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May Chaplain's Reflections

U.S. Air Force portrait of Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman, a chaplain assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing, April 27, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

U.S. Air Force portrait of Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman, a chaplain assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing, April 27, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Floyd)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." --Thomas Jefferson

Last year I had the privilege to hear a moving presentation by retired U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Doug Carver at a Military Chaplains Association gathering at Fort Jackson. Chaplain Carver shared several insights from the book "Simply American." This book chronicled the heroic story of Army 1st Lt. Noah Harris 23, of Ellijay, Georgia, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia. 1st Lt. Harris died June 18, 2005 in Baqubah, Iraq, of injuries sustained on June 17, when he was on mounted patrol and his humvee was attacked by enemy forces using rocket-propelled grenades in Buritz, Iraq.

Among many of the insights that I took away from this gathering, several still remain with me today and are appropriate to share with you as we pause on Memorial Day to remember the great sacrifices of our men and women fighting the Global War on Terror--on all fronts. These are just four leadership qualities that we should strive to live by.

1. Live for a noble and higher purpose.  A wise person once said you must always have a purpose for living because it will keep the focus off of being on yourself. Our core value of service before self should cause us to pause and ask ourselves, who am I living for? What is my purpose in life?

2. Live a life of courage. All those who raise their right hand and swear or affirm the military oath quickly learn that military service is inherently dangerous. Those who find the courage and strength to confront danger understand the perilous times in which we live. I remember the story of a P.O.W. from the Vietnam War who drew courage from reading these words etched into his prison cell: "For those who will fight for it...FREEDOM...has a flavor that the protected will never know."

3. Love those you serve. We are called to have compassion for the lost and lonely. Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Before his untimely death, 1st Lt. Harris started a Beanie Baby collection drive as a way to express his love and compassion for thousands of Iraqi children. This causes me to ask the question, what exactly are we doing to express our love for others in the world?

4. Look for ways to help others. Even in his death, the legacy of Noah Harris was helping others by giving them strength and courage. At his memorial service, they gave out some dog tags that had his name and the date that he died and then a little acronym of a philosophy that he had. It was IDWIC which stands for "I do what I can." And that's how Noah is going to leave a legacy in terms of us trying to use it to realize that every day we have an opportunity to do what we can to help others.

If you want to learn more about the life and legacy of Noah Harris, I invite you to listen to a short interview clip which aired on National Public Radio in 2005 at the following link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4750609

Please remember the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. These words of Christ have never been so true of this present generation of American warriors, "Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends." (John 15:13). Thank you for your sacrifices to help keep America free. Never forget that all gave...but some gave all.