Thursday was a mix of emotions for many, my family included. Earlier in the morning, a dear friend of mine, returned to his family after a lengthy deployment. His unit was gone over 7 months. Similar to the other Marines he was deployed with, he missed birthdays, school parties, anniversaries, and holidays. His wife and two kids simply missed him. On this day, their countdown was finally over. A husband came home to his wife. A daddy came home to his kids. The joy of reunions are indescribable to those who have not experienced them. This was a great day for hundreds of Marines and their families.
Then a little after 11am news broke that a young man named Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez sprayed an Armed Forces Recruiting Center with gunfire before driving seven miles away and killing four Marines at a Navy Reserve Center. Although the investigation continues, there are no answers that will truly satisfy our desire to know “why?”
Within a few hours on Thursday, a number of families were reunited with their Marine while four other families, through an act of terrorism, had the fabric of their lives destroyed. The contrast in emotions was overwhelming.
My boys had questions about both events. As I spoke with my children over the next two days I wanted to ensure they understood four things:
#1: There is evil in this world. This cannot be ignored. We can refuse to watch the news or read the articles but that will not make it go away. In fact, one of the great fallacies of our modern life is the assumption that we have the right to live in peace and security. The plain truth is Jesus never promised us safety in this world…quite the contrary.
#2: Our response to this evil is not simple to explain or understand. There is no one right way to face evil. God may call us to fight and conquer like Joshua, submit with hope like Jeremiah, or preach like Jonah. But, even in light of these examples, we must remember that the One we are told to emulate is Jesus…His love and His sacrifice.
#3: I reminded my boys that strong people always stand up for victims . That’s why we have a military, local police, first responders, etc… All of these men and women are willing to sacrifice to allow us to sleep peacefully in our bed each night. They sacrifice their personal comfort, their freedoms, and many even their lives, to protect and defend us. However the burden to protect and serve others does not fall solely on their shoulders….we must also do our part to protect those who may be weak. Regardless of our response, to overcome this evil, service and sacrifice is required.
#4: Perhaps most importantly I remind them of who wins in the end. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” – Revelation 20:10.
In most all military boot camps, one of the first things a new recruit is taught is close order drill…or for the non-military type…marching. The drill instructors use drill to teach discipline by instilling habits of precision and instant obedience to orders, to build unit cohesion, and to provide simple formations from which combat formations may be readily assumed.
First the first few weeks the recruits spend hours upon hours learning drill through continuous repetition. Some movements are quickly grasped while others are quite painful. I remember clearly the two most difficult drill movements for me and my unit to learn: “About Face” and “To the Rear”.
“About Face” is a standing individual movement while “To the Rear” is a marching movement used by the entire unit. Both drill movements serve the simple purpose of turning the individual or the unit 180 degrees in the other direction.
History provides us with great examples of men and women who have chosen to change the course of their life for the better. I was sharing with my children recently the story of a man, living centuries before, who changed the negative direction his life was taking. His name was Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. Known as a relentless persecutor of the early church, he was determined to stop the spread of Christianity. But after a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul devoted the rest of his life to preaching the gospel and building the church. Today we remember him as a missionary, church planter, and author of thirteen New Testament epistles.
For my boot camp platoon, Platoon 1003, once we individually and collectively learned the difficult tasks of changing our direction we were able to move on to advanced training, graduate as Marines, and fulfill our purpose in serving others. And as Paul clearly shows us, it doesn’t matter how far off course you’ve gotten; it isn’t too late to change your direction.
Sixteen years ago today, Liz and I stood at the altar and made a commitment to each other for the rest of our lives.
Here is a brief snapshot of our blessed life together since that day:
2 boys…who are very much boys
0 cats (this number will remain the same)
A dozen or so lizards…maybe more…maybe less…don’t ask
9 inter-state moves
Too many training exercises, military operations, and deployments to count…
On the day I left for bootcamp in 1996, Liz handed me a small leather bound Bible. She told me she had underlined one verse that spoke from her heart. I spent the next 2 hours on the plane looking for her message. I found it in the Book of Ruth.
3 years of long distance dating and 16 years of marriage and she has never wavered from those words.
To the girl of my dreams, my bride of 16 years; I hope you know:
You still fascinate and inspire me.
You still influence me for the better.
You’re still the object of my desire.
Thank you for another wonderful day of marriage.
Every year around May and June, I am routinely intrigued and sometimes entertained at the number of celebrity commencement speakers at universities across our country. Some commencement speeches are dull, some are grandiose, and some get made into Top 40 hits. But some, some are truly motivational. Last year was one of those moments.
In 2014, the University of Texas at Austin invited Admiral William H. McRaven to share his philosophy of leadership with the recent graduates. At the time of his remarks, Admiral McRaven was serving as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Before commanding all of our nation’s most elite warriors, McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36-years, had been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He had commanded a squadron in the legendary Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and even oversaw the planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. On this day, he choose to share ten lessons learned from basic SEAL training. Although all were compelling I found lesson #1 especially convicting.
Lesson #1: “If you want to change the world….Make Your Bed”
McRaven shared that how every morning in basic SEAL training, his instructors would show up in his barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was his bed.
McRaven elaborated, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right…..And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
McRaven’s statement may sound a little far-fetched, but his advice is undoubtedly worth considering: if you want to make an impact on a large scale, you have to be comfortable making it on a small scale too.
This made me wonder: As a parent and spouse, how often do I overlook the importance of the small mundane tasks.
Do I spend more time planning for a great trip or vacation but neglect the blessing of an early afternoon off with the kids?
Do I shoot for the moon on my wedding anniversary but totally miss the target on scheduling regular date nights?
Do I overlook the importance of the hours I have today while focusing on my 5 year plan?
Like Admiral McRaven, I too am convinced that we all need to be reminded that success in most parts of our life revolves around doing the simple things really well.
Do you want to have an impact on this generation…start by making your bed!
(After making your bed, I highly recommend reading the other 9 leadership lessons McRaven presented that day http://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech)
“Duty is the sublimest word in our language. … You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” General Robert E. Lee
On June 15th 1775, George Washington accepted an assignment to lead the Continental Army. Washington had been managing his family’s plantation and serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses when the second Continental Congress unanimously voted to have him lead the revolutionary army.
After accepting the position, Washington sat down and wrote a letter to his wife, Martha, in which he revealed his concerns about his new role. He expressed uneasiness and worry at leaving her alone. He shared with her that he had updated his will and hoped that he would be home by the fall. Washington’s call to duty would not allow him to return “home” for almost 6 years.
As I ponder Washington’s life and his call to duty, I reflect on the lessons I have learned during my time as a Marine. I’ve learned that men will work hard for promotions. I’ve learned that they will work even harder for a great leader. But I’ve also learned that men will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a calling…when they are dedicated to their duty.
Gentlemen – as fathers – we have an enormous but beautiful duty to shoulder. Our duty: training and equipping our children to live out their lives for the Gospel.
This Father’s Day, I challenge every man to do his duty to those who are in his care and toward whatever task is in his trust, regardless of the personal cost. I pause, myself, to reflect upon ways in which I can serve my family better. I fear I may one day wish I had done more than I did. Let us have no regrets!
Duty recognizes a cause greater than one’s self; it is choosing the right thing rather than the convenient thing. When your duty as a dad calls, how will you answer?
“Among the ever-pressing problems of the leader is seeking means to break down the natural barriers and give his men a chance to understand him has a human rather than one who simply gives orders.” S.L.A. Marshall, Men Against Fire.
From 2004 to 2007, I served as a Platoon Commander and Executive Officer at the Marine Corps “The Basic School” (TBS). Newly commissioned Marine Officers attend TBS post Officer Candidates School (OCS) and before they attend their occupationally training and eventually hit the fleet. The doctrinal mission of TBS is to: “Train and educate newly commissioned or appointed officers in the high standards of professional knowledge, esprit-de-corps, and leadership required to prepare them for duty as company grade officers in the operating forces, with particular emphasis on the duties, responsibilities and warfighting skills required of a platoon commander.” Bottom line, we taught them how to be leaders of Marines in combat.
Our curriculum covered topics ranging from basic formations, weapons employment, and ethical decision making to complex training such as urban warfare and the coordination of close air support. Throughout every aspect, the new Officers continually asked one question: “Where should I put myself on the battlefield?” They did not know much, but they knew that their location, their presence, was of immense importance.
My answer to them was always the same, “A leader should be located where he can best command, control and inspire his forces. Too far forward and he risks unnecessary danger. Too far away and he fails to share the burdens of his decisions.”
Regardless of your job, as a leader your location provides insight into your leadership philosophy.
What about you?
Where do you locate yourself during the day?
Are you accessible to your team?
How often do you meet them where they are?
Does your presence inspire them?
Always remember, your location matters!
(In this post the term Marine can be used to describe any service member in our Armed Forces).
There is a myth about Memorial Day. This myth is known by all who have ever served. The myth is that those who sacrificed did so for their country. I think of friends that have lost life, limb, and eyesight in service to their country. Undoubtedly they all volunteered to serve their country. But not one of them died for their country….they died for their fellow Marine.
A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing General John Kelley tell the story of two Marines. Two Marines from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman. On this day they were in a city called Ramadi standing watch together with a group of Iraqi Police. Together they were protecting the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines and over 100 Iraqi police.
During their watch a large blue truck turned down the alley way and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.
During the follow on investigation, six seconds of video tape footage emerged. The recording shows a number of Iraqi police, scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. The recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear in to the body of the one who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers. The two Marines never stepped back. They never started to step aside. They never shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their country, their flag, or the politics involved in their current deployment.
Six seconds. More than enough time for two very brave young men to think about their brothers…to do their duty.
Marines serve their country but they die for their brothers.
For even more stories detailing this kind of unselfish sacrificial bravery I recommend “They Were Heroes” by David Devany.