Lessons learned for the Christian life.

"And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me." --John 11:41

Military history has always fascinated me. My father was a “ground pounder” in Korea, and later a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. This fixation with all things military is rooted in a solid case of hero worship for dad, who had been a prisoner of war in Korea (he single-handedly escaped), and had been shot down in Viet Nam. One example of this extraordinary man's heroism is the circumstances under which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (The highest award the Army can bestow, and the nation’s sixth highest decoration) because he "distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism".

I bet you'd like to hear about that, eh?  Here's a brief overview of the story:  It hinges on dad returning to a hot (under enemy fire) landing zone to rescue the crew of a helicopter that had been shot down and who's crew was under eminent threat of either being shot to death or captured. The citation reads like one of those hair raising adventure novels boiled down to a single page. A side note to the official citation is that dad’s own helicopter was damaged so severely during the rescue that it was scrapped after he managed to successfully fly it back to base with every member of his own and the rescued crew alive.  He was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and the incredible skill he demonstrated on this daring mission, but one of those infamous “lost paperwork” foul ups that are a particular specialty of the military, and the unit’s need to impress a visiting VIP with a rushed medal ceremony, denied him the recognition he deserves.

My father rarely discusses the years he spent in war zones, and I’ve found that to be generally true of the men and women who have experienced that particular hell. They almost never indulge in light-hearted war stories. But, one of the few aspects of dad’s military career that he talks about occasionally is the camaraderie and esprit de corps of the Army. After 22 years of service, he’s got a sack full of great jokes, anecdotes, and yarns that still captivate me.

I love my dad. I honor the sacrifice, heroism, and pain (including the anguish of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that he has willingly spent to ensure our freedom. Since this past 4th of July with its accompanying focus on freedom, independence, and the cost of liberty; I’ve been contemplating the price exacted from my dad and our family. I’ve concluded that although today isn’t Veteran’s Day or Father’s Day or any “Special Day”, I think it would be a great idea to give my old daddy a call, just to say “Thanks dad. Thanks for everything.” He’s not a perfect man, Lord knows none us are. Still, I love my dad.

If your dad is still with us, you might want to give him a call today to express your own gratitude for all the battles that he’s fought, won, or lost… and I’m not just talking about battles fought during wartime.  Think about how little we've expressed our appreciation for his faithful participation in the 9-to-5 grind so that we could have both our needs and wants (within reason) met; or his support and advice for making our dreams come true; or... well, there's a thousand other things the average dad does that go unnoticed or under appreciated.

Gratitude is such a valuable commodity. It costs nothing, in fact, money can’t purchase it. But. Its value is far above any material any gift of silver or gold.

So, thank you dad, and thank you to my heavenly Father. Jesus paid the ultimate price for my eternal freedom, and so I'm grateful. --Mark Mullins