Grace and Peace to You!
I was a paperboy when I was a kid. I would get up early each morning and ride over to the Pt. Loma neighborhood that was my route. Reflecting on Veteran’s Day and our word for the week, “Gratitude,” I recall the great number of military officers on my route in the early 1970’s. There was the WWI veteran who had a German helmet displayed on a sideboard just inside the front door. I was awed such an artifact of “ancient” history, and offered my gratitude each month as he tipped me “two bits” on a $4.50 bill. There was the Navy Captain who always gave me a box of Jackstraws candy as a Christmas gift. I hoarded those!
Years later I learned another story about one of my customers whose parents also lived on the route. Retired Marine General, Victor Krulak, had served in WWI, Korea and Vietnam; and just a couple of streets over lived his son, Major Charles Krulak. Both took the paper from me.
Not long after he retired, General Charles Krulak told a story about gratitude he witnessed during a firefight in Vietnam. Stationed at Quantico, “home of the school where officers learn about honor, courage and commitment,” he shared a room with another married officer, John Listerman, who was a Christian. “That meant nothing to me other than that he was a really nice guy. Because of John, I guessed this Christian stuff must be pretty good.” From there the two went to Camp Pendleton in the same battalion. In Krulak’s eyes, Listerman was a marine’s marine.
“In December 1965, John and I went to war. John’s war lasted one day. While on patrol moving through the jungle, we came around a corner in the trail and ran into an ambush. John took a 50-caliber round in his kneecap. As his kneecap burst, he was thrown into the air. The second round hit him below the heart and exited his side. I was wounded also, but not as badly. I crawled about thirty meters to John, but before I could ask, ‘Are you OK? Can I do anything?’ He said to me, “How are you doing Chucker? Are you OK?”
“When I said I was OK, he said, ‘Are my men safe?’ I said ‘Your people are OK.’ He turned his head and looked to the sky and repeated over and over, ‘Thank you, Lord. Thank you for caring for my people. Thank you for caring for me.’ I was dumbfounded.”
Both men survived the ambush and the war. Listerman became a medical doctor. Krulak rose to the rank of General and became commandant of the Marine Corps. Yet Listerman’s profound gratitude in the midst of his own suffering worked on Krulak, until eventually he became a Christian.
Gratitude doesn’t depend on everything going well in your life going all the time. It is rather living each day in an ‘Attitude of Gratitude.’ A cliché to be sure, but also a truth. Living each day in such a way, provides the road map for navigating faithfully the rock roads that we can find ourselves traversing. Rather than bitterness over his wounds, Listerman’s focus was on gratitude for the safety of his unit. Perhaps that attitude contributed to his recovery. It definitely sparked Krulak’s conversion.
Thanks be for that demonstration of gratitude and for the service of all veterans.