Connecting the Dots

dentonIf you are too young to remember the Vietnam War, you may not be familiar with a brave and courageous man. His name is Jeremiah Denton, and I was saddened when I read of his death last week.

The service of U.S. Navy Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., was nothing short of remarkable. As the pilot of an A-6 Intruder, he led bombing runs over North Vietnam. On July 18, 1965, he was shot down and taken prisoner.

While at the Hanoi Hilton, his captors intended to use him in a propaganda statement that would denounce the American war effort and praise the Viet Cong for their humane treatment.

Denton’s words were not as important as his actions. He said: “Whatever the position of my government, I believe in it, yes, sir,” he said. “I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.” While he was speaking these words, he was also sending a Morse code message by blinking his eyelids:
T: – O: – – – R: • – • T: — U: • • – R: • – • E: • By connecting the dots, Denton’s message made sense.

When I think of the tenacious spirit of Denton, I’m reminded of Paul’s call to commitment: “ . . . run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up (Hebrews 12:1-3).”

One reason Denton persevered was because he connected the dots. He “fixed” his eyes on Jesus. “A man,” Denton said, “does a lot of praying in an enemy prison. Prayer, even more than sheer thought, is the firmest anchor.”

When the winds of adversity roar through your life at a dizzying speed, what is the anchor of your soul?

Note: I encourage you to watch the short video of Denton’s interview by clicking here.

When Freedom Gets Personal

To some freedom is thought of in terms of the number 07-04 or a specific date on the calendar—July 4th.  There are politicians who try to balance the wishes of their constituents and measure freedom in dollar$, but the cost of freedom cannot be measured in terms of military budgets, tanks, jets, or ships.  The true cost of freedom must consider the human spirit and the willingness to sacrifice.

The hidden costs of freedom are outside of the awareness of the public in general because they have never lived the military life.  When their children were born, the father was not fighting terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan.  For most families, parents are present to join in the celebration of the major life cycle events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and marriages.  This is not the case for military families when one or both parents are deployed.  Then, there is the ultimate cost of freedom that is seen in the flag-draped caskets of heroes that return home to be met by their heart-broken family.

As I write this column, my heart goes out to the family of Hal Neukirch, Jr.  Young Hal was serving in Afghanistan when he was stricken by a deadly enemy in a form of brain cancer known as Glioblastoma Multiforme.  The request of Hal Jr. is to leave his hospital bed in Texas, and to come back to El Dorado to spend his last days in the place he has called home.

I ask you to join me in helping the Neukirch’s bring their son back to Kansas.  Due to Hal’s condition, an air ambulance must be used at a cost of $15,000.  An account has been set up at Intrust Bank, 100 S. Main, El Dorado, KS 67042. If each of us will give a little, we can make a big difference in the life of this wonderful family.  Please make your check payable to the Hal Neukirch Jr. Benefit Fund.