The Highest of Honor on the Battlefield

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about honor and what it means to pay honor to someone. This might have to do with the fact that I attended a few funerals in the past few months or that my son is creeping ever-closer to his first birthday, which had made me consider what are the greatest of virtues I want to teach him. For whatever reason I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking through it and have been thinking back to my time of service in the Marine Corps.

I do not usually talk about my time in the service but with those that understand it because it is truly a different world. I have many stories about my time in service concerning the many places I went, people I interacted with, training, missions or operations, and homecomings.  I would not say that I did anything extraordinary, and I have no outstanding medals but I will say that 4 years in the grunts (infantry) will have an impact on your life. Continue reading

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A Flag Covered Casket

Have you ever really thought through the association between honor and sacrifice? For some it is all to real, sudden, and unavoidable. I am not sure where your mind may go with that but let me tell you were mine goes. This past Thursday my Father and I attended a viewing in New Jersey. Let me explain…

My Father is a retired Police Officer of 25 years on the street in a city that, well, it ain’t Mayberry anymore. My Dad never really sought to pursue rank or rise to chief, he wanted to stay on the street. Which he did for over 20 years. My Father was a cop among cops and has the scares, broken bones, newspaper clippings, and peoples lives that he has saved to prove it. He was, and is, no joke. After he turned 40 he became interested in joining the SWAT team and at ae 43 earned a spot on the team, where he served for a number of years.

During this time, I grew up and saw my Dad do many different things, I was intrenched in this part of his life. I remember times when he came home after a fight, busted up or with his arm in a cast and I would help by unlacing his boots and help get his bullet proof vest off. Talk about a kid thinking his Dad was a superhero. That was me.

One of the most memorable times during this was when a Police Officer in the city of Philadelphia was killed in the line of duty. My Father took me out of school and had me accompany him to the funeral. He wanted me to see what honor and sacrifice looked like. (I think he knew then that I was going to be in the Marines, even though I didn’t yet.) I remember trying to count the number of Police Officers that came to show HONOR to this man, to the profession and to his family. It seemed as if there were legions of them. I remember seeing cars from states as far out as Colorado. The funeral procession looked like a parade with pomp and circumstance. I will never forget that.

A number of years later my Dad and I drove back to New Jersey to be present with a high number of Police Officers that were all present to honor and give their respects to a man who had died. It was a little bit different then what I remember from the funeral in Philly. He was not killed in the line of duty, it was cancer this time. He was 42 and left behind a beautiful wife and what I believe to be, at the time, a 5-year-old son.

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My Dad knew this Officer through SWAT. He was on the SWAT team from the neighboring town and they trained together when different teams get together to train for big “jobs”, which they carried out together.

When I was a child I did not understand the things of men, though my Father sought desperately to teach them to me. He knew that though he wanted to shield me from the hardness of life, that is what tempers a man. Now I am no longer a child and have seen sacrifice as it is paid on the battlefield and in the most grueling training of preparation.

As a child I saw the highest of honor paid to a man and understood little of his sacrifice and that of his family. I saw the numbers of men who came and saw the uniforms in which they dress themselves for the highest of occasions in row upon row and my mouth was left open and my mind wondering because I could not grasp it.

Years passed and as a man, I witnessed and took part in showing honor to a man and his family. Not because the masses were that of legions but because there were dozens of men present who were on the SWAT team with this man, who had trained with him doing the same drills countless times to prepare for the highest of risks. I was there to show honor because I understood it and was able to hold my head high in hopes that I might be counted among them who serve and have served well. But the whole while my hands and eyes were held low because, as a man, I understand the sacrifice that goes along with honor.

While we all were grateful the honor we could bestow we were broken for his wife and his son. As a man my mouth now is closed and trembles, my mind now grasps and prays, my hands now weaken with gentleness and with all confidence salute a closed casket.

This young man, 5 years old, may not ever have some of the memories that I have had with my Father. While that breaks my heart I pray that those who are around him remind him often of the honor that he witnessed that day, remind him daily for if he forgets that honor the sacrifice that he understands so well at so young an age will overwhelm it and honor will seem like such a little thing.

The true depth of sorrow will come when a man remembers only the greatest of sacrifices without the honor that they were made for.

Live honorably and the sacrifices will be many, but the honor is always worth it. ALWAYS!

When Grown Men Cry

Men Do NOT Cry.

Men do not cry. Pretty strong statement. What do you think, do they?

Many people make this statement thinking that a grown man crying is very effeminate. This is where all of this started for me because growing up I saw the complete opposite.

Growing up I looked up to my dad and now as a grown man, still want to be like him. My dad was a Police Officer for 25 years. 20 years of that he spent on the street being a patrolman. Not taking the tests for the next rank because he loved being on the street. He also was on the SWAT team for a number of years. While on the street he was in multiple high-speed chases, intentional car crashes, more fights then you would want to count, broke his right hand three times, left hand once, broke his femur, busted his shoulder and the list goes on. My father was, and is, a man’s man. When other men meet him they look up to him.

I tell you this to paint the picture of him for you the way I see him. He is a real man. He has his scars, both physical and emotional. He has regrets as well as points in his life that have brought him more joy then he would be able to articulate. I have been with my dad at times in his life when his heart was so gripped that he was brought to tears.

Now let me tell you something – I have watched a real man cry and there is nothing effeminate about it.

Have you ever watched a grown man cry? Think about the most manly man you know. That is my dad for me. When he cries I never think to my self “man up” “what a girl” or “sissy”. On the contrary I sit in silence, wondering how a man so manly can be so tender, so gentle, so broken.

I have learned so much from my dad, much of which he never actually said to me.

One of those things is that Grown Men, Real Men cry. At times they even Weep.

The difference between a man and a child is very simple, what they cry over.

While a child cries over someone stealing his stuff a man cries over much more important things. Here are the ones that top my list.

1. Sin. A correct understanding of the sin in your own life or in the life of another has deep impacts not only on the individual but all that love them. When you realize this and see it clearly, it has the power to break you. Whether they realize it or not the effects of those choices weigh heavy on those who love them.

2. Forgiveness. Whether you are the one giving forgiveness or the one receiving it, making restoration in relationships is again a very emotional experience. From my own life it seems that the longer the rift in the relationship the sweeter the restoration.

3. Loss of one you love. This may seem obvious to some, but the truth is that there are many who when they lose someone close to them they decide that closing down the emotional aspect that comes will make it better. There is, however, a reason that we are told that there is a time grieve. The loss of one you love can rack your world more than anything else. The reality of death can be sobering to say the least. This is true whether it is a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grand parent, or friend. The list could continue for sure. We have all felt that knot in our stomach when we heard of the death of another, even those that we have never met. We all know that feeling to well.

4. Joy. I remember the times that I have cried because of great joy. For instance, each of my kids that were born I was so excited and so happy that I cried. Partially from my excitement and partially that they were so beautiful. Either of these reasons on their own would be enough but the moments that encompass both overwhelm me to tears. This is a significant thing and many grown men have cried at the same moments. These are not moments of weakness but of understanding and gratefulness.

I understand that this list is short and that there are many more things that would be worthy of a man’s tears.  The truth is that there are any number of things that could bring a man to tears.

I need your help and any thoughts that you may have that we can add to the list.