By Pastor Gary Cortese, Chaplain – Byron Fire District
November 2013

Last month we said Goodbye to my son-in-law, Ethan, as he left for Basic Military Training in the United States Air Force. Ready or not, life will never again be the same – for any of us.

Later that day I shared a very emotional embrace with the father of a fallen Marine. Less than a week later someone asked the following rhetorical question about our troops, “Are they all ever going to come home?” I want to share the following thoughts and reflections as we have several Military Observances during the month of November, which includes Veterans Day, National Military Family Month, and the Birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Many things have changed since 9/11 but one simple fact has not: the world is full of evil and darkness. But light, truth and strength can and will prevail. I’ve heard it said that the first man to pick up a weapon has run out of ideas. Is that always true? Misguided tyrants have always existed and free men must fight to stay free. Great ideas and diplomacy need muscle behind it.

On March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, President Harry S. Truman introduced Sir Winston Churchill who presented his “Iron Curtain Speech.” Here’s a brief excerpt from that speech, “…Ladies and gentlemen, the United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future…” Let me repeat that last line: FOR WITH PRIMACY IN POWER IS ALSO JOINED AN AWE-INSPIRING ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE FUTURE. We could also say it this way, “For with great power comes great responsibility.”

Whether or not you agree with any war or battle doesn’t change the fact that since the beginning of time men have entered into conflict with one another for different reasons. There is no other way to maintain peace and order in this present violent world. What an incredible irony that in order to have peace we must first experience violence.

Back to my son-in-law. I am deeply moved when I look at the picture of Ethan and my daughter on our refrigerator – so innocent and young, happy and in love. They’re at the beginning of what we hope will be a long and rewarding life together.

I remember when he asked for my daughter’s hand in marriage and how I felt about it all. I remember how nervous he was to meet me for the first time. I remember something my daughter said to me after he proposed to her, “Dad, isn’t this what you and Mom raised me for – to meet that special person, fall in love, start a new life together and raise a family of our own?” She was right. But I just didn’t think it would all happen so soon! It was only yesterday that she was still playing with her dolls and pretending to be a teacher!

Apart from my emotional parental reminiscing, I am forever grateful to so many men, women and families through the years who have sacrificed so that we can continue to live our dreams; meet that special someone, fall in love and start new lives and families together. It’s because of what Ethan and so many more are doing today that we can continue to dream for tomorrow – to become a teacher, a firefighter or police officer; to pursue higher education, start a business or share our talents and gifts with the world. Whatever your goals, dreams or ambitions, we must never forget that it’s all made possible because the great American experiment in democracy was first envisioned by our Founding Fathers (who persevered and triumphed) but the original vision cast by these men has always been backed by muscle and a willingness to assume responsibility for the future.

Thank you, Ethan, and to everyone else wearing a military uniform. Thank you also to those men and women who have worn one previously. God Bless America, land of the free because of the brave.

(Excerpt from Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech obtained from a school history book)