"...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content..."
Philippians 4: 11
They're shooting real guns
And they're firing real bullets
And, man, it's a lot of fun,
Wish you were here!
Wish you were here!
--From a 1967 Pat Boone recording
about a soldier's lament in Vietnam
According to his own testimonies, my late Uncle Joe, God rest his soul, single-handedly gave the German army the sound shellacing that pretty much brought about the end of World War II. Now you know the rest of the story. Well, not quite. What Uncle Joe never mentioned is how he managed to defeat Hitler's army in the European Theater all the way from his barracks in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
My father is a real war hero. Not that he will admit to being a hero, but he saved six men's lives on the battlefield and was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in Korea.
I have learned that most genuine heroes are generally tight-lipped about their experiences in battle. My father is no exception. He is a brave man, but he has a tender heart and very little stomach for blood and guts and the grim realities of war. In Korea, Dad saw the horrors of which nightmares are made, yet, in his hour of testing, he proved his worth by rescuing half a dozen wounded American soldiers pinned down under Communist machine gun fire. One by one, my father dodged persistent enemy fire and carried his injured comrades to safety.
Dad was a good soldier who served the cause of freedom above and beyond the call of duty. But drafted while in college and only recently married, Dad was anxious for the war to end so that he could come home to his bride of six weeks and resume a normal life. He had no desire for making a vocation out of military service. He wanted to come home.
Not so, however, for his buddy Private Kelly. Army life suited him quite well. During a lull in the fighting, Dad told Kelly about his plans after the war. Then Dad asked Kelly what he planned doing with his life after the war. "What? Leave the army? Are you kidding? Do you think I'm going back to work in those carpet mills? I'm staying right where I am!"
My father has spent sixty years wondering what it was about those carpet mills in North Carolina that made the Korean War so appealing to Private Kelly.
From the dungeon of the Mammertine Prison in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote that he had learned to be content regardless of his outward circumstances. "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4: 12, 13)." We are to be content in spite of hardships as our buoyancy of spirit should never be subject to present circumstances. Where we are does not matter nearly so much as who we are.
I strongly suspect Paul would have approved of Private Kelly's cheerful attitude from the cover of a foxhole.
Dr. Michael Blunk is a staff writer for an apologetics ministry and serves full time as a chaplain with Wayside Christian Mission. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org