No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
It was fifty years ago today. The summer of 1972 was unlike any other summer I had experienced. I had joined the Air Force and spent the summer at “camp” with about forty new friends. We shared one thing in common—we had taken an oath to “protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies…foreign and domestic.” We had also committed to obeying the orders of those appointed over us and at this point…that was everyone else but us. We were brand new, raw recruits who knew a lot about being a civilian and virtually nothing about being in the military. But we didn’t have to worry…our drill sergeant was taking care of that.
I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in the early morning hours of June 13th…early as in about 2:00 am. This was intentional because the Air Force actually wanted you to be disorientated the first few days. I think it was supposed to make us more cooperative. Anyway, we quickly got into a routine sporting our new haircuts and green fatigue uniforms. They kept us going from before sunrise and put us to bed even before it was dark. That was ok too because we were wore out.
This was my first time away from home, but the schedule didn’t allow for home sickness. But all that changed one night in July. There wasn’t a lot of free time…whether it was a Tuesday, a Friday, or a Sunday…though they did allow time for church for anyone who wanted to go. Most of us wanted to go…not because we loved God but for a couple of hours, we could forget the grind of basic.
Back then the Air Force didn’t observe holidays either. Of course, the only one that occurred in my time in basic was—Independence Day. As I remember, we definitely did NOT get the day off, but I do think we got to do some extra marching…I think it was supposed to be patriotic. Anyway, it was soon time for lights out and then it happened. I was lying in my bunk; the skies had finally darkened, and I heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of exploding fireworks.
I eased out of bed and knelt down in front of the window. From there, I watched the fireworks display for the base explode and light up the sky. And as I watched, a wave of homesickness washed over me. I remembered all the times that we would go to downtown Jacksonville to the riverfront and watch the fireworks together as a family. I remembered the times we would go to a small neighborhood grocery store and sneak into the backroom where they sold illegal fireworks and load up. I remembered and as I did I knew that this was the first of many times that being a member of the military would mean separation…and sacrifice.
Before long the fireworks were over and I went back to my bunk and after too many minutes of loneliness, drifted off to sleep. The next morning it was back to business as usual. The summer of ’72 passed pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was done with basic and moved on to what was next…more training…and more new adventures. And what I discovered that night, kneeling at my window in basic, came true. There were many more days and holidays when family was far away. But also knew it was a small sacrifice to make to serve my country.
So today, be sure and remember those who are serving, who are sacrificing, that we can enjoy our freedoms. Remember freedom is never free and we should be thankful for those willing to make ours possible. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is so, so true. Look, we all know America is far from perfect, but she is still the best country on the planet—remember that today too. And if you are one of those separated from family to serve, thank you and know that the One who died for you, loves you and will never leave you. No matter what you are facing today, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne