Monday, July 7, 2008

O What Hundred??

A couple of weeks ago, I took a flight to Washington, DC - flying in on a Wednesday evening so I could be ready to hit the ground running the next day. I’d been looking forward to these concerts for a long, long time.

The Thursday night concert was set for Fort Eustis, VA and I’ve been in contact with an assistant chaplain there on and off for several weeks as the date approached. Sgt. Mike Duncan is a great guy and does a tremendous work there on the base, as do all the Chaplains and assistants. They meet a critical need.

I told Sgt. Duncan, a couple of weeks before I went there, that I’d be glad to do some extra stuff if it would be of any benefit to them and the soldiers on the base.

So, Mike set up a lunch event on the Navel Amphibious Base at Snug Harbor near Norfolk, VA. We were scheduled to leave from my hotel on the Fort Eustis base at 08:00 . . . 8 AM.

I had chosen to fly into DC the night before because, I thought, by 10 PM (22:00???) all the DC traffic would be cleared out. I was heading south on I-95 toward Virginia.

I thought the traffic in Houston was bad.

I found myself stopped two or three times on the interstate between DC and my destination for twenty or thirty minutes each time. Now, I have to tell ya, at this hour, after the day I’d had and the travel (which in case you’re wondering, is getting more and more weird) . . . well, I’ll just put it this way; when the traffic came to a standstill in the middle of the night, I wasn’t exactly singing for joy in the middle of it all!

If you missed that, you probably haven’t heard the new record! What are you waiting for??

I got to the base at 2:30 AM, found my hotel (on the base) and went to check in. The nice lady behind the counter was a little puzzled by my presence at that hour.

“You military?” she asked.

I was feeling a little salty but held my tongue. But I thought, “Lady, look at me. Do I look military? I mean the hair alone . . .”

Pause.

“Are you DOD?” she asked. Department of Defense? Again, I mean, really. I laughed inside and tried to picture myself in some undercover DOD assignment.

Sgt. Duncan and his boss, Chaplin D’Emma came to pick me up promptly at 08:00 and we drove to the NAB (letters are big in the military) in our VAN.

Without going into all the classified details, I’ll just tell you the two days with Sgt. Duncan and the other men and women that minister to our soldiers and sailors were fascinating.

I asked questions like a little kid.

I noticed that they wear the American flag patch on the upper part of their right sleeve. But the stars are on the right, as you look at it. Normally, the stars would be on the left, correct? So, I asked on of the Colonels about it and he tells me that if you’re moving forward into battle, this is how the flag looks. The wind would be blowing the flag back and the stars would be out front. “Very, very cool,” I thought. Then he went on to tell me, “The U.S. Army is always moving forward. We don’t retreat.”
Someone standing nearby said, “Sometimes we reorganize to a different location, but we don’t retreat!”

Yes sir. And thank you sir. I mean that.

All weekend long, I felt overwhelmed that these men and women are setting aside what most of us would call normal lives to stand in the gap to defend our normal lives – whatever that might be.

And the faces.

Some of them are so young – some are right out of high school. The looks on their faces were a mixture of confidence, arrogance, terror, “what the heck am I doing here?”, immortality, invincible, “try me!”

And the men and women that are there - some have been there a good part of their lives - to train these soldiers are just amazing.

General James Chambers, a two star general in command of the base at Fort Lee, VA, was the host for dinner on Friday night. We went to his home on the base and met his wife and had a great time of fellowship around the table. Come to find out they are huge Christian music fans. Again, I was speechless – well, sort of. We talked about songs and artists they liked and, I have to say, I left there on cloud nine.

Spiritual things are sensitive on military bases. There are so many different things that have to be considered and I won’t go into it here. But I will say, General Chambers came to the microphone after the concert at Fort Lee ended and made this very clear to the soldiers and others in attendance.

“We are here to train you. Your body, your mind and your spirit. What you have heard here tonight is part of your spiritual training. You have the right, in this country, to choose to believe or not. I want you to have good, solid information before you make a choice that could effect the rest of your lives and beyond.”

Amen.

I have to say, I would go anywhere in the world to sing and speak to these men and women – to try and uplift them with the truth of Christ and the knowledge that God loves them.

Pray for these soldiers. Pray for those that are responsible for their training and their welfare. Again, I was overwhelmed with the dedication and devotion the officers have for the men and women in their charge.

And one last thing. I heard the General say this to his audience at Fort Lee. He told them that the nation is behind them, the nation supports them. Certainly not everyone supports the war, but most people are for them. He told them that when soldiers returned from Viet Nam, there was a more hostile kind of welcome. Some demonstrations exhibited such animosity toward service personnel, it was shameful. He told them to realize how fortunate they were to have strangers come up to them in public places and shake their hands – say “thank you.” I’ve seen groups of soldiers in uniform walk through airports and witnessed a burst of applause from the traveling public.

Let’s keep that up.

Pray and be thankful.

Wayne

5 comments:

John Ng said...

thanks for blessing the troops. You are and will always be a man of integrity.

Matt said...

Wayne - thanks for going there and ministering to them. I'm grateful for all they do.

Matt

Gerald said...

As a father of a son that recently returned home safely from Iraq, I want to express my thanks to you for blessing our troops. As a person sitting on the front row at our church for the last 2 weekends listening to your wonderful music thanks and God Bless you Wayne..

Tina Minetto said...

Wayne,From a ~*Forever*~ fan of yours,and an Army-Mom at that,I thank you for having the respect for our Soldiers and all of our Armed Forces.My son returned home from Iraq November 8,2007 after a 15 month deployment.Thank you for your prayers and your New CD is...AWESOME!!!!!! Thank you!!!!
Tina

Brenda said...

Thank you soooo much for caring about our troops. My grandson just returned from Iraq and he says sometimes they feel forgotten over there. Christian performers and singers are the most important people they could ever see. thank you