Today we celebrate Veterans’ Recognition Sunday, recognizing all our veterans’ service to our country, so it was ironic last week that I was looking for something in a drawer in my bureau, which is always an adventure in itself, and I ran across this bundle of stuff that immediately caught me up; I forgot what I was looking for in the first place and just focused on this bundle of stuff.
All of it brought back memories, a rush of movie shorts and images in my mind that brought me back years.
These of course are my dog tags that I had when I was in military college and then in the Army. I had a flashback to sitting in a shack with Spider Risley, Chris Olsen, and a couple of others taping these dog tags together with electric tape for sound discipline (so they didn’t rattle) when we were training with the 10th Special Forces at Ft. Devens, MA.
I remembered a fun comrade in flight school who lost his dog tags somehow. And when he had new ones stamped out, they put your religion on the tags, he told them he was a Druid!! They put it on the tags!
This thing is a scapular, it is a kind of cloth medal you wear around your neck. When I was first coming back to faith in Jesus, we were in Germany, and being raised Roman Catholic this was for some reason very important to me. My mom got it for me.
It reminded me that even though I was not sure I was a Christian, somehow God cared about me. It is supposed to give assurance of salvation which at that time in my life would have been a miracle in itself. And it was always entangled in the tags.
This little miracle is called a P38. Most of you vets will remember this, back before the sissy army food they get today, when Army food was canned: C-rations. Remember the top of the cans, ‘meat comma, mystery, comma’ – in gravy!
This little baby was essential to life so you could get into the can. I remembered in Germany, one of our crew chiefs left a can of spaghetti and meatballs on a truck engine to warm up.
The explosion got everybody attention – and the contents were everywhere! Pilots and enlisted were laughing riotously, except for the crew chief and the red faced platoon sergeant who was chewing him up. You always punch a hole in the can before you put in on the manifold of an engine. Everybody knows that!
Now this is the same thing, just bigger. It is the British version of the P38. I got this in Germany from a British helicopter pilot when we were assigned to fly with them on an extended exercise called REFORGER (return of forces to Germany) when all of Germany became a military exercise area as NATO forces trained to fight off the Russian hoards that we thought some day would pour out of east Germany.
Jimmy Splichal and I were in an OH58 scout helicopter. We were with them for about four weeks. We had one shower in that time. We had two changes of clothes. And our daily hygiene consisted of a shave and kind of sponge bath out of the steel pot helmet – now that was a utilitarian piece of equipment – then you could wash your socks and underwear in the helmet.
When the thing was over and the airplane and equipment was secured at home, Gail came to pick us up at the airfield. She said she smelled us before she saw us and didn’t want to let us in the car.
Then this is a case with earplugs in it. We were required to have these on us at all times. The army was tired of paying hearing disability so they make ear plugs mandatory.
They were normally worn on the epaulets of your field jacket or off a pocket button. I have no idea how this got tangled up with these things and the only thing I thought when I saw it was, it has been 32 years since these have been used or this case opened: there is 32 year old ear wax on these things! Gross, right?
This ball of stuff brought back memories, a ton of memories in a flash, it caused me to remember the stories and because I shared some of these with you, you have a part of me; you know me a little better.
Remembering is important for us. God’s command to his people throughout the Old Testament is to remember, that’s why the priests had the tassels on their clothes, to remember, remember who God is, remember what he had done.
The prophets in the Old Testament, and the book of Hebrews in the new call us to remember, remember our heroes, Abraham, Moses, David because they are models for following God.
The New Testament continues that important understanding; the Gospels were written so that we might know the truth about Jesus, to know him so we could trust him and have life in his name.
In the Eucharist we remember Jesus and celebrate what he has done for us. In Rite One we state that Christ instituted this and commanded us to continue (it as) a “perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again.” And we receive the bread and wine, as the body and blood of Christ in remembrance of (Jesus’) death and passion.
At the words of institution we are called to do this for the remembrance of me.
Remembering is important. It keeps us anchored to reality, in touch with what we have inherited from what is behind us, so we can face what is before us. It keeps us humble, reminding us that wherever we are in life we did not get there by ourselves. We are standing on someone else’s shoulders. Our present is an inheritance earned for us by somebody in the past.
Just think: Where would we be if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hadn’t shared their remembrance of Jesus in their gospel? Could we know Jesus as we do know him today? Would there be a church, a gospel of salvation proclaimed to the world? God only knows.
In scripture God’s people are not only commanded to remember but to teach these things to others. Deuteronomy 6 calls the Israelites to teach these things to their children and their children’s children, lest they forget, forget who their God is and who they are.
The great commission in Matthew 28 commands the church not only to go, and to baptize, but to teach what Jesus taught.
It is always important to share our lives, our faith, our experiences with others. Otherwise we abandon the future generations to a rootless pride born from ignorance of their past and what has been done before.
Veterans: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to encourage you to please share your remembrances with those who are now going on before you. It is important.
My dad at times shared his stories of being a waist gunner in a B24, 98th bomb group, 15th Air Force in Italy; stories that made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. But I came to know him at a deeper and more significant level.
He told me stories about how a particular fighter group that flew P51 fighters with red tails protected their shot up airplane on a number of occasions, and escorted them safely home.
He talked with such gratitude and respect for who he called the “colored pilots” to whom he personally felt indebted for saving him. Some years ago I met one of those Tuskegee airmen over by Morton’s Market. I thanked him for what he had done, protecting my dad, and making it possible for me to be here. It was a very emotional moment for me.
What my father shared with me, it connected me, caused me to remember, so I don’t forget who I am, where I come from, and what it cost for me to be here.
Veterans please share your stories. Don’t let them die with you. Don’t cheat those around you of what you did and why you did it. Help future generations know you, help them plant deeper roots in their lives.
Please write about your stories, talk about them, share them, let others get to really know you because you can shape their lives, cause them to remember who they are, where they came from, what it cost for who they are today.
In the parish hall, following the service, there will be lists for you to sign up to allow you to be invited to one of the Sunday school classes to talk to the kids, answer their questions on a more personal level.
If you sign up, Sunday school teachers will have the opportunity to invite you to their classes, to share your stories, to share remembrances, to inform their lives, so hopefully they will remember and they will never forget who they are, where they come from and what they have inherited from those who have gone before.
Sermon preached by the Rev. Richard C. Marsden
The Church of the Redeemer
25 Sunday after Pentecost
10 November 2013