Remembering the Sacrifice – ETC(SS) Hill

21 Gun NavyHonoring the heroic comes so naturally to most of us. The soldier who sacrifices his life to save the life of his comrade is a no-brainer for the average American with any heart at all.  Those who return home from overseas at Dover AFB in flag draped caskets leave an image that draw us all in and helps us to memorialize those who have fallen to protect our freedoms.  We will wince at the report of seven rifles fired three times and the haunting tones of Taps at the graves of those killed in training accidents and un-explainable murders while on duty receive on their home soil.  We rightly honor these service members and acknowledge the their sacrifice.

I have only personally known one individual who died while on active duty.  It is for him and all who have fallen at the hands of an enemy that attacks every service member that has chosen to put on the uniform and served his country in peace time or on the battle field.

Fouled AnchorETC(SS) Hill (Alias) reported to the USS Albany (SSN753) during our post-commissioning shakedown period.  A newly frocked Chief Petty Officer reported to take the reins of the Reactor Controls division.  Chief Hill arrived at a major cross roads in his career and his life.  He was a young ambitions submariner who had risen quickly to join the “Goat Locker” (Chief Petty Officer Mess) at the earliest opportunity. Add to this that he was one of the few nuclear trained black submariners in the fleet: It was obvious that he was a star on the rise.  Unfortunately, he was also making a transition that any career sailor is forced to make – transition to a non-deploying command.  Although not quite shore duty, we were home most nights.

To most, this would be perceived as a great opportunity to reconnect to the family.   To a sailor, this is often the most stressful time in their career.  Life for the service member while deployed although difficult and sometimes wrought with danger is “comfortable”.  Each day is filled with structure, focus, and purpose.  He is doing exactly what he has been trained (programmed) to do.  Yes … he misses his family and the life that he left behind, but that is something he does not have any control over so he loses himself in duty.

What about his family while he is gone?  They have to go on without him.  The spouse takes over the tasks in their marriage that he would fulfill if he were at home.  Mom’s become both Mom and Dad.  Yes … the family misses the service member and they acknowledge the hole that has been left, but that is something they do not have any control over so … they loose themselves in their duty.

CasketDuty changes everyone.  Often times, the end of deployment finds strangers reunited without common purpose.  Chief Hill found himself locked in a battle between family and duty and there is rarely a winner in this battle.  He and the stranger that had once been in love with could not find enough common ground to rebuild; divorce was eminent.  A young, intelligent, and intensely proud man could not bring himself to surrender to defeat and succumbed  to the enemy of our soul.  Without note or notice, Chief Hill took his own life.

Chief Hill represents a casualty of war that is a constant threat; not only to those who put on the uniform, but for those that take up the duty of the military family.  No service member walks away unchanged.  Under the best of circumstances, one may endure and discover renewd strength through the experience, but in too many case families are destroyed and in some cases lives are lost.

No shots will be fired.  Taps will not haunt our dreams.  Heroes rarely are counted in their ranks. But as I reflect today I chose to memorialize the service members and families that have been sacrificed to serve you and me.  The ones who have fallen before the true enemy and author of all war.  I ask that you pray for those that are serving today that they will be stronger and better prepared than Chief Hill to face the unseen enemy of our souls.

Fair winds and following seas ETC. Rest in peace

Navy Bugler

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Mark 3:1-6 Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand

Let me tell you about my best friend Charlie.

Charlie CroppedI was deep into one of the worst years of my life. Due to an injury, I had lost my long time dream of wrestling in college and had subsequently dropped out of school.  I had an on-going conflict with my parents and moved back to Kentucky were my fiancé was coming to school with the hopes that I would be able to rehab and get back into school and wrestle again.  I took a job at Steak and Egg Kitchen and enrolled in a couple of classes.  About two weeks into the semester, she dumped me to experience more fully, the college life.  This was the last straw. I plunged deep into depression and was contemplating taking my own life.

Charlie was a tall, drug dealing, long haired, long bearded, blue eyed (Some said he resembled Charlie Manson) janitor at the University of Kentucky Student Center.  Despite his many short comings, he waws highly intelligent, had an infectious smile and loved to laugh.

CaprisHe worked 3 to 11 and I worked 11-7, so about 11:30 he would wander in and sit at the end of the bar, drink coffee, and we talked.  He might leave for a while if we got busy, but he would be back.  On days that I got off early, he would throw my bike into the back his Mercury Capris and take me back to my apartment.  Sensing that I was unstable and never left until he thought I was going to make it through the day.  He would sit in a rocker and talk until I fell asleep and then he would quietly head out.

Wow has it changed!
Wow has it changed!

After a while, my depression began to lift. I started hanging around with him at the student center until I headed to work.  We pretty much became inseparable. While he did introduce me to some things that were not quite savory, together we both realized that we wanted more from our lives than just a day-to-day existence.  While I explored many different religions and philosophies, Charley never really showed any interest until one day we both stumbled across the Gospel of John.  Together, the two of us tore hungrily into the writings of “the one whom Jesus loved” wanting desperately to know this love.  On the evening of August 12th 1982, on a sidewalk of a busy commercial area in Lexington, that same Jesus came and made Himself real to us and we were forever changed.

Charlie and I walked through that first several months of new life together.  We learned to worship, pray and seek the face of the One who met us that day on the Euclid Avenue.  I was beginning a new life in more than one way.  Within six months, I would be a husband and a father and Charlie was there through that whole transition as well.  My best man and God father to our first child, one would think that would we were destined to be joined together for a long time.

Circumstances and direction can change quickly, but we know that God is sovereign and has a plan that we have no clue about at times.  Only 3 months after our wedding, we moved 600 miles away in hopes of some stability for our family.  Charlie heart would begin to break for a world that, like me , needed to know the love that John had described to us.  He gave and he loved and he told everyone that would listen and even some who would not that they did not have to go through life unloved.

We moved back to Lexington about 18 months later for a short period of time as I prepared to enter the Navy.  Charlie and I had some time to catch up and pray.  We spent one night just before I shipped out praying at his apartment and we both had visions. I saw Him speaking words of love to a crowd and as He turned to leave, fiery arrows  pierced his back.  He saw himself in a pit trapped with an ugly version of himself and he was scrambling to escape.  Needless to say, we were both pretty freaked out. I shipped out and he went back to touching lives.

He had taken in a young, homeless street-wise teenager who was struggling with some very evil influences.  Although the young man knew that he wanted his life to change, he was not ready to give up on his old life.  One moment he appreciated the guide lines that Charlie set for him, and then some outside influence drew him away.  It was frustrating for Charlie, but being patient, Charlie hung in there with him.

I was on hold in Great Lakes, IL awaiting the birth of our third daughter when I received the call.  This young man that Charlie had love and cared for and a middle aged lady had brutally killed my friend, stabling him dozens of times in the back him the closet of his apartment.

Charlie SmileWhy do I tell this story when I read Mark 3:1-6?  Yes, this passage address how the world often rejects the love, healing, and love that Jesus brings and responds with hatred, evil plots, and death.  You could draw the obvious analogies. Maybe, you think it the fact the Sabbath is for healing and rest and that Charlie has entered his rest and you would be absolutely correct.  But the truth is that I will always think of Charlie when I read about these verses because on that day back in 1985, Jesus said to my friend “stretch out yours hand“.   You see, my friend, the whom Jesus loved … had a withered hand.