Friday, November 11, 2011

So Others May Live

Getting ready to play at an Honor Flight
I have been playing with a community band since I moved to the DC area. Part of our service to the community is to play concerts at Honor Flight arrivals, summer parks, retirement communities, and military remembrance days in the city. As part of this, we almost always salute the military by playing an Armed Forces Salute. Whenever we play this piece, we invite members of the audience who have served to stand and be recognized when their branch's tune starts to play. We honor the United States Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard, and there are always at least a few men and women who stand for each salute.

More than water police.
It's seeing the veterans stand so proudly, yet humbly, that always gets me choked up. Despite our country's many shortfalls, we are so blessed to live in a society where people are willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of each of us and others throughout the world.

I'd like to say that I've always recognized the great importance of all of our branches of the military, but this is not the case. I've always had a basic understanding of the missions of each of the combat-oriented branches (Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy) and respected their service and sacrifice during times of war, but I have to admit that whenever the Coast Guard song began to play, I'd wonder in my head, What does the Coast Guard even do? Aren't they like the water police?

I like to think that my innocent naivete is adorable, but I think that only passes when you're six years old.

Then I came across a great movie called The Guardian, which really helped me to learn more about the sacrifices that our men and women in the Coast Guard make each day.
Click here to purchase on Amazon.
Definitely not one of the reasons I
enjoyed this movie...
This movie, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, is about the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, who live by the motto "So others may live." Ben Randall (Costner) is a legendary rescue swimmer that is asked to train new recruits after suffering a tragedy in the field. There, he encounters the young (and only slightly attractive) Jake Fischer (Kutcher), who first appears to be more interested in breaking records than in saving lives, but he actually has deeper reasons for joining the USCG. Not only does this story follow how these characters deal with suffering loss and guilt, but it provides a perspective of the intense training required to become a rescue swimmer. Many of the extras are actual rescue swimmers, as the film worked closely with the USCG to try to accurately portray the lives of these men and women (Kutcher actually went through the training himself so he could be physically fit enough for filming). The bonus features include interviews with many rescue swimmers and their families, who detail the challenges they face but also the rewards they find in their calling.

I enjoyed this movie for many reasons. Not only was it an entertaining film, but it really helped me to learn more about the Coast Guard. Most importantly, I think it also brought up some great themes.

We often forget the importance and loving quality of sacrifice, except for the occasional "say thanks to our military" days and the times we really reflect on the Cross. One of the commanding officers tells the new recruits in the movie, "You get the chance to save lives - and there is no greater calling in the world than that."

No greater calling.

I know it's just a movie, but many of the men and women in our military just seem to get it. There is no greater calling in the world than to love one another, and that sometimes means laying down one's life to save the life of another (John 15:13). The movie begins and ends with a similar quote that also ties into this theme:
There is a legend of a man who lives beneath the sea. He is a fisher of men, a last hope for all those who've been left behind. He is know as the Guardian.
The real Fisher of Men is not a legend, but a real, true, actual, living last hope for all those that have been left behind. He is the Guardian of our souls, helping to carry us up from the deep, dark, turbulent waters to the enlightened surface. This Guardian - Jesus Christ - died so that others may live.

On this memorial for our Veterans, let's pause to thank those in the military who have served, especially those who have had to make great sacrifices so that others can live. Pray for those who need protection, as well as for those who protect us. Yet, let us also take a moment to remember the ultimate sacrifice that has been made so that all of us may have the chance to live in the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven forever.


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