Archive for Military
When a soldier returns from Afghanistan bringing pain, depression, and sleeplessness with him, he may want better companions. When he suffers from a disabling spinal-cord injury as well, he’ll need a powerful remedy to restore his health.
Enter therapy dogs. For former Army infantryman John Walis who suffered all the above ailments, one dog is doing it all: providing such loving companionship that Walis prefers taking a walk with “Tommy” instead of a drug by himself. Walis has a whole cabinet of medicines, but Tommy provides the best therapy.(Raleigh’s News & Observer, March 26, 2013)
Walis is here at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg to take nine dogs from the post’s Animal Control and Adoption Center to New York. The animals will go up north to be paired with veterans who have PTSD or other mental health issues. It is expected that their special, canine kind of unconditional love will work wonders with the vets, as it has done for John Walis and so many other soldiers.
President of the Fort Bragg Adoption Center Robert Misseri agrees. “Starting every day getting licked in the face by a grateful pooch is better than nearly any pharmaceutical…No therapy can ever replicate that,” he said.
One of the greatest books of all times assures us, “[Love] heals all your diseases…”* and “with God [Love] nothing is impossible.” **
There it is again: the power of love to heal.
**Luke 1: 37
What do you do when you’re in a crisis of fear or stress? And if you’re a soldier facing terrorism, bombs, suicidal thoughts and other horrors of war, would you find available help for this mental anguish? Would you turn to your pastor and would one be there for you?
The Veterans Administration is looking into this. Turns out that research shows the importance of pastors to our troops and veterans: soldiers, like all other people, turn to them in trouble five times more often than they turn to psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers or any other mental health professionals. Pastors, trained in faith and spiritual intuition, can express compassion, acceptance and practical ideas that meet the immediate need. Like shepherds, pastors lead us, guide us, protect, rescue and care for us. Pastors are important.
My friend John told me how grateful he was to find his pastor during a frightening experience. During Army Basic Training he was in charge of a rough bunch– including a convicted murderer. One of them, resenting the job that John had assigned, threatened to kill him. John needed a pastor to turn to that night. But John’s pastor wasn’t personal: it was the Bible as he remembered it from Sunday school. He had always turned to it for pastoral guidance before, along with the aid of a textbook that opened up the healing truths of that Good Book.** For several nights, when the officers were gone and he had no back up, John prayed the Lord’s Prayer, feeling God’s protection and care as taught in the biblical text.* His fear lessened, his peace returned, and the man never threatened him again.
It’s comforting to have a spiritually minded person to confide in when we’re afraid. But you can always take along your very own pastor if it’s a Bible. In that case your pastor might fit right into your pocket!
*The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day,our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matthew 6)
**Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
From time to time we honor those who serve our country in extraordinary ways. One way is to show up at the polls and vote, if we are fortunate enough to have that privilege. Surely the election of the public servant who will arguably be the most important leader in the world deserves our best efforts and our sober and respectful thought.
Another way to honor our brave public servants is to to pause and say a prayer of thanks for the many who have already served: our veterans.
As we await the results of the presidential election on November 6, citizens of the United States can come together to honor these heroic men and women veterans, irrespective of political opinions.
Here’s a reminder of how one special opportunity came our way:
“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”. There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.
“In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should “issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) was approved on May 13, 1938, which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I. A few years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service men in the history of the United States and the American forces fought in Korea. In 1954, the veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans”. Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, where ever and whenever they had served.
“In 1968 the Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) made an attempt to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October. The bill took effect in 1971. However, this caused a lot of confusion as many states disagreed with this decision and continued to hold Veterans Day activities on November 11. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which stated that Veterans Day would again be observed on November 11 from 1978 onwards. Veterans Day is still observed on November 11.” From:http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/veterans-day
So on this day and especially on November 11, I thank all our military veterans for their courage, unselfishness and dedication. These spiritual qualities have their source in God, and when we express them daily ourselves, following the model of our veterans, we are supporting our troops. The exercise of spiritual qualities by each of us, veterans or not, may do more for world peace and the prevention of war than we know.
With every war fatality or injury from Afghanistan, we North Carolinians shed more tears than other Americans. Why? Because our state, with Fort Bragg, Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, is home to more military personnel than most others.
So it was with special compassion that I learned of local hero Nathan Rimpf, Army Ranger from Raleigh’s Leesville High School, who lost both legs as he stepped on a homemade bomb while leading his platoon in Anbar Province. Proud of his heroism, Nathan’s sister Bridget began a campaign to honor him while he’s been recuperating in Walter Reed Hospital. Along with her mother and a boost from Facebook she began selling wristbands for $5 each to fund the huge family costs not covered by insurance. So far, 2000 bands have been sold and seen globally. Governor Rick Perry wears one and Olympic runner Carl Lewis does also. Wristbands for Nathan can now be seen at a Colorado National Park, a Kenny Chesney concert outside Washington, and on razor wire in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.
There’s a wonderful change afoot here: from compassion to a new admiration for those who are now called “differently abled” rather than “disabled.” The recent London Paralympics helped this change as the world witnessed the incredible physical feats accomplished by these special athletes. Are these same witnesses seeing the power of the spiritual qualities that base these accomplishments? Qualities like courage, grace and persistence, without which no physical achievement is possible? Is it possible that people are beginning to see others through a spiritual lense more than a physical, material one?
Certainly tremendous progress has been made in the physical training and rehab of those who’ve lost limbs and other faculties. Discoveries are made every day about the ability of the body to resuscitate itself in unexpected ways: the African spiny mouse, a mammal, grows his skin back after predator attacks; lizards, salamanders, crustaceans and arthropods regularly replace their body parts. We know the lobster can grow another claw if one is lost. Is all this amazing physical regeneration the harbinger of exciting discoveries for the human body?
Interestingly, these hopes are pinned onto making matter better, not on mind or spirit. We judge progress only by physical observation. Or do we? It is only through spiritual sense, not physical measurements, that people can see manhood and womanhood grow into greatness through qualities like compassion, resilience and leadership. These qualities are studied and taught in faith based communities and in other inspired sharing. Through prayerful searching to express more of these qualities, many have seen wonderful recovery of the use of severed or partly severed fingers or toes. My sister is one of them.
Legs cannot bestow these qualities, no matter how many of them we have. But lost legs may lead to new kinds of heroism found and celebrated in each one’s essential, spiritual identity.
In our Raleigh community of North Carolina State University, veterans are remembered.
For veterans everywhere who served so selflessly, deepest thanks. For all those who gave their lives to defend us, my father included, special thanks and remembrance this day and always.
Did you see Louie Zamperini at the Christian Science Reading Room yesterday? Neither did I. Actually, I’m not sure Louie Zamperini, famous former Olympic runner, has ever visited a Christian Science Reading Room. But if he did, I think he’d like it. Why? Because the hero of best seller Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has been on a spiritual journey ever since his transformative experience with Billy Graham and a recommitment to God’s plan for him. Reading Rooms are places where one can continue a spiritual search for understanding and healing.
Zamperini, a former WW II POW in Japanese prison camps, suffered torture, humiliation and most likely post-traumatic stress disorder, but a Billy Graham conversion to Christ gave him restored health, a healed spirit and a new, joyous purpose. (See March 20 blog.) Zamperini must have loved his visit to the evangelist’s famous library in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Christian resources and an atmosphere of inspiration are found.
Christian Science Reading Rooms are outreach oases in every community where there is a Christian Science Church, and each is sponsored by the church for the public to come in to browse, study, purchase Biblical resources and ask questions about spiritually uplifting books such as Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. As well as welcoming spaces for prayer and reflection, Reading Rooms are lively places where one can hear a “Daily Lift,” participate in a live chat online about healing problems through prayer, and see the latest news and trends in the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper The Christian Science Monitor. Sometimes there are Bible Study groups or discussions on troubling issues of the day, all with healing and restoration as the goal. Records of healing abound.
I’d like to meet Louie Zamperini in my Raleigh Christian Science Reading Room. I’d like to meet Louie Zamperini, period.
We say our spirits are up or down, depending on circumstances. Some who’ve survived incredible challenges may have bowed spirits, even bloodied ones. What keeps them unbroken in the end?
The example of former Olympic runner Louie Zamperini shows us. Laura Hillenbrand writes of this man’s survival as a POW in Japanese camps during World War II. Her best seller Unbroken describes the horrors of his plane crash, days adrift on a raft, daily threats by sharks who flung themselves at him, starvation and dehydration, eventual “rescue” by the Japanese, and the nearly unbearable treatment by the guards and their psychopathic leader Watanabe, nicknamed “Bird.” Zamperini endured the sight of comrades dying and his own beatings. Yet, he remained unbroken.
Finally liberated by the Americans after his family had been told he was dead, Zamperini began a civilian life that quickly spiraled downward through alcoholism, poverty and despair. At last that unbroken spirit cracked and began to shatter. Then, at the insistence of his wife he attended a Billy Graham rally near his home in California, and one night, despite strong resistance, the evangelist from North Carolina reached him. Louie Zamperini was reborn. Hillenbrand writes:
“Louie felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation.” (p.176)
Louie went on to forgive his captors, even Bird; to live a life declaring his faith, serving his new church, and helping at-risk boys learn to excel and thrive under his loving mentorship. With a marriage restored, a body healed, a heart put right with the world, and a God –given purpose to live out, Louie remained unbroken and whole.
Christian Scientists believe that the same divine Love Louie found is also Spirit, or God. This Spirit, which cannot be broken, is our very life. Through prayer, gratitude and humility we can see ourselves as worthy before this Spirit, our relationship with Him as always unbroken. Restoration and healing result from this spiritual, new view.
Miss Manners tells us to avoid politics at the table if we want to keep the harmony of a family get-together. If Uncle Herman is a Tea Party die-hard and Cousin Elspeth is an adamant Occupant it could be exhausting to keep these two apart at Thanksgiving.
So why not do the obvious: bring them together over gratitude. Each of us can be grateful for something, and as we hear the gratitude lists of others, we feel kin to them. We are one family again.
Each year Christian Science churches offer public Thanksgiving Day services throughout the United States. These services are in addition to the regular Wednesday testimony meetings, so important was the concept of gratitude to Mary Baker Eddy, founder of our religion. Those attending are invited to share their gratitude for blessings, guidance, healing and well-being. There is no collection because the church is grateful for those attending!
During each of these American services the Thanksgiving Day proclamation of the President of the United States is read, or sometimes the Governor’s. Whether we voted for him or not, we can all rally for one day behind a Bush or an Obama’s gratitude for God’s blessings. This year we’ll hear:
“Though our traditions have evolved, the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story…Today, let us offer gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices, and keep in our thoughts the families who save an empty seat at the table for a loved one stationed in harm’s way. And as members of our American family make do with less, let us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand…
“Now, therefore I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America…encourage the people of the United States to come together…to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others…”
Amen, says Uncle Herman. Say it brother, agrees Cousin Elspeth. Now pass me a drumstick, please.
Now we adjust to another “new normal:” a world without Osama bin Laden. How will we respond? Will the US and Pakistan continue to hurl counter accusations about slack security vs. violation of a country’s sovereignty? Will the “birthers” become “deathers” in refusing to accept the facts of the tyrant’s violent end? Will flash mobs of jubilation spark more violent reaction in the Middle East? In other words, will reason prevail over fear and group-think? An answer may be found in practicing the spiritual qualities we learn in the best teachings of our faiths.
One eloquent voice from Greenville, North Carolina spoke with wise restraint and simple decency. He wrote in Raleigh’s The News & Observer:
“Rarely is news so breaking that people halt everything just to follow it. Sunday’s [May 1] news regarding Osama Bin Laden was at such a level. I am sure my fellow countrymen felt a sense of relief.
“Being an American Muslim I felt two forms of relief. First, I was relieved that the man who was responsible for making the “Muslim” synonymous with “terrorist” within the American psyche was finally put to rest. Secondly, I was relieved because a major threat to my country has been diminished.
“Whether this development will put a damper on terrorist activity or inflame them even more is yet to be seen. At any rate, as a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, I would like to reassure my fellow countrymen that they have nothing to fear from us. We take the advice of the Quran to obey those who are in authority among you seriously and have proved ourselves to be loyal American citizens since we first established ourselves in this county in the early 20th century.”
Hassan Ahmed, Muslim Writer’s Guild of America http://www.newsobserver.com/
I like the way my countryman Mr. Ahmed appeals to a faith of reasonableness. As a Christian Scientist, I’ve always liked Mary Baker Eddy’s urging, “The time for thinkers has come.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Pref. vii) No extreme or violent emotion here, no settling for what everyone else thinks or does. Each must listen to Divine Mind,–the highest idea, the God-like idea, before acting. First, we must be thinkers.