There are not too many TV shows you remember many years later. But I still remember a TV documentary that was filmed during the Vietnam War. It was called "Same Mud, Same Blood." This correspondent traveled with this infantry company that was made up of mostly white soldiers from the Deep South and a few others who were African American. But the unit was commanded by an African American sergeant.
So why did the American colonists win the Revolution? Well, it wouldn't surprise you if you saw how the redcoats fought. They fought battles in the old fashioned European way. They lined up in straight rows. The front row shoots. The next row rotates in while the others reload. Now, the colonists on the other hand didn't believe in lining up. They just came from everywhere. So those red uniforms all lined up in a rigid row? Well, that's like target practice. The colonists looked like they were disorganized, but their new way of fighting won the battle.
I met Gary when we were both working with our local high school football team. He was a coach. I was the football. No, actually I was sort of an unofficial chaplain for the team. Gary was basically a happy guy, pretty laid back. Until "they" come up in the conversation. "They" are the men who were prisoners of war or missing in action in the Vietnam War. When it came to the subject of the MIA's who had not been accounted for, Gary wasn't laid back anymore. Suddenly he was really intense, really serious. See, Gary was one of a number of veterans determined to do whatever they could to make sure that we would do everything we could to locate them, and at least to give an account for missing soldiers.
That particular Christmas I saw something I would not soon forget. I was visiting a theme park that has a wonderful Christmas festival, including a service in their old log chapel. We sang some of the old carols and then there was a short time when we had our eyes closed in prayer. As I opened my eyes, I noticed that someone had slipped in to the old wooden bench across from me - Santa Claus. Yep, there he was red suit, real white hair, real white beard - except for his Santa hat which he had removed to pray. There was Santa Claus, eyes closed and head bowed on his folded hands praying. Look, I've seen a lot of Santas. I've never seen one praying before. As I visited with him afterwards, he told me how he tried to remind each boy and girl who sat on his lap of the Savior who came on Christmas to die for us. Now, that's one amazing Santa!
Okay, I admit I'm a history guy. I stop at President's houses and all these places like that. My poor kids have gone on more tours of places: Revolutionary War, Civil War. And, of course we're going to stop and see that. We'd just come back from a vacation that had included a tour of a Civil War battlefield and we had our appropriate souvenirs. That night there was actually a revealing addition to my wife's and my room! On her side there was a gray hat, on my side there was a blue hat. We were just goofing! But guess who grew up in the south, and guess who grew up in the north. But I'll tell you what. Back in those days, as in many battles throughout history, the color of your uniform made you the other guy's target.
Our sons' room was upstairs, off the beaten path where my wife and I tended to travel in our house. But usually when we did venture into Boys World, we were in for a shock. Let's just say the boys had this unlimited capacity to make a mess and this uncanny ability to live in one without even noticing the mess. (Did I mention to you they're guys?) So, often the stern command would reverberate in the halls of our home: "Clean your room!" The boys seldom disagreed. Usually they would respond with a compliant, "We will." And, I think they really intended to...maybe. They knew it was fundamental to the privileges they wanted, so they went along with our cleaning orders. But did that mean the disaster area got un-disastered? Usually, no. The boys didn't disagree with what they were supposed to do; they just somehow didn't get around to doing it.
One of our staff came back from his vacation and he reported on how exciting it had been for him and his family to see the sights of Washington, D.C. I asked him if he had ever been there before, and he said, "No. In fact, none of us had ever seen it." Then he went on to explain, "You know I'm sort of a hometown kind of guy." I know that's true. He actually has lived most of his life within a relatively short distance of home base. Then he said, "I sort of had to stretch to do this, but I'm really glad we did."
I couldn't help but overhear the conversation across the aisle on an airplane flight. The man was dropping profanity about every third word; he even mentioned God quite a few times. He stopped only to work on his meal. Apparently, he needed some cream for his coffee, so he demanded the flight attendant get some, in his usual colorful language.
We know well all about the World Trade Center and what happened on that September 11th. But there's those personal stories that put a face on it even to this day. I saw a particularly moving first-person story of one woman who miraculously survived the collapse of the North Tower that awful day. She tried to make her way down the long stairwell from her office on the 64th floor. She got to the 13th floor. That's when the entire tower began to crumble. She fell to the ground as the building continued to literally collapse around her. She dropped 13 floors and ended up with her head pinned between two concrete pillars and her legs trapped in a staircase. She said, "I saw that no one came, and I wasn't hearing any noises around me. So I thought, 'I'm going to die here. I'm going to see myself slowly die here.'"