They stood in a trench dug out of sand and dirt. Lined up like school children. The siren pierced the night sky and within seconds they were out of bed and donning their gas masks. It was the beginning of the Iraq War and no one quite knew what to expect. Most of the families back home had never sent their spouse or son or father off to war, and we were all waiting to see how this modern day warfare would play out. Back home, we were hoping for the best. Our sailors, soldiers, and marines were “over there” expecting the worst.
My husband walked up and down that line of Marines, not able to speak a word through the gas mask. Instead, resting his hand on the shoulder of a Marine with a new baby on the way; making eye contact with that Marine who just got word that his mother passed away; grabbing an elbow of the 18 year old Marine who had never been away from home before signing up. Making eye contact; being there…..with them! Ministry of presence. To be a visible reminder of God’s great love and interest in each of their lives. To be there in the dead of night when a Sailor can’t reach his family back home and someone needs to keep his mind from going “down that road.” To be there when that wife is deciding whether to quit or try again in their marriage. To be there when fear and death mingle and no one is quite sure what will happen next. This is why we endure the military lifestyle, why we embrace it. For the love of our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers, our countrymen, our God.
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39