Thursday, January 5, 2012

First responders on the front lines in perilous times

I know that we all read headlines these days and just shake our heads in shame and agony, seeing the tragedies of the world deepen and become worse daily.

--Police kill armed 8th grader dead in TX school...
--Texas Family Killed by Relative Dressed as Santa

Those are just two headlines, but I don't need a slew of them to make my point. I want to focus on the heartache of the First Responders. We automatically feel bad for the families and relatives of those who experience such incomprehensible tragedies. But in these days of worsening horror of man leveled against man, First Responders choose to wade in, restore peace, protect us, and carry the bodies away. I can't imagine what emotions the policeman is feeling who had to shoot the armed 8th grader. He will have to live with that the rest of his life. I can't imagine the scene the first responders had to deal with when entering the home of the slain Santa family, those images will be burned in their hearts for the rest of their lives. I can't imagine the terror of a wife of a cop who sees her husband put on his uniform and head out for the day, knowing that the smallest incident could erupt into unimaginable horror or death. I read of the 53 arson fires over four days in Los Angeles and know that many firefighters worked themselves to the bone in protecting life and property. These days are so precarious.

It hit home to me as I read the political news last week of Iran in the Strait of Hormuz doing their naval war exercises. The Fifth Fleet is stationed at nearby Bahrain, and several US ships were mentioned in the news by US media and alluded to in Iranian media. One of those was the ship USS John C. Stennis. I began to think about the men and women on the ship, out there, protecting us and protecting & supporting our deployed troops in Afghanistan. That global spot was tense and could erupt into violence and war at any moment. And yet there were thousands of US navy troops in that very spot. I needed to make these people seem more real to me, and not just be part of a cold, factual news article I read and then move on. These are our people.

My family served in the US Military, my dad and uncle were in the Navy, my other uncle served many years in the US Coast Guard. But the men in my family had served before I was born or while I was very little. All I remember of my uncle's Coast Guard service were the shiny belt buckles lined up in his drawer that he let me look at sometimes. I feel distant from those who serve and protect us, both at home and in the military. But I feel close to them in heart, especially as the days become more dangerous. What can I do?

Then I saw on Facebook that the USS Stennis has a page. I joined it. I look at the photos of the navy men and women on board, I watch the video they put up about the daily lives of the ship's crew. On one of the first days after I'd joined the Stennis facebook page, there was a poll, 'What drew you to 'like' the Stennis page?' Answer choices were something like 'serving on the ship, had served on the ship, family member serves on the ship, patriotic fan.'

I clicked "patriotic fan". It is a very small thing I can do, but at least when I see the photos and comments and articles the Stennis officers put up, I can take part vicariously in their life, supporting them invisibly but fervently, from afar. At least I can leave a comment or two now and then thanking them for their service. Most importantly, I can put some faces in my mind as I pray for them.

Please remember as the days worsen that those on the front lines and who wade in to unutterable violence and horror do so out of duty so that we are protected, so that we have a place to turn to when or if we are harassed or attacked or threatened. All too sadly harassment and attacks are happening in the most benign of places these days. In our own rural county there was an attempted child snatching right from a backyard. I can't imagine the terror in the hearts of the police who responded, chasing after the man who thankfully ended up leaving the child behind as he fled. Other police blotter news from our little county that is downright startling recently shows that an AK-47 gun was stolen from a bedroom. Great. So now they have that to worry about.

There was a good article in the NY Times yesterday that was also put up on the Facebook Stennis page today, "Work as Usual for U.S. Warship After Warning by Iran"
"ABOARD U.S.S. JOHN C. STENNIS, in the North Arabian Sea — If Iran’s warning on Tuesday to this American aircraft carrier was intended to disrupt the ship’s routine or provoke a high-seas reaction, nothing of the sort was evident on Wednesday.The American aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, in the North Arabian Sea, is carrying out its normal operations after Iran warned the ship not to re-enter the Persian Gulf.Steaming in international waters over the horizon from the Iranian fleet, the John C. Stennis spent the day and the early hours of the night launching and recovering aircraft for its latest mission — supporting ground troops in Afghanistan. All visible indications were that the carrier’s crew was keeping to its scheduled work, regardless of any political or diplomatic fallout from Iran’s warnings."

It was comforting and reassuring to read this. I firmly believe that our military are saturated with earnest, hardworking and diligent men and women. I feel the same about first responders, EMTs, police, ambulance, emergency room doctors and staff, etc. Is there a way that you and I can show demonstrable support to these people? I know that it's pretty lame to click on a Facebook page to 'like' and to make a comment. But at least now I have some names and some faces, I have a picture in my head of their lives aboard, and their challenges and triumphs. I can pray specifically.

Please be sensitive about our first responders. They see evil doings that are worsening each day (2 Timothy 3:1-5) and soon as the tribulation begins will be worse than man has ever seen or done. (Matthew 24:8, 21). They carry the people's hurts and wounds and harms with them in their mind and their heart. They do it because they have heart to protect and to serve. They run in where we run out, and they look where we turn our eyes. Love them, and pray for them. It is a harsh world, and they are on the front lines of an evil rising that "has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Mt 24:21b)

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