Saturday, November 11, 2017


"The military is one of the great engines of Pierce County economy," said the Auditor of Pierce County, Washington. With the giant Madigan Army Hospital and the sprawling Joint Base Lewis-McChord stretching for miles across South Pierce County, the military certainly definitely is an economic engine.

It's also a social engine. Get away from the anonymous noun, "The Military." Focus on individuals for a moment.

From my childhood days in Pierce County until my retirement years there, I knew military men and women. When I was very young (five or six years of age) Don, a young soldier from Ohio, was based at Fort Lewis. Through a church connection he became a close friend of my parents and myself. He'd spend weekends at our house and we shared the upstairs bedroom. Seventy years later now, and what do I remember of Don? Friendliness, and a buoyant person, a role model. 

I had a similar friendship with a soldier named Lenny. I learned a lot as a child about the human side of the military from these two men and from many other veterans with whom I worked and worshiped.

In training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Photo in public domain

Years later my wife and I began our retirement years living in DuPont, Washington, a town just across the Interstate Freeway from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The iconic Mt. Rainier loomed above. 

Occupationally, our neighbors were primarily military people. We loved them and their kids. 

Remembering the military dead, in particular, became a Saturday ritual in DuPont. Every weekend, Wear Blue: Run to Remember organized a run. Hundreds turned out, running for a mile or more. We ended in the city park with a circle of fellowship, remembrance, and prayer. Wear Blue: Run to Remember has grown into a large organization with multiple programs. Check their website.  

The "Wear Blue: Run to Remember" T-shirt has become iconic. After my family moved to Oregon I was shopping in our neighborhood QFC. To my surprise I spotted a man with a Wear Blue t-shirt. I approached him. "I see your shirt. I have one too." We had an instant bond. We shared about our DuPont years.

The El Alamein military cemetery Cross of Remembrance

Photographer: Dominik Knippel, Niedernberg  
                                     This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I visited the El Alamein military cemetery in the 1980s. El Alamein is sited in dry desert sand along the coastline of Egypt about 150 kilometers west of Alexandria. What stark loneliness! Hundreds of tombstones, lined up in perfect geometric order as if marching off into the desert sands--or as if marching off as into eternity. The photo below is the stone of a soldier, inscribed as  "known only to God."

I was moved. My windpipe choked up. I wiped away the tears.

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Genericlicense.  via Wikipedia

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