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STRONG BONDS is a Chaplain-sponsored weekend experience for military members and their families. Events are held for singles, married couples or families. STRONG BONDS is conducted at an off-site retreat format in order to maximize the experience. The weekend retreat provides a fun, safe and secure environment in which to address relationships or life issues (such as deployments, relocation's and military lifestyle stressors).
Every year we have a special “Family Day’ celebration the Wing. As we all well know, our families help us to do the mission here at the 106th Rescue Wing, especially when we are deployed. “Family Day” is a simple way to say “thank you” to our families for their support.
Family Day is also an appropriate time to reflect on the importance of our families.
Below are some quotes for us to ponder.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you and you are God’s gift to them – Bishop Desmond Tutu
When all the dust in settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are family, faith and friends – Barbara Bush
As the family goes, so does the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live – Pope John Paul II
Family is like music: some high notes, some low notes but always a beautiful song – Anonymous
The perfect family does not exist, nor is there a perfect husband of a perfect wife and let’s not even speak of the mother-in-law; it is just us sinners. We must learn to say “I’m sorry” and to ask for forgiveness-Pope Francis
A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for life – Dalai Lama
God chose the finest, the bravest and the most courageous – and he made them military spouses!
Sometimes we can take our families for granted; we can overlook the great blessing they are in our lives. Our challenge is to nurture the great blessing of our families and do everything we can to strengthen that gift of the family! I once saw a poster that said: The family: it’s work but it is a work of art!
Summer, is a time when things slows down a bit and people even get a chance to go on a little vacation (even if the vacation is a “stay-cation!”). I hope that the slower pace will give us a chance to do some reflection. I would like to look at a virtue sorely needed in our world today: HOPE.
The dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen”; hope is a” feeling of optimism or a desire that something good will happen.”
Some famous people have spoken about the virtue of hope:
Once you choose hope, anything is possible: Christopher Reeve (“Superman” star who suffered a catastrophic injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down)
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness: Desmond Tutu (winner of the Nobel Peace prize for his work in overcoming racism and apartheid)
Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (winner of the Nobel Peace prize for his non-violent work to achieve racial justice and equity)
Hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things, and good things never die: Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption)
All of these people endured difficult situations but in spite of the many times when they were in very dark places (including imprisonment), they had hope! The situation did not overcome them; rather, they overcame the situation. We would do well to remind ourselves that no situation is hopeless. Darkness is not the end of the story; light is the end of the story.
On June 6, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, “D-Day”. Before the invasion began, General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander addressed the troops:
You are about to embark on the Great Crusade
toward which we have striven these many months.
The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and
prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is
well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He
will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free
men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty
and skill in battle.
We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty
God upon this great and noble undertaking.
Let us be mindful of all those who sacrificed their lives on D-Day but let us also be mindful of all those men and women who have served in defense of our country over the years, including those who serve this very day.
Towards the end of his life, the great Impressionist artist, Renoir, was crippled with arthritis. His fingers were gnarled and it was very difficult and painful to even hold a paintbrush. When he had to paint a different section of the canvas, his students had to lift him up in his chair to go to that section because it was too painful for him to even move.
One day of his students asked, “Why do you still paint; it is so painful; why don’t you just stop?” The artist Renoir gave a simple response: “The pain passes but the beauty remains.”
I think about that quote often, especially when someone dies after a long illness. The pain of the deceased loved one has now passed but, hopefully what remains is the beauty of their lives.
Suffering in and of itself has no value. But suffering for a cause or suffering for a person can have incredible value. The world is filled with heroes who suffered for another person or cause. In very recent memory we can think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and Asia Bibi, etc. While they suffered and were even imprisoned, the beauty of their life remains even to this day.
THE WISDOM OF BUMPER STICKERS
Anyone who regularly drives a car knows that traffic jams simply are a way of life. When you are in a traffic jam, it is helpful if the car in front of you has interesting bumper stickers. I saw some bumper stickers recently that I found interesting and challenging,
BUMPER STICKER #1: BE PATIENT WITH ME; GOD ISN’T FINISHED WITH ME YET.
It is a good motto to remember: Be patient with other people AND be patient with yourself. God has a plan for you -and everyone- and one of our challenges is to discern what is God’s plan for me – and then to live out that plan.
BUMPER STICKER #2: HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS, STILL DIES
This bumper sticker was in response to another bumper sticker that was very popular in the 1980’s. That bumper sticker in the 1980’s read: He who dies with the most toys, wins! The bumper sticker challenges us look at our values.
We write our own obituary. If you were eavesdropping at your own wake, would you like to hear: “I loved her outfits; he had a great car; she had the best house in the neighborhood; I wish I could go on his vacations,” OR would you prefer to hear: “She was a great mom; he was a devoted husband; she was the best grandmother; he was a good man.” The bumper sticker is correct: He who dies with the most toys, still dies! Do you want to leave behind a legacy of “stuff” or a legacy of loving memories?
BUMPER STICKER #3: TOGETHER, WE CAN DO SOMEHTING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD.
Mother Theresa was a Catholic nun who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1978 for her work with the “poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India. At that time the BBC asked one of their journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge to spend 6-monthd with Mother Theresa and produce a documentary on her and her religious community,
Malcom was an agnostic and did not want to do the documentary but a job is a job and off he went. He was so moved by the work of the sisters that he converted, was baptized and was a practicing Catholic until the day he died. He wrote a book on his experience with Mother Theresa and her sisters. The title of the book is the title of the bumper sticker and it was in response to a question he asked her. He asked Mother Theresa to summarize the work of her sisters in one sentence. Mother Theresa responded, “Together, we can do something beautiful for God.”
I think it a nice way to describe our time in the service. I like to think we are doing God’s work. Let’s do God’s work together and, in doing so, do something beautiful for God.
Happy Memorial Day! As I write this letter, it sunny and I hope the weather holds for the weekend – and the parades, of course! Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” and it began after the Civil War. After the Civil War, General John Logan called for a nation-wide day those who had died in war to defend their country. However, Memorial Day did not become a federal holiday until 1971.
One of the customs associated with Memorial Day is the wearing of red poppies. In 1915, Moina Michael, touched by reading the poem, In Flanders Fields, began the idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day to remember those who died in the war. This custom quickly spread not just in the United States but around the world. Money donated for the red poppies was used to help veterans in need, war orphans, etc. In 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), became the first veterans’ organization to sell the poppies. In 1948, the Post Office honored Moina Michael for her role in the national red poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent stamp with her likeness on it.
While today, Memorial Day, signals the start of the summer season and it is a weekend filled with sales in stores, barbecues, etc., let us also spend some moment of reflection to pray for those who have died in defense of our country and for our freedoms, especially the freedom of religion which is increasingly under attack.
As members of the Air Force, one of the ways we continue to honor those died in defense of our country is to live out our Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All You Do.
THE MESSIAH IS HERE
There is a story told about a group of monks who were having great difficulties getting along with each other in their community. There was petty jealousy, fighting and backstabbing. The head of the community spoke wearily of these problems with the local, wise rabbi.
The rabbi told the head monk, “I have important news to tell you. The Messiah is in your mist. Tell your community this message.” The head monk ran to the monastery to tell his community. “The Messiah is among us,” he said, “though I do not know who He is.”
“Is it Brother James,” thought Brother Peter. “Maybe it is Brother John, or even Brother Lawrence.” Each of the brothers thought the same. From then on the atmosphere of the community was changed for each monk, not wanting to offend another monk lest that one be the Messiah, treated the others as if that monk was the Messiah. Throughout the countryside, the community of monks became known as men of great love and hospitality.
We all live in our communities: our family, co-workers, churches and all of us have been both the givers and receivers of anger, jealousy and backstabbing. But think what a wonderful world it would be if all of us: young and old, rich and poor, male and female, treated each other as if he or she was the Messiah. Think what a wonderful thing it would be if our community was known throughout the countryside as one of love and hospitality. All it takes is you!
NEED A HAND?
There is a huge stone statue of Jesus Christ which stands on a local Catholic parish in California. The statue was of Jesus standing with his arms outstretched. One night vandals came and broke off both hands of the statue. The parish was understandably upset and outraged. A discussion then arose about what to do with the vandalized statue: should the parish buy a new statue, repair the current statue, etc.
An interesting proposition was brought forth. Rather than repair the statue, the parish decided to leave the statue alone, with the hands of Jesus still broken off. But the parish also decided to place a large sign in front of the statue which read: “I have no hands now but yours. Will you help me?”
God loves us through other people and each day we have countless opportunities to be the hands of God which console people, the lips of God which speak words of hope and peace to people, the arms of God which lovingly embrace people.
There is no lack of people who need God’s touch; unfortunately, too often there is a lack of people willing to allow God to work through them to touch people in need. The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: Am I willing to be the hands of God? Am I willing to work, to love and to care for others through God’s power?
HEAVEN CAN WAIT….OR SHOULD IT?
There is a story told about a man who died and went to the gates of heaven. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and offered to show the man a view of heaven and hell. They proceeded to go to a visit of hell first. When the two arrived the man was astonished to see a beautiful table, filled with wonderful foods, fine china and exquisite linens. Surprised, the man asked what this scene was all about; can this really be hell?” Observe closely, “the angel instructed. The man then noticed that while all this wonderful food was bountiful, those in hell could not eat the food because their utensils were tied to their elbows and hence they could not put food in their mouths. Thus, hell was the frustration of not being able to enjoy the beauty of the feast.
The angel then took the man to see heaven. It appeared to be the same scene as hell: a beautiful table, wonderful foods, fine china and exquisite linens and, just as in hell, the utensils were tied to their elbows! “What is this?” the man exclaimed! “Can heaven be the same as hell?” “Observe closely,” the angel instructed the man once again.
And then the man saw and understood. As the man observed the people in heaven, he noticed that one person would take the food in his fork and then turn to feed the person next to him. The man now realized the difference. In hell, there is only selfishness and frustration; in heaven, there is sharing and joy.
Each day, in our daily lives, in our daily routines, we are faced with choices. We have the opportunity to bring a little heaven into our world and work: to bring forth the gift of sharing and joy, or we have the opportunity to choose to bring the opposite: selfishness and frustration. What will your choice be: will you choose to bring a bit of heaven to earth today?
As you know, we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11. Veterans Day dates back to the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars”. Word War I ended officially at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. It was originally known as “Armistice Day” since the war officially ended with the signing of the treaty or armistice. The actual signing of the treaty took place 7 months later, on June 28, 1919 in Versailles, France.
In 1938, a Congressional Act made November 11th a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to thereafter to be celebrated and known as Armistice Day”. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day. In 1971, in accord with the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October. However, in 1978, Veterans Day was moved back to its original celebration on November 11.
In many churches, on Sunday, November 11, Veterans Day, our veterans are often asked to stand and to be acknowledged for their service to God and country. I am always very touched by the warm reception our veterans receive from our people. It is good to know that our veterans are appreciated here in our churches, synagogues and mosques. While I realize that far too many people see Veterans Day as a shopping day with special sales, I am very happy to see we do not do that at our places of worship.
Thank you once again for all our veterans. May the Lord reward you for your service to God and Country.
“Do It Anyway”
Mother Theresa of Calcutta was a Catholic nun who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1979 because of her work with the poor. Her religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, are now all over the world, including the United States, including New York City. Mother Theresa died on September 5, 1997. She wrote this following reflection; I think they speak to our Air force Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self; Excellence in all You Do.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; FORGIVE them anyway.
If you are KIND, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be KIND anyway.
If you are SUCCESSFUL, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; SUCCEED anyway.
If you are HONEST and FRANK, people may cheat you; be HONEST anyway.
What you spend your years BUILDING, someone could destroy it overnight; BUILD anyway.
If you find SERENITY and HAPPINESS, they may be jealous; be HAPPY anyway.
The GOOD you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do GOOD anyway.
Give the world the BEST you have and may it never be enough; give the world the BEST you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between YOU and GOD; it was never between you and them anyway.
EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO
The third CORE Value of the Air Force is: Excellence in All We Do. This Core Value reminds us that we always need to improve and get better. That excellence is on a personal level and on an organizational level. The old saying -“It is good enough for government work”- is NOT living out that Core Value. We just do not want to get by, we want to excel!
I saw a bumper sticker recently. It was a caricature of a very messy, disheveled kid and the bumper sticker read: “Be patient with me; God isn’t finished with me yet”. It is good reminder. God isn’t finished with any of us yet. We still have even more excellence ahead of us, as individuals and as an organization.
But that excellence also requires an individual, personal commitment; excellence just doesn’t happen; excellence requires hard work and personal commitment to that excellence. The great inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.”
SERVICE BEFORE SELF
“Service Before Self” is the second core value of the Air Force. It reminds us to always place professional duties over our own individual personal desires. This value emphasizes personal sacrifice over careerism and self-interest.
We live in a culture which emphasizes just the opposite. Our culture stresses a “me-first” attitude. Unless we intentionally focus on this core value, it is easy to get swept up in a self-centered mindset. To live out the core value of Service before Self, we need to have respect for others and to maintain a high level of personal discipline and self-control. This self-control is especially exercised in the areas of how we handle our anger, religious toleration and appetites.
The history of the Air Force is filled with examples of men and women living out this core value. The most obvious examples are those courageous airmen and women who literally died to save their fellow airmen in battle. You and I may not be called to give up our lives in sacrifice. However, each and every day we encounter opportunities to live out that core value of sacrifice.
There is a story about a little boy who had a sister who was very ill in a cancer ward. The boy was perfect match for a blood transfusion. The doctor asked the boy if they could take his blood to save his sister’s life. The little boy agreed. As the blood transfusion was taking place, the boy turned to the doctor and asked, “When will I die?” You see, the boy thought that by donating his blood, he would die. He was willing to die for his sister.
That is Service Before Self! If a 10-year old can live out Service Before Self, I think we can all do it as well!
Integrity is the willingness to do the right thing even when no one is watching. Integrity is that “inner voice” that make us capable of acting on our conviction. A person of integrity does the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because they fear being caught, not because they expect to be rewarded. They do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do!
History is filled with people of integrity. From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who endured prison and attack by dogs to help achieve racial equality, to Sir Thomas More who was executed by King Henry VIII because he refused to violate his conscience, to the prophets of old who spoke truth to political power to speak God’s word.
A person of integrity embodies the virtue of honesty, courage, accountability and humility. What a better world it would be if all of us lived a life of integrity by exemplifying these virtues. Remember: Integrity first! Always do the right thing!
SUFFERING A LOSS
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister who spoke out against Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis. While in prison, he wrote this reflection on separation.
As we all well know, the wing has suffered a great loss and separation due to the deaths of Maj Andreas O’Keeffe, Maj Christopher Zanetis, MSgt. Christopher Raguso and TSgt Dashan Briggs. I thought the reflection by Pastor Bonhoeffer might be pertinent for all of us:
First, nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through.
"That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. He doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.
Secondly, the dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of memory unto a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves.
Thirdly, I have learned here especially that the facts can always be mastered, and the difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform out anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf."
THE “GAME” OF LIFE
There is a story told about an old rabbi who was a teacher. He excused himself from the classroom at one point and instructed his students to study the scripture texts until he returned. As soon as he left, however, some of the students took out a checker board and began to play checkers. The rabbi came back unexpectedly and surprised the checker players. “Do you know the rules of checkers?”, the rabbi asked. Not wanting to offend their teacher, the students asked the rabbi to show them. It was only years later that the students realized that the rabbi taught them a lesson about life as well.
There are three rules to checkers. Rule #1, you only make one move at a time; you cannot make a number of moves simultaneously. Rule #2, you always move forward; you cannot move backwards or sideways. Rule #3, when you get to the lowest rank, when you are at the bottom row, you are crowned king.
Life is a lot like a game of checkers. There are three rules for leading a fulfilled life. Rule#1, you only make one move at a time. So many times in life, we can almost feel overwhelmed by situations, decisions, etc. Such feelings can paralyze us and nothing is accomplished. Rule #1, you can make moves or decisions one at a time and slowly but surely become all that you can be. Rule #2, you always move forward; you do not go backwards. Many times in life, we do certain actions that we later regret. These actions or words can be done in times of anger, despondency, jealousy, etc. We then have a choice. We can choose to forgive people(and, above all, ourselves) and thus “move forward” or we can choose not to forgive ourselves and others and always look behind us, to the past and miss the beauty of life ahead. Rule #2, you always move forward, not backwards. Rule #3, when you get to the lowest rank, when you are at the bottom row, you are crowned king. When we choose to help people, when we choose to serve and not be served, that is really when we become kings, that is really when we act regally. It is when we love people, a love which is seen in our actions, that we become all that we can be. Rule #3, when you are at the lowest rank, when you are at the bottom row, you are crowned a king.
Every day, each one of us has to make a decision whether we want to grow as persons or not to grow as persons. What will your choice be? Perhaps the rules of checkers will help!
IF you help one person
There is a story told about two people walking along a beach that was filled with starfish which had washed ashore. One of the two started to pick up the starfish and throw them back into the ocean before the starfish died on the beach. His friend said to him, “Why are you doing this? There are thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t save them all. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The friend picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean and simply said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Mother Theresa of Calcutta (who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poorest of the poor in India) said that if you encounter a situation in which there are 10,000 starving people and you can only feed one person, you should feed the one! The Christophers are a religious organization known for their charitable work. Their motto is: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Sometimes situations in life can overwhelm us and we can be paralyzed and do nothing. All of these quotes remind us that we can always do something and make a difference, even if it is only one person. If we all helped that one person, our problem would be solved.
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