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.
Now I will tell the story I observed discussed between a group of young Afghans, whose heart lies in the attainment of true liberty for their country. The fact that election day had arrived, and many had voted, some at great risk, was being discussed. They were discouraged, and felt that fraud had once again gained the upper hand in their quest for liberty for the people of their country. The conversation was so different that day than the discourse by our citizens after elections in this country.
The details of fraud, intimidation, graft, violence and falsified results are not as important in this story as the determination of one young woman to participate in the voting process of her country, and to have a voice in her own destiny, and that of her country. The young people discussed how she had to carefully and without raising attention, made her way to the polling place, literally at the risk of her very life. She was successful, only to have her marked ballot torn up before her as the election official proclaimed it invalid. In reading the words used to describe this event in the young Afghan woman's life, the full magnitude could not be experienced by merely reading the story, the profound reality of just how some women live in other parts of the world nevertheless, swept over me as they typed messages to each other on facebook. Not only that reality, but the reality that somehow, I too am accountable to this young woman, and all the people of the world who do not experience the blessings I enjoy simply because of the geographical location of my birth. Therein lies so many responsibilities for which I must make provision to fulfill to the best of my ability.
So I have since that time, made my small and seemingly to me, insignificant efforts to tell the world that we are all created equal, and due, because God gave it to us, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In my own country there are men and women who live without honor, abandon their children, beat and berate their children and wives, rape and murder, and commit all kinds of atrocities. Yet often I see people of the Middle East lumped into one category alone, that of debase living, and lack of valuing life, as though our own country is completely free of such things. As I understand it, we are lumped by some people from the Middle East the same way. That just isn't how it is, far from it, and each woman is responsible and capable before their sisters of the world and their God, to reach out in some way to help their neighbor. My own obligation involves writing of these situations, sharing what I know, and entreating others to discover their obligations too.
Before a young person of my country considers what kind of car they will drive, where they will go to college, what career they will pursue, or who they will marry, consideration is owed to how they will fulfill their own debt to the human race. It isn't enough to conduct themselves with honor and in right living, for God gave a second instruction that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I urge you to send this blog to the young women you know, and whose development of character you are obligated to give attention to. Ask them to determine now, and to watch for always during their lives, their neighbors as God identifies people to them. God has commanded us to love Him first, and then our neighbor as ourselves.
After this significant conversation which affected me so much personally, as I often do, I expressed the feelings and observations i experienced in poetry. Poetry for me causes me to capture strong feelings and avoid confusion and distress concerning the ideas by stating them in very disciplined word patterns where rhymes are required. For me that process helps me to clarify the truths and meaning of the experience. So I present the poem inspired by the unknown young woman who went to vote in her country's elections, and whose experience the young Afghans discussed that day.
Who are these young women with dark eyes and dark hair,
With beauty that runs so deep, and courage rare?
From what cloth were they cut, and where was it woven?
Who was the Artist from whose mind the colors were chosen?
That forms their true hearts which when they were bade,
By whispers to their souls of service to their country and us all,
Without hesitation bid them answer that call?
The fibers from which those threads took shape,
Were grown by the people of their nation who do not hate.
The seeds were planted in the soil by their fathers.
Then the fibers were collected at harvest by their brothers.
The thread of hope was spun by the hands of their skilled mothers.
None gave heed to the threats of others.
Then they were woven by their sisters, whose lives will be forever changed,
By the steps that they take and the destiny they arrange.
Finally from the Artist's hand, priceless treasure, a gift from Afghanistan,
Came to the people of the world who desire only with honor to stand.
Their mark and place in history their names will take.
When their life's work is made for the peace that lies at stake.
Who are these young women with dark eyes and dark hair,
With beauty that runs so deep, and courage rare?
Missing Him So Much