This is a relaxing day for me, but it is also a time to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
I knew some friends in high school who were casualties of the Vietnam conflict. I remember a young man from the church in Bakersfield that my dad pastored. This young man lost a leg in battle and was flown to the military hospital in San Francisco where his parents and my parents went to see him as he recovered. There was much heartache then, as there is now with the war in the Middle East region. I just got word today that a young man was killed yesterday in Afghanistan, and this man's father was in our church just several months ago leading worship songs in our congregation. We must champion the cause of those who have lost their lives in the struggles for peace.
The military is part of my life story as well. My dad was a chaplain during World War II and served in Patton's army. My brother David served in the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam in the mid-1960s. My brother Noel served in the Navy and was on an aircraft carrier that was part of the fleet for the first Middle East conflicts in the 1990s.
And, yes, I served in the military also. Because I dropped out of college in 1969, I became eligible for the draft.
I was confronted intellectually and emotionally and religiously about war and conflict between nations. I had to make a decision to allow myself to be drafted. I remember standing with many other draftees at the reception station in Fresno on March 18, 1971. We raised our hands in affirmation and then verbally committed our lives to serve in the military. I specifically recall one individual who refused to be inducted. I don't know all the consequences of his actions, but I do know the consequences of my actions.
I went immediately to Ft. Ord for basic training and AIT (advanced infantry training). Upon completion, I went to Ft. Benning to attend Airborne School and NCO (non-commissioned officer) training. I then waited to hear about my duty station after all that training. Half of our unit was sent to Vietnam, and the other half to Europe. I was in the half that went to Europe, as I received orders for HQ 8th Infantry Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
I often wonder how different my life would have been, had I been sent to Southeast Asia for a tour of duty. It is something that I will never know.
Yesterday, we had a special time at church to remember those fallen heroes in defense of our country, and then we honored the veterans who were in attendance at our worship service as well. Flags and red-white-and-blue leis were presented to each veteran. Oh, yes, there were some pieces of Tootsie Roll candy wrapped in paper designed to look like American flags that were part of the day too. It was a special moment for our little church.
We barbecued yesterday afternoon. We may barbecue this evening as well. The weather is nice, with the temperature around 80 degrees. The skies are blue and the breezes have kept the smog away. I thank God for my life and all the joy that I experience day to day in his love.