Friday, February 24, 2012

In the Presence of Greatness

Mahria, the girls, and I went to the Reagan Library, today, for a special program: "Medal of Honor - Lessons of Bravery and Personal Sacrifice." The program featured for Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients: 2nd Lieutenant Walter Ehlers (WWII), Colonel Jay Vargas (Vietnam), Major General Patrick Brady (Vietnam), and Lt. Colonel Bruce Crandall (I encourage you to click on the links for the heroic stories of each man).

Some eight hundred students--from elementary school through high school, along with teachers, school administrators, and parents filled the auditorium. Everyone in attendance were there to see and here from heroes.

No one was wearing sports jerseys with the names of heroes of a lesser kind stitched on the back. No one was dressed with their pants sagging to their knees, decked out like their favorite gangster rappers--heroes to only villains and those who are ignorant as to what true heroism is. No. Students, teachers, and parents alike were dressed modestly and respectfully. Everyone understood that they were about to be in the presence of greatness--true greatness--in the presence of true heroes.

Once the program began, the four heroes shared anecdotal stories, with self-deprecating humor. They answered questions asked by students with the straightforward, yet gentle, demeanor of loving grandfathers.

2nd Lt. Ehlers, who will turn 91 in May, brought himself and us to tears early in the program. Ehlers recounted the time when he went to his parents to sign the parental authorization for him to enter the Army. His father signed the document. His mother, before she would sign, took her then seventeen-year-old son by the arms, looked at him with tear-moistened eyes, and with a quiver in her voice, said, "If you are going to enter the Army, then you must promise me you will serve as a Christian soldier."

All four of the brave, sacrificial, and heroic men mentioned the importance of faith in their lives. But there was something distinctly different about the words of 2nd. Lt. Ehlers. Ehlers spoke as one who truly knew the Object of his faith. For Elhers, the Object of his faith was not some mysterious or esoteric "higher power." Elher's God was not a generic "big guy in the sky." Elhers spoke as a man who knows the Object of his faith--who knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

How encouraging it was to hear a man with nine decades of life experience recite, with tears, the words of his mother, from seventy years ago.

As the program drew to a close, the four men of valor were asked by the moderator to leave the students with one more pearl of wisdom. I appreciated what Lt. Colonel Bruce Crandall had to say.
"In America, we don't have kings and queens, or dukes and duchesses; but we do have nobility. And the nobility in this country are our veterans."
What an apropos and honorable way to end what was a memorable time--a memorable time in the presence of greatness.

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