It takes a special man and woman with a rare relationship to stand the test of time and service. My husband and I both admire this couple for so many reasons. Their leadership is unequaled and unfailing. That can be rare in the military as a service person rises in rank. Having someone to look up to unquestioningly becomes more difficult as the intoxicating force of increasing power affects officers who may have once served from a self-less heart. Changes can, almost without any sense of awareness, occur within anyone. The pressures associated with enormous responsibilities, and being surrounded by people whose job it is to do your bidding and follow your every directive without question, are just two of the forces which can change men and women serving in the uppermost ranks. These changes can make an individual more humble and aware of just how grave the responsibilities and accountability are, or they can easily become just as ugly as any addictive abuse ever taken up by a man or woman, and just as destructive.
The ability for the abuse of power is built into military service by the very nature of that service, and what is required of men and women who consent to make war in the defense of this nation and its' constitution. Always, the military must self police for the abuse of power within their ranks. That "policing" falls to a smaller and smaller group as an officer advances in rank, and can create an incestuous "policing process." In fact, the selection process for the next rank a Soldier attains becomes increasingly incestuous as well, as only those above you in rank can select officers. There is a "boarding" performed by other officers who are one rank above a service person, which makes the selection from those qualified to be promoted.
Americans, and especially all of us who "lend" our beloved family members to service, demand the most stringent adherence to honor in this self-policing and self appointing, as does the very privilege itself of serving. However, I have observed that a man or woman strong enough to serve at the highest pinnacles without yielding to the intoxication is rare indeed. I have also noted with shame that the principle of "going along to get along," seems to prevail as well.
The rarer leader, who because of unfaltering honor and integrity, does not make it as far in rank is always the one that others wish to follow. They breed trust in all they encounter. Such is the man whom we had lunch with on Sunday. I must admit I have observed character flaws in my own husband, and I am sure they exist in our friend as well, which are of a personal nature, but in the grand scheme they are without much impact on the world. (Sometimes my husband doesn't actually listen to me when I talk to him, he just smiles and nods yes, and sometimes he isn't careful, but rather runs with scissors, and he walks really fast and it is hard to keep up, ...those types of things.) My husband too is one of those men of integrity of service. He would not make any decision in service that he did not believe to be in the best interest of the mission and those under his command under any circumstances, even if it cost him personally. I have watched him make and execute decisions that did just that, but they were the right decisions to make, and the right thing to do. For that reason, and many others, I have a deep abiding admiration for him that knows no limits. Our friend Alba has the same thing for her husband.
As I have watched my husband at command and in personal service, I have seen how necessary it is for him to have those in leadership in whom he finds that same quality. I tell the reader again, that is harder to find all the time. So on Sunday as we talked with our friends, and they shared memories of their lives of service and news of their present service, my husband found refreshment and encouragement. I know it will empower him as he serves at the American Embassy in Iraq during this critical time. When pressures for compromise assail him, as they surely will, knowledge of the fact that there does exist leadership which over a lifetime has never wavered, will give him strength and courage. When things look impossible to achieve, but are essential to achieve, that same knowledge of uncommon leadership in our friends will unconsciously urge him to never give up , but to work beyond the impossible. I am so grateful for men and women of such distinction and honor, and the benefit of watching their lives.
While the actual service of this man of leadership will be the capacitating source of my husband's support, I do not believe it could have occurred without a factor that was undeniable in his living room that day. That old cliche, "behind every good man..." Well, you know the rest, and it may be a tired expression, but it is a powerful truth. As I participated in the soothing conversation which encouraged me every bit as much as my husband, I took note, as I always do, of the dynamics between this couple. His beautiful wife has a devotion, loyalty, and love which shines constant in her essence for her husband. The stories of the challenges of this love over the years strike at my heart in waves of admiration and appreciation for her life and all she is.
Even more compelling are the waves of those same emotions and life long love that emanate from him for her. He doesn't have to proclaim that he could not have done it without her support, it is forever etched in his face and its' expression. He loves her in a way that only a man who is never anything but lifted by a woman knows. She is possessed of as much inner strength and courage, maybe even more, as he is. She is as devoted to this country and self-less service as he is... I take that back... She is more devoted, and he above all others knows it.
My husband and I are so favored to know these two people; we have received so much from them, and did so again on Sunday. So I offer the words of tribute that came to me in honor of the both of them. They speak of her, but he will find delight in them, because he finds such delight and ennobling in her. Thanks to the both of you for all you have stood for all these years. I know I speak for the legions who are better because of your lives.