This has been a most significant Memorial Day weekend, beginning with recollections occurring a couple of days prior to the last Monday in May. I posted an article on my Examiner.com page in recognition of Memorial Day, providing some historical background and a listing a number of local celebrations here in the Central Ohio region. After publishing the article, I decided to add a youtube video, A Memorial Day Tribute, featuring a narration and performance of Psalm 23 by Kathy Trocolli, a contemporary Christian artist. While viewing the video, I was deeply moved, as I reflected upon some of the veterans whom I knew who were now deceased. Among those I thought about were my grandfather, Sampson Johnson, a World I War veteran who died a decade before I was born;
My father, Lonnie Johnson, a World War II veteran, contributed so much to success on so many fronts;
Other vets included, my former brother-in-law, Elliott Thompson, who served in the Air Force, whose valiant fight against cancer inspired me and impacted me in an immeasurable way.
I also thought of Uncle Prince Albert Crosby, “a veteran twice-over,” having served in the Navy and in the Army.
In 1967 I was drafted into the Army and completed my basic training before being sent to San Antonio where I was introduce to classroom teaching. In reflecting on that period, I also happened to recall another veteran who served in the Army with me as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston during the Vietnam War period from 1967-1969. We both went through the Faculty Development Training Program at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio, and we were both assigned as instructors who trained pharmacy technicians. Although we were both drafted into the Army, he had signed up for an additional year in order to ensure that he received a pharmacy position after basic training, but I had not signed up for the additional year, yet I also had obtained a pharmacy position. There was a greater possibility of receiving orders for Vietnam for those who had an additional year of service than for those, like me, who had less than 2 years remaining. We served together as fellow instructors for five or six months, but before the year ended, he received orders for “Nam,” as we called it. Sometime after the first of the year, we received notice that he had been killed while serving in Vietnam. Countless times I have reflected upon that time period in my life, as my heart overflows with gratitude to God for having gone through my period of service to my country and returning with “more than a reasonable portion of health and strength and a sound mind.”
About ten years ago, I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, and I was overwhelmed as I viewed the inscribed names of those who sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. During that time I recalled the last name of my fellow pharmacy instructor, and I found his name on the Wall. Last week I found his name on the website for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and I could not hold back the tears when I read that my fellow serviceman was from Kentucky, the place where I completed my basic training at Fort Campbell in 1967 and the state where I presently teach a Communications course at the Louisville Teaching Center for Indiana Wesleyan University. In light of these circumstances, Memorial Day, 2011, has been especially memorable for me.
As I reflect upon my term of service in the Army, I recognize that God has always been “My Hiding Place,” as the lyrics to the song by Don Moen so clearly reveal.