Gunny’s Family

16 02 2014

My Lady and I just returned from Florida, kind of taking a short break from the hard winter we’re getting here in the Midwest.  It’s Imagealways nice going to new places, seeing new things, but especially my favorite is meeting new people. You see no matter who you are or what you do there’s something that sets you apart from everyone else on the globe, there’s that one thing, be it large or small, that makes you special.  As a writer and an inquisitive, I always enjoy learning what it is that makes you who you are, makes you unique from others. On one of those trips in recent years, I met an individual who fit that bill to the tee.

We had just come from seeing an attraction in a small town nestled in the mountains of North Carolina and were now in a coffee shop getting something hot to drink. I just ordered a latte when a voice next to me piped in, “You can drink those sweet tasting things, huh? Not me, I gotta have my coffee, straight up and hot, only way I can drink it.” The voice belonged to a short elderly man who I could tell had some muscle in his day, but now had to use a walker to get around. “Gunny, you’re always trying to scare off my customers,” the gal behind the counter piped in with a smile on her face which told me they knew each other well. “Gunny huh, that means you were a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, right?” I asked. “Yep,” He answered, “Went in during the last of the Korean War and got out in ‘69 after spending two tours in Nam.” Because of family I have that served in the military and saw combat, I have the greatest respect for men and women like Gunny.

Now I could have stood and talked to this man for hours listening to I’m sure some quite remarkable tales of bravery and courage under the most adverse conditions, but there was something else about him that caught my eye and attention. We exchanged a few more words and then he walked off, leaning heavily on the walker to an area where there were several benches along a breezeway with about half dozen other men that he joined.  After a few minutes I walked over to where these men were seated, I wanted to give Gunny a small gift that I hand out to a lot of folks I meet and have a chance to learn something about. He accepted my gift graciously and then introduced me to his friends; they were all ex-military men who fought in wars ranging from Viet Nam all the way back to WW2 for one of them. “We meet here everyday at this spot, just to hang out and tell a few old war stories,” Gunney told me a slight chuckle. Another sitting there spoke up, “You mean which of us can tell the load of bull*&#, don’t ya?” That brought a good round of laughs from everyone. In the short time I spent with these Vets from wars gone by the more I learned that this was something special they had. An outsider like me could spend a few minutes jawing with them, but I wasn’t welcome to join them. That’s not to say they were rude or anything, but rather they were protective of what they had, what they shared. There was a television series a while back called “Band of Brothers” based on a unit of soldiers that served together and the relationships that they built during hostile times. These men sitting here were not like that, they had not served together, and they hadn’t even all fought in the same war, but somehow they found each other and found this place to call theirs, and in that they found strength, camaraderie, and I got the feeling most of all, security. Another person told me they were there everyday, sitting on their benches, sometimes not even talking for long periods, doing nothing more than being together. I walked away thinking this was no television show, no band of brothers, this was family–Awesome!!

As a musician I have something similar with others who took up this trade, especially that gang from the 70s. We speak the same language, share the same experiences and know each other’s heart for what we loved to do, make music. These few aging warriors I met on that Sunday afternoon shared something even more valuable; they were proud to say I served my country and would do it again in a New York minute. It’s this writer’s opinion that they drew life from that conviction and from each other. Okay, here’s the place I can generally get myself in trouble with someone for what I’m about to say next. So since I know, what the heck and here we go!

A.W. Tozer once said “One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.”

For the ones of us who call ourselves Christians, we could take a lesson from Gunny and his companions about showing the world that together we have something special, something that has “Life!” Something that others should look at more often and say, ‘I wish I had a connection to others like that, a connection to ones who share the same ups and downs in life as I do and are there for me, no matter what.’ In all fairness, sure, there are ones who do well in bringing that message; but what would the world look like if we all did it? Not only showed we had something incredibly special in Christ Jesus, but that our group, our family, the family of God was open to any and all. I know to some this sounds a little over the top, a little radical, but you see, I can’t help it; I’ve had a Teacher and Book that I actually got these “radical” ideas from.

John 1:12 – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Galatians 6:10 – So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

1 Corinthians 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Nuff said!

Thanks, Gunny and thanks to your family of fellow freedom fighters, whether you realize it or not, you taught me a ton that Sunday afternoon, quite possibly one of the best sermons I’d heard, and seen in long time. Awesome!!!


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