This article written by CBF-endorsed chaplain Chuck Seligman is third in a series of posts by Current steering committee members as they reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, and its impact on their generation. Current steering committee members are also encouraging churches to plan Service in September ministry opportunities in response.
Many people think a young person needs to go to college to get an education, but war is an education unlike any other.
How has your life changed since the horrific events of September 11th? That day I was at an in-processing station getting a physical, hoping to enter active duty. It would be my third time getting this extensive physical. That ho-hum atmosphere was disrupted as corpsmen yelled for us to witness what was happening on television. That’s where I first saw the airplanes commandeered by 19 hateful men engulfing the world in a war on terror.
It would only be a matter of time before the President marshaled the military to respond to their acts of evil. The world had changed; our lives have never been the same. The uncertainty I felt was shared by many in America and with those with whom I was ministering with as pastor in west Tennessee. We gathered that night for prayer. A couple of months later I would resign from that church and while it was not easy, everyone was proud to support my decision to enter active duty in light of what had happened around us.
When I arrived at Hurlburt Field on 14 February 2002, the Air Force waited only two months before deploying me. I spent 10 of my first 18 months of service away from home and since then have served on four other deployments. It’s a story that could be told a thousand times over by military personnel.
What I have learned, is that those young Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors with whom I have had the honor to serve experienced things in places far from home that nobody could have taught them anywhere else. They learned these lessons in places most Americans could not have found on a map prior to 9/11.
Some people may question the fiscal cost of these wars, but my thoughts always go straight to the costs these brave men and women have paid who place their lives in harm’s way so we – in America – can live in peace. I think of the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson who said, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” These young men and women and their families live out this vigilance every day. They do this by working on helicopters in 130 degree heat or flying into harm’s way to deliver supplies. Others ensure other service members’ quality of life is better by serving hot food or providing them with a climate-controlled cot in a dry tent. I think of the Airmen who worked 16 hours a day to put armor on vehicles, knowing that their efforts saved lives on the battlefield. I think of the flight crews who insist on the chaplain’s prayer prior to their missions or personnel who served in our hospital in Balad in 2005. It was in Balad that I heard the sacred stories from those being medivac’d … stories I will never forget.
Thank God for those who never forget to pray for those who put their lives on the line in places they have never heard of. If you haven’t done so today, please stop for a moment and offer a prayer for them and their families? Will you take a moment to reflect on this 10-year anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11? Will you honor the lives of those who died that day? Will you thank a veteran and his or her family for their service? Will your church get involved in service that displays the American spirit that remembers and rebuilds?