for the faint-hearted) the more our special National Holidays related to the military have become. Just think of the opportunities we have to say thank you and display our gratitude for those (and us) who have given much. Our debt of honor and appreciation can be respectively displayed in numerous ways. I think of the National Peace Officers Day, the Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day to name a few.
We can choose to be thankful for people who put their Country and Nation first over self. Self-serving has always been temporary and never long lasting. Our world has never been peaceful when individuals place “self” first and over country. Someone else said that “Freedom never lasts forever, because its very vitality is built on a combination of elements that are dynamic and difficult to hold together and easy to corrupt”. (Os Guinness).
George Washington had it right when, as his first official act, he offered a prayer to God thanking Him at his installation as our President. My freedom has been achieved for me by previous generations, but now I must do what I can to sustain the freedom in my Republic and hand off that baton to those who follow.
CH (COL) Sherman R. Reed, USA (Ret.)
Army Reserve Ambassador, Emeritus
ROA National Chaplain