Monthly Archives: June 2011

A FITTING TRIBUTE

 With Fourth of July Approaching, I asked (and was given) permission  to air this post written by an acquaintance and fellow blogger.  He (Robert Brault) and his sister in law (Dr. Evie Sweet-Hurd) have been very helpful friends to me as I tried to get my own  book in some form.  This isn’t a “Scripture Study,”  but it does provide me with opportunity to thank some friends and pay tribute to our troops, everywhere, all the time, in harm’s way.  And it should also serve as a reminder for us to pray for those who serve so valiantly and sacrifice so much.  Please pray for our troops and their families.  ~don

This piece was first published on Memorial Day 1987. Its focus is Vietnam and the ambivalence about the war prevalent in the USA at that time. But its sentiments remain relevant today, and I present it again as an appreciation of all those who have died for us in battle.  Please see my note at the end of the piece.

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I never knew Donn Sweet. He was killed in Vietnam before I met his sister Joan. We’ve been down to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., my wife and I, to hunt up his name. It’s there, not quite lost among the thousands.

In a way, I’ve become acquainted with Donn Sweet. I’ve watched him mug for photographs and cavort in home movies. I have his collection of baseball cards, passed along to me by his mother.

Several times I’ve scanned a packet of letters written by a young fellow who motored from New York to California and sent home a running account of his first excited, amused view of America.

When he died, in that forward observer post, he was unknown to me. If I hadn’t met his sister a few years later, I would not think to pause before that particular name etched on the memorial stone. It might, by chance, have been any other name.

Today we honor those who died for our country. For the purpose, we’ve moved all their birthdays to a Monday in May. We honor them as America’s war dead, and this year we haven’t forgotten to include those who died in Vietnam. We’re in a mood, as a nation, to do so.

There is unease, though, when we speak of our Vietnam dead. The questions – “What were they doing there?” “What did they die for?” – are troubling. As we celebrate Americans who gave their lives in defense of freedom, we include those who died in Vietnam – but we do so with a note of defiance in our voices.

I don’t know what Donn Sweet thought about what America was doing in Vietnam. But as to what he was doing there himself, why he took the final chance he did, what he died for – it is possible, I think, to know.

When the enemy mortar shell hit, he was alone in that observer post. It was a high ground position he had taken in mortal, hand-to-hand combat with an enemy soldier. He had deemed the personal risk necessary — in order to direct mortar fire that would cover the pullback of the men in his platoon.

I have no doubt that he died for those men – for his friends, for the family they had become to him. He perhaps did not think beyond that – that he died also for the families of those men back home , and for other men who would live because those men lived to serve beside them.

He was trying to do there what citizen-soldiers in every war are trying to do: he was trying to end it.

He was trying to control the damage as best he could. And he was trying to not to lose his life in the process, knowing though, having thought about it, perhaps, that there is more to life than hanging on to it.

You can safely honor a person for doing something like that. You needn’t feel unease or defiance. You needn’t concern yourself about where it was: the Argonne, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, [the Middle East].

The first Memorial Day observances honored the dead of the Union and Confederate armies. It was not a day to celebrate victories or to trumpet ideas. It was not a day to speak of national causes.

It was, and remains today, a day to salute heroes.

~~ Robert Brault in The Hartford Courant

Note: In 2008, Silver Star recipient Donn Sweet became the subject of an award-winning book by his sister Evelyn Sweet-Hurd. His Name Was Donn: My Brother’s Letters from Vietnam, was one of the national USA Best Books of 2008, placing second in the category of military history to David Halberstam’s Korean War account, The Coldest Winter. His Name Was Donn is available on both amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. My review of the book can also be found on Amazon.

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Jacob/Israel

I like to write. But in order to do that, I need to feel what I write is worth being written. To be very candid, that isn’t always easy. All kinds of things get in the way. Sometimes I’m lazy. Sometimes I struggle with a subject and try to find a way to express ideas in a way which deserves attention. Better still, ideas that demand attention.
Sometimes the subject matter isn’t pleasant. Sometimes it’s difficult, even painful and personal. The subject isn’t appealing at all. And in my thinking and searching the Biblical records of “God’s Comeback Kids,” I’ve run into roadblocks. This entire study has convinced me that the Bible isn’t ever a study of man’s quest for God. Not ever! Some of the characters in Scripture were really obnoxious. All were flawed. Not one among them was spotless.
To put it bluntly, many of us have made such messes of our lives only God could clean them up. Some of us do disgusting things. And there’s no other way to say that.
Take Jacob, for example. That’s the case I’ve been investigating. What a con artist! Lying, cheating, stealing. . . even from his own kin. Before Bernie Madoff, the Enron scoundrels, he perfected the art of the con. For this study, I’ve considered the title “Jake the Snake” and a sneaky one at that. However, out of respect for the person he became, I’ve resisted that impulse.
Another problem with which I’ve been dealing is this: I have a friend who seems to be an exact clone of Jacob. Very gifted and charming, decent looking, he’s left a trail of deceit, ducking and dodging any responsibility for his dishonorable conduct. He’s betrayed everyone who’s ever trusted or cared for him and left someone else to clean up his messes while he gaily goes in search of another victim of opportunity.
I’ve agonized over him. No effort penetrates his narcissism. He is out as I now write, in search of another pot of gold at the end of another rainbow of his making. I see no good end in sight. He reminds me so much of Jacob. And Jacob reminds me so much of him.
As touchy as this subject is, I feel it needs to be addressed. I must not give up until God does. And there are people who someday may read this who are living the same way Jacob did. People who will be honest with themselves and God enough to set things right.
Hopefully, somewhere in the process of ducking and dodging, bobbing and weaving, running away, they may encounter God who is able to change Jacob into Israel. The God who changed the self-righteous, murderous Saul into the great Christian evangelist and apostle, Paul. The God who can turn your life 180 degrees and make you a new person.
That’s the kind of thing God can do. The kind of thing that ONLY GOD can do. And sometimes with the unlikeliest people. Perhaps if my friend will admit to God who he really is and what he’s really like, my friend may yet be transformed into the person God wishes him to be.
In carefully considering the lives of the Biblical characters, their humanity is always apparent. There are dysfunctional families. Some of the characters were absolute jerks, and that is a true statement. Truth is never varnished over. Consequences always follow their misdeeds. Guilty consciences haunt them. Like sheep (and us) they go astray.
However, forgiveness is also always a possibility. Perfection is a high standard. It is, actually unattainable, and that is why forgiveness is so necessary. God sees possibilities, not just flaws. He places more importance upon what you and I can become than He does on what we’ve been.

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey