A pastor friend of mine in the Twin Cities remarked to me that we no longer know the meaning of the word Virtue. In our insane culture wars image trumps substance; politicians and TV personalities outdo each other with insults claiming the moral high ground for themselves while engaging in toxic, divisive identity politics. Social media is anything but social, but a battlefield rife with unsolicited, offensively written opinion and a platform that has been used to spread lies and disinformation. In this strange time, it has been the high and unlikely honor of Turning Point Group to work with the U.S. Military and our Veterans. The U.S. Armed Forces remain, for the most part, a model for a civil society. Thank you for your service! And that doesn’t just mean thank you for combat in which you may have engaged on my / our behalf, it means thank you for defending and protecting people whose ideas you may not support, for protecting even those who vilify and heap opprobrium on you and for, within the constraints of the Rules of Engagement, serving and obeying those with whom you disagree, all for a modest paycheck. Thank you for keeping the Honor Code. It means thank you for having integrity!
As our society threatens to devolve into tribalism in what amounts to a circular firing squad, the military offers a different model of relationship: “I’ve got your back!” In place of individualism it holds the importance of the whole group, of leaving no one behind and of supporting one another in danger, of working together for the common good. It says that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. It offers the model of officers who look after their troops ahead of themselves.
We have seen this collective care in action many times. A small example happened at an Honor Walk in the labyrinth hosted by the Student Veteran Center at Auburn University attended by active duty military, veterans, students, faculty and assorted passersby. People picked up heavy stones symbolizing weight of unresolved grief or memories in their hearts to lay them down at the center. A young lieutenant picked up several heavy rocks putting them on his shoulder and started to walk the circuitous path of the labyrinth to the center. During the walk the weight of whatever hidden grief he carried became overwhelming. When it seemed he couldn’t take another step and was frozen on the path other military personnel noticed and immediately gathered around the circumference of the labyrinth to cheer him on. They called to him, “Come on lieutenant, you can make it. Keep going, You’re nearly there. Carry it for them; they’re all with you! Take another step!” They talked him every step of the way to the center, and on his way out saluted his courage as he passed. We have observed countless other instances of the mutual support they offer each other.
My gratitude extends to the families of all who serve and to our First Responders who leave home daily never knowing whether they will return.