Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thank You Justin

If you have not seen the stars in Lake of the Woods it will be hard for you to imagine how incredibly beautiful it is to be at the campfire bowl at my camp on a clear and moonless night. No wind, the lake turns from gold to black glass. Three weeks ago I was there. Beyond the glowing embers of the fading fires, two skies appeared; one above and one below, with Milky Way and friendly summer constellations, and all the stars I know. As the summer of 2005 wound down, I sat on the rocks and thought. My friends sang softly as the last scouts walked down the honor trail toward their tents in the pitch black forest, under hill. I had just watched a flag retired; listened as a perfect Boy Scout recited “The Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash. Then I listened as my sweet friend, so young to be so wise, talked about the rights and privileges, the obligations and responsibilities of being an American. We had sung the national anthem “one last time to that ragged old flag”; the big guns had boomed and echoed. Softly, Taps came back to the bugler across the lower sky. In the tower of flame the scouts had blinked back tears.

I had been thinking about the wonder of being an American, of belonging to a nation so wise and wonderful that it set aside vast tracts of wilderness to be the playgrounds of generations yet unborn. I was in wonder of its citizens, men and women I knew, who with incredible goodness “give up a week of vacation away from their families” to teach boys to love God’s creations as He made them. I thought of the friendship that makes camp worth attending, life worth living. I considered all my great staff members, this year, and years gone past, stretching back to when I was a little boy, and there was a different war. I was filled with gratitude for the parents that wait at home with clean beds and good food and great dreams for their sons. This night I was thinking of the friends that would be leaving the next day. CIT’s back home after weeks of service, a great friend from your youth, now a BYU professor, who had selflessly served for weeks on end as a Camp Commissioner; parking cars and fixing KYBOs and planning great adventures of little boys. That night we had with us the parents of a past staff member. They had spent all the hours of their week’s visit rebuilding our broken fire place and shoring up the lodge’s battered rails against the winter snow. I tried to craft words to thank these people; something to say as we stood arm in arm between the fires and underneath the lights of heaven. Then I remembered Justin. It was Justin’s parents who had built the fireplace and rail. For five years Justin had been one of my guys. He had led scouts across that desert island and through forest cathedrals decorated beyond the dreams of Michelangelo. And then I recollected that in a month Justin would be in Iraq, a US Marine at war!

How do you thank people for service done with love and joy? What do you say to a mother who sends her son to war? There, surrounded by my friends and precious family, there safe and free in a world of beauty beyond the dreams of kings; beauty that belongs to you and me, I could only think to say this: “To you dear parents of my dear friend, to my dear friend, who for a year has learned to carry his SAW rifle and his 120 lbs of battle gear, THANK YOU!” To my new friends, realize that all this beauty, this friendship, this joy of service, the chance to teach the young and support the old, this beautiful wilderness we revere, this beautiful camp we love; would be absolutely nothing if we did not have our freedom. Jesus has said, “Greater love has no man than this - that he lays down his life for his friend.” But what everlasting charity must motivate the heart of a Hero that he would risk, even give his life, for those he does not know. 1800+ American Heroes and many more Iraqi ones have died so that we, who love the woods and mountains, the forest and the sea, and each other, can share in their wonder and be free.

9 comments:

Reach Upward said...

Your poetic descriptions of Camp Loll brought tears to my eyes. In my heart, I was there looking at the reflection of the starlight in the lake and hearing the songs in my ears. My week up there this year was truly a wonderous experience, having been there as a boy, as a staff member, and several times as an adult leader -- but this time as a dad of two Scout sons. How can I sufficiently express gratitude to you and your wonderful staff, as well as to everyone that made the experience possible?

To Justin and all of the others like him -- like my son's shop teacher who will go to Iraq on active duty in two months -- and to your families: Thank you. Thank you for holding my freedoms so dear. Godspeed!

Dan Simpson said...

Amen, Lysis.

Ares said...

A beautiful post, Lysis, but how much more does that bring the hypocrisy to light of those who despise the war and yet long for the freedom it provides?

TaZa said...

Sounds like you had a great summer at camp...

I think I might have a sufficent answer to "What do you say to a mother who sends her son to war?"

When the Spartan king had to pick 300 soldiers to go out and to die for their country and delay the Persians, he picked them by their wives. He told one of the wives of the soldiers, “I chose them (the 300 soldiers) not for their own valor, lady, but for that of their women. When the battle is over, when the three hundred have gone down to death, then will all Greece look to the Spartans, to see how they bear it. If they behold your hearts riven and broken with grief, they, too, will break. But if you bear up, dry-eyed, not alone enduring the loss but seizing it with contempt for its agony and embracing it as the honor that it is in truth, Sparta will stand. And all Hellas will stand behind her. Why have I nominated you, lady, to bear up beneath this most terrible of trials, you and your sisters of the three hundred? Because you can!”
(Gates of Fire by:Steven Pressfield)

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Then I listened as my sweet friend, so young to be so wise, talked about the rights and privileges, the obligations and responsibilities of being an American.