Chaplain’s Corner

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

How well do we know others including our family, friends, and/or acquaintances?  I suspect that we know family members reasonably well, friends, or at least some friends, fairly well, and acquaintances with some degree of familiarity.  But how well do we really know them and why would I ask this question?

John Bustard, fellow VFW member and Commander of American Legion Post 66 of which many of us are members, ‘crossed the bar’ on 16 May.  His memorial service was held on Tuesday, 21 May, with many of us in attendance.  How well did we know John?  During his eulogy presented by family members and friends, I heard about John the father, John the husband, John from Grosse Point Michigan, John the fisherman, John the hunter, John the Navy corpsman, John the Boeing employee, John the shooter, John the grandfather, et al.  From these ‘snapshots’, one gets a glimpse – a picture – of the real John.  It became readily apparent, people knew John at different times in his life and, therefore, in different situations.  However, there seemed to be a visible and common thread – a theme – that ran through John’s life.  John strongly believed in serving others.  John served his God, his family, his country, his friends, and youth.

I found all who eulogized John truthful, thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring.  However, I was left with the impression that no one really knew the whole or real John – his heart, soul, and mind; his desires, dreams, and beliefs; his loves, passions, and goals.  His wife, Anna, probably came closest.  This is not intended as a criticism; it is just a fact of life.  The only One who really knows and understands a person is Our Lord.  He knew each person before he or she was born; knows everything about a person throughout life – his or her heart, soul, and mind; his or her desires, dreams, and beliefs, and his or her loves, passions, and goals.  Additionally, Our Lord will be with each of us when called upon to ‘cross the bar’.   On the Tomb of the Unknown Solider is written, “…Known but to God.”  I would suggest that each of us in life and in death is “Known but to God.”  Trusting that the Lord knew (and knows) John – body, soul, and spirit – I strongly believe that He has said unto him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…..”  (Matthew 25:21).

On this Memorial Day, please remember John and your other comrades who have ‘crossed the bar’!  Also, please pray for our troops and their families.

Chaplain’s Column—Rock Roth

THE FINAL INSPECTION

The Soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
‘Step forward now, Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, Lord, I guess I have not.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint
I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help, Though at times I shook with fear.. And sometimes, God, forgive me,

I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’

Author Unknown~
God Bless Our TROOPS!

Chaplain’s Column—Rock Roth

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia spoke at the inauguration of the Thomas More Society in the Diocese of Green Bay in October 2010. The Thomas More Society consists of judges, attorneys, and public officials who turn to Saint Thomas More as a mentor and model in their work as public servants, a model of integrity and courage. Judge Scalia mentioned in his address that our culture looks upon believers as “unsophisticated cretins,” foolish people who believe in Jesus Christ and the story of His Resurrection. It appears to me that history has not changed.

I am very concerned about our society and the direction it has selected, one that would restrict – eliminate – even the mention of God in the community, a Godless America. Who do we blame for this? How did we get into this position? How do we change our culture to one where God is again an integral part?
I do not have an answer; I wish I did! I do know, however, that we should blame ourselves for the position we are in, as unpopular as that may be. We seldom exhibit the courage to serve as God’s Ambassador to the world, to stand up for our beliefs. We are too interested in the other person’s feelings, being concerned that we might offend ‘someone’ if we state that we are Christians (or Jews). During this Easter Season, as we re-member the life, death, and most importantly the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus the Christ – for Christians, and Passover for the Jewish Community – I pray that God will give each of us the courage to worry less about being ‘politically correct’ and more about being morally right, and as Judge Scalia mentioned, “a model of integrity and courage.” That we might reflect God’s Glory to a needy world!

Chaplain’s Column

It is hard to believe that we are a month into 2013.  For many of us who lived through at least half of the 20th Century, the 21st Century with its high tech gadgets is hard to handle. Witnessing today’s youth, their excitement, enthusiasm, and energy brings us to the reality that we are getting old and not just older!  Time, however, is relative.  We are reminded by Saint Peter, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)  The United States is still a young country – relatively speaking.  God has been and is in control!

I am currently reading a book Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery by Harold Holzer   As one reads about Lincoln one is confronted with the enormous challenges Lincoln and our country faced over issues such as slavery vis-à-vis “All men are Created Equal, with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”; States Rights vis-à-vis “In order to form a more Perfect Union”, et al.  As one learns more about Lincoln, he or she is confronted with an acute awareness that Lincoln was a devout Christian who strongly believed in a God Who is intimately involved in the lives and destiny of men.  One of the major concerns expressed by Lincoln was not whether God was on his side but rather was he (and our country) on God’s side?   I would suggest that this is a very fundamental question we as American should be asking ourselves today.  Let us pray:

Our Heavenly Father, make us truly grateful for the goodly heritage Thou hast bestowed upon this Nation, whereby we enjoy the greatest freedom on earth.  Watch over our national, state, and community leaders, and our people.  Protect us by Thy Mighty Arm.  Keep us ever mindful of the sacrifices made for us by our fallen comrades, Founding Fathers, and those in our past such as Abraham Lincoln.  Make us worthy of Thy Loving Kindness.  This we ask in Thy Holy Name.

Amen

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

Many of us had the very great privilege of speaking to students in the Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Seattle School Districts at Veterans Day Assemblies.  I for one was very encouraged by what I witnessed – the schools were actually teaching students patriotism and the important role played by our military in protecting our way of life.  We as members of the VFW were able to inform students (and equally important faculty and staff) that liberty and freedom are not free.  That with freedom also comes responsibility.  If we fail to “provide for the common defense”, America, as we know it, cannot long exist.

As I participated in a number of very well organized and orchestrated assemblies, I found one thing missing – prayer and a forum to express thanks to Almighty God for the freedom we enjoy.  Our Founding Father specifically recognized our “Creator”, “Divine Providence”, “Nature’s God”, and “Supreme Judge of the World”.   However, in our schools and in the education of our youth, any reference to or mention of God has been prohibited!  Why?  As your Chaplain, I question the wisdom of trying to make America a secular society.  We are to enjoy freedom of religion not freedom from religion.  I found the teachers encountered during Veterans Day Assemblies thoroughly outstanding.  I do question, however, the ever increasing responsibility we place on them!  The following is an email I received which states my views.  (I would give the author credit, if I knew who he or she was!)

NOMINATED FOR “BEST EMAIL OF THE YEAR 2012”

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said: ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning. You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and

sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self-esteem and personal pride. You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote,

balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.  You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card. You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps. You want me to do all this, and then you tell me. . .. I CAN’T PRAY?’

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

I promise, this month’s ‘Chaplain’s Corner’ will be short!  Of course, I promise that every month.  This month, I really mean it.

When asked by Jim Traner to serve as the Post Chaplain (this was approximately 2 years ago), I was very hesitant.  Our Post at the time was blessed with two highly qualified and capable ordained ministers – Ed Gray and Dexter Miller.  Both were and are far better qualified to serve as Post Chaplain than I.

I have learned through my two years as Chaplain, that the Chaplaincy has many purposes.  One of which is to help people grow in their relationship with God and one another.  Also, the Chaplain serves as a reminder of the transcendent – there’s only one way out of this life – and seeks to develop an environment within which Post members are encouraged in their personal and collective moral and spiritual growth.  The Chaplain is to remind all that God is the source of all rights and privileges.  Our Declaration of Independence clearly states “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  These three ‘unalienable rights’ are not all inclusive.  There are others some of which are contained in the first 10 Amendments to the U. S. Constitution, our Bill of Rights.

The VFW is comprehensive in nature embracing all religions, faiths, and denominations within its ranks.  The chaplaincy, being trans-denominational and interfaith is tasked with ministering to those of spiritual affiliations and non-affiliations.

The Chaplain seeks to minister to people whenever there is a need.  For some, the Post Chaplain may be the only ‘minister’ he or she will ever know as they have no affiliation with either a house of worship or other religious institution.

The aforementioned sounds like a very big job – and it is.  As your Post Chaplain, I am personally asking each of you to help me do my job.  Please be alert to the physical and spiritual needs of our comrades.  Please notify me when there is a death, illness, or special concern of a comrade.  To do my job, I need your help.

Chaplain’s Corner

— By Rock Roth

 

I have (or had) a very long ‘Chaplain’s Corner’ for the month of September.  Upon re-reading it, I found it could be viewed by some as ‘partisan’ and leaning toward ‘conservatism’.  That started me thinking.  How much latitude do I have as Post Chaplain?  For answers, I went to VFW’s By-Laws and Manual of Procedures to see what it said about ‘The Chaplain’.  I could find little, which is not surprising.  What I did find stated that the Chaplain “shall be concerned with the spiritual needs of the members and by precept and example point the way toward a high moral plane for the organization.”  Boy that was helpful!

 

In searching for that “high moral plane”, what could be higher than the First Amendment to the Constitution which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”  Freedom of religion not freedom from religion, clearly a much different perspective than ‘some’ would have us believe.  Nowhere in the Constitution could I find any mention of a separation the church and state; in fact our Founding Fathers clearly believed in religion and in God. (A vast majority of our Founding Fathers attended church on a regular basis.)  Read the Declaration of Independence if you doubt they believed in God – “…Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, “…Supreme Judge of the World”, “…divine Providence.”  My point is we are (or should be) “One Nation Under God”.  We each should be free to worship God in the manner we choose and not as someone chooses for us.  Of course, we should also be free to not worship – if we so choose.  An American who is of the Muslim faith has the right to worship as he or she sees fit.  However, a Muslim, or anyone else, has no right to dictate or influence (beyond the use of the freedom of speech) how you or I choose to worship.  Freedom of religion not freedom from religion!

 

As a student of the Bible’s Old Testament, I am constantly reminded that Israel ‘seemed’ to be successful as long as she follow God’s Commandments.  When Israel drifted away and worshiped “other or foreign gods” they ran into serious trouble; they never seemed to learn – drift away, return to God, drift away, return to God.  I frequently ask myself, “Why?  Can’t they learn?  Don’t they see what happens to them each time they turn away from God?  Are they that dumb?”  No, they weren’t dumb and, unfortunately, the Israelites were not so much different than modern American.  Can’t we learn?  Don’t we see the lessons offered by history?  Don’t we see what happens when nations turn away from God putting themselves – man – in God’s position?  Apparently not!  We as a nation need – must – reaffirm and follow policies that reflect that we are “One Nation Under God” and that we recognize God is in charge and not us.  God has granted – given us as Americans a wonderful gift – “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  If we don’t protect our God Given Rights we will lose them.  Without God we cannot continue to serve humanity as that “Shining Beacon of liberty”.


Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

JUST ASKING?

Me: God, can I ask you a question? God: Sure.
Me: Promise you won’t get mad. God: I promise.
Me: Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today? God: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late. God: Yes.
Me: My car took forever to start. God: Okay.
Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait. God: Huummm.
Me: On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked up a call. God: All right.
Me: And on top of it all, when I got home I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager and relax, but it wouldn’t work!  Nothing went right today! Why did you do that? God: Let me see, the Death Angel was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of the other angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.

Me: (humbled): OH…   God: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
Me: (ashamed)  God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and I didn’t want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.
Me: (embarrassed): Ok…   God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me: (softly) I see God.  God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I’m sorry God.  God: Don’t be sorry – just learn to trust me…..in all things, the good and the bad.
Me: I will trust you.  God: And don’t doubt that my plan for your day is always better than your plan.
Me: I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.  God: You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God, and I love looking after my children.

We do not understand God’s Ways; His Ways are not our ways.  However, through faith we trust in His everlasting love.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

The following was written by CAPTAIN Jerry Coffee, USN. I knew Jerry when he was attached to the Staff of CINCPAC and after he had been a ‘guest’ at the Hanoi Hilton. I met him through my brother who is also a Naval Aviator and retired Navy Captain. My brother first met Jerry during a WESTPAC cruise during Vietnam.

Do One More Roll For Me

CAPTAIN Jerry Coffee, USN (Ret) [a Vietnam POW] wrote:

One night during a bombing raid on Hanoi , I peeked out of my cell and watched a flight of four F-105s during their bombing run. As they pulled up, it was obvious that lead was badly hit. Trailing smoke, he broke from the formation and I watched the damaged bird until it disappeared from sight. I presumed the worst. As I lay there in my cell reflecting on the image, I composed a toast to the unfortunate pilot and all the others who had gone before him.

On New Year’s Eve 1968, Captain Tom Storey and I were in the Stardust section of Hoa Lo (wa-low) Prison. I whispered the toast under the door to Tom. Tom was enthralled, and despite the risk of terrible punishment, insisted that I repeat it several more times until he had it committed to memory. He then promised me that when the time came, and they were again free men, he would give the toast at the first Dining-In he attended. For you civilians, a Dining-In is a dreary formal affair with drinks, dinner, and forced joviality and comradeship where officers get to dress up like the head waiters in “The Merry Widow” — that’s the American version; I’ve heard that the Brits, who created the damn things, have a rollicking good time. Tom’s first assignment following release in 1973 was to the U.S. Air Force Academy. During that same year the Academy hosted the Annual Conference for General Officers and Those Associated Dining-In. The jovial clinking of glasses accompanied all the traditional speeches and toasts. Then it was Tom’s turn. Remembering his promise so many years earlier, he proposed Jerry’s “One More Roll.” When he was finished there was total silence.

We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the sky, and were gently caught by Gods own hands to be with him on high.

To dwell among the soaring clouds they have known so well before, from victory roll to tail chase at heavens very door.

And as we fly among them there, we’re sure to hear their plea: Take care, my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.

A toast to all our comrades — POWs, missing in action, living or dead, whatever their duty, whatever their war, whatever their uniform. Bless them all.

May we never forget the sacrifices made to preserve our freedom! It is not the politicians who make the sacrifices but our military – Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – in every generation. May God Bless and keep them!!

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

Little mention was made in our mainstream news media of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. The Battle opened on 4 June 1942 approximately 6 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Battle of Midway was fought between US and Japanese Naval Forces approximately 150 miles north of Midway Is-land. For your information, Midway is located approximately 1,128 nautical miles northwest of Hawaii. I flew out for Midway from mid1959 until late1962 as part of the Pacific Distant Early Warning or DEW Line. Even at that late date, almost 20 years after that historic battle, evidence was still visible in the waters surrounding both Sand and Eastern Islands, the two islands that make up Midway.

To appreciate just how important the Battle of Midway was to our victory in the Pacific, it might prove useful to answer the following question, “What are the 10 most important facts about the Battle of Midway?”

  • A lessor naval force defeated a superior naval force.
  • The US ability to crack Japan’s radio code led to Japan’s defeat.
  • Main ships were not battleships…they were aircraft carriers.
  • The result stopped Japan’s Pacific expansion.
  • The result increased the morale of the U.S. Navy as well as the American people
  • Having the Carrier Yorktown available showed that the Pearl Harbor raid six-months earlier missed a main target – the dry repair docks.
  • The loss of four front-line carriers by Japan was due to not having adequate “CAP” or “Combat Air Patrol” (a/k/a an umbrella) over the carriers – the Japanese fighters were ‘pulled down’ by Torpedo 8 who were the first to arrive on scene; flying relatively slow and obsolete aircraft, they commenced their torpedo attack with-out bombers and fighters; Torpedo 8 lost all its aircraft and all but one of its aircrew.
  • The victory by the U.S. at Midway became the turning point of the Pacific Theater in WWII.
  • By defeating Japan at Midway, the U.S. was able to begin the “island hopping” campaign to bring the war to Japan’s home islands.
  • It was only the second time that a naval battle was fought by ships who never sighted each other (both sets of ships were over each other’s horizon). The first was the Battle of Coral Sea a month earlier.

Why is the aforementioned important and why is it mentioned in the “Chaplain’s Corner”? The Battle of Mid-way changed the course of history. Japan certainly was far from defeated and the world faced another 3 years of war in the Pacific. However, Japan was never again able to effectively take the offensive. It is significant that she lost 4 aircraft carriers and embarked aircraft; however, it is even more significant that she lost irreplaceable skilled personnel including skilled and experienced carrier pilots. She was never able to recover from that loss. Many of the historians who have studied the Battle of Midway attribute the US victory to luck, ‘the draw of the cards’, fate, et al. To others historians, your Chaplain included, we attribute America’s victory to the Hand of God. I am one who strongly believes that God controls America’s destiny. As we celebrate Independence Day, it is important that we remember that in our Declaration of Independence, God is referred to under 4 different names: (1) Nature’s God, (2) Creator, (3) Supreme Judge of the World, and (4) Divine Providence. We are “One nation under God.”

Let us pray
We bow before Thee, our Heavenly Father, in humble prayer thanking Thee for the manifold blessings Thou hast bestowed upon us, in this our beloved land. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the sacred institutions of America. Preserve these inspired concepts. Let not the adversity of Light and Truth destroy freedom, worship, and divine faith. Bless those who direct our nation. Remember, O God, those who bear arms. Bless the homes from which they come. Forgive our errors and weakness turning from the wrong and unprofitable ways. We pray for the early triumph of righteousness, truth, and peace founded in the brotherhood of man. This we ask in Thy Precious Name. Amen

Chaplain’s Corner—Rock Roth

How many of us have considered the poppies handed out on Memorial and Veteran’s Days and the history contained therein?  Poppies draw us to battle fields of Flanders, Belgium, and the row upon row of white crosses found there, a lasting memory of World War 1, The War to End All Wars.  The battle fields of Flanders include some of the bloodiest battles of World War I.  After the war, the citizens of Belgium provided to the United States ground where we could bury our fallen heroes.  Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial is a World War I cemetery on the southeast edge of the town of Waregem, Belgium.  This is the only American World War 1 cemetery in Belgium and 411 American servicemen are buried or commemorated there. Many of them fell at Spitaals Bosschen, an action of the Ypres-Lys Campaign by the 91st Infantry Division in the closing days of World War I.

This cemetery is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and occupies a six acre site. As with all Allied war cemeteries, the land was provided in perpetuity by the Belgian government. The headstones are aligned in four symmetrical areas around the white stone chapel that stands in the center of the cemetery. The side walls of the chapel are inscribed with the names of 43 missing American servicemen who have no known graves. The ABMC also administers two American cemeteries in Belgium for World War II casualties: Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial; and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

The cemetery is in the area known as Flanders Fields, where fierce fighting took place throughout the war.  A Canadian, Dr. John McCrae, wrote the poem In Flanders Fields on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before.

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

I had the very great distinction of visiting this cemetery while stationed in Brunssum, The Netherlands, in the early 1980’s.  I can state unequivocally that visiting this and other US Cemeteries in Europe and Asia were humbling experiences.  At each I was reminded that Freedom is not Free.  On this Memorial Day, please remember those who died that we and other Americans might enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; we give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our county.  Grant to them thy mercy and the light of the presence, that the good work which Thou hast begun in them may be perfected, through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord.  Amen