Monday, May 26, 2014

Standing His Post

Photo courtesy

"Children born to a young man
    are like arrows in a warrior’s hands." (Psalms 127:4, NLT)

I am an unabashed patriot.

I get a lump in my throat whenever I see an elderly gentleman wearing a hat symbolizing his past service to our country. When I see an active member of the armed forces dining in a restaurant, I like to quietly and anonymously arrange to pick up his check.

After all, that person is picking up the check for me every day he or she serves.

The only keepsake I have of my late grandfather is the flag presented to our family upon his death, in tribute to his service in World War II. I still remember the words uttered as the flag was placed in my grandmother’s lap. “On behalf of a grateful nation…”

This Memorial Day I will be thinking of people like my good friend Rick. Rick was a career military man who served 23 years in the army before retiring as a Master Sergeant.

He knows the heat of an Iraqi summer day and the blistering cold of a Middle Eastern winter night from his service in Desert Storm. Rick was in a part of the service that went before everyone else to secure the way.

At night he slept in a hammock slung from the turret of his fighting vehicle in the desert.

He still feels more comfortable driving a Bradley Armed Fighting Vehicle than he does a car.

Master Sergeants are tough, disciplined, and determined. You need to get something done and done right, find a Master Sergeant. They don’t make excuses, nor do they tolerate them either.

For 23 years Rick served his country. He stood a post. He showed up for duty everyday, and he never slacked off or thought about just walking away from it. He never mailed it in either. He considered it a privilege and responsibility.

And because he had made a commitment, he was prepared every day to lay down his life to serve his country.

A commitment he would keep with honor, dignity, and a passion for excellence for 23 years before retiring from the army.

But Rick didn’t retire altogether. He didn’t quit standing a post. He didn’t quit serving.

He was needed for an even greater calling and mission.

Now Rick has reported for duty again in a different role, at a different post.

Rick has a son with profound special needs. Rick’s son and my son are pretty close in age and very similar to each other in many ways. We’ve become great friends even though he is a Pittsburgh Steeler fan.

Everyday Rick stands his post. He gets his son after school and watches him in the afternoons. He takes him to appointments, therapies, swimming, cooks, and goes to IEP meetings. He supplements his retirement working in law enforcement.

Somehow along the way over the past couple of years, Rick also went back to school and finished his college degree graduating with honors, while sending his daughter through college as well.

And when his son needs anything at all, you can count on the ole’ Master Sergeant to report for duty and stand his post. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it’s exhausting.

Rick considers it an honor and privilege. It’s his mission in life. When you have spent 23 years laying your life on the line for your country, laying your life down for your family comes natural.

Rick made a commitment to his son and family.  They have a lifetime bond together. One thing I know is that God destined them from the beginning of time to be together. He was called and chosen. And he’s committed.

Just glance at the wristband he wears with the words, “Chosen, Called, and Committed.”

We’re losing the special needs dads these days. Often it’s because the man can’t handle it, or refuses to handle it. Too often the dads seem to just walk away from it all, especially within the first 2-3 years of diagnosis.

We have an even greater epidemic of what I call the “vacant dad.” Vacant dads are present in the family in body only. They are emotionally detached, disengaged, and to a large degree not involved with their children with special needs.

While I call it the “vacant dad syndrome.” My buddy Rick would use a different word. He would call it desertion.

It’s not in the ol’ Sergeant’s vocabulary. The thought wouldn’t even cross his mind.

I tell him that makes him a hero in my book. He tells me he’s just doing what every man is supposed to do.

I wish that would resonate with every special needs dad.

Thanks for your service “Sarge.” And not just for the first 23 years.

We still have heroes living amongst us.

Pray: "Father today we remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free indeed. And we also give thanks for Jesus, who gave his life so that we might freely live with you."


  1. This post makes me remember how blessed I am to live in a country protected by men and women like Master Sergeant Rick. It also makes me remember how blessed I am to have a husband who stands beside me as we fight the fight daily caring for a special needs child. God gave us a mission and we battle it together.