I should be posting something spiritual today right? Something about the greatest man that ever lived...take this right please, that's not where my writer's mind is at today. No disrespect to the birth of the King, but my mind this morning has drifted 3,000 miles back to Ft. Lewis.
I was a new private attached to the 9th Division, 109th MI (LRSC). Airborne Infantry attached to an MI Battalion. I met a man who I still think of with great respect. If the Captain is the "old man," then Colonel Hughes was the "old old man." He was quiet, unassuming and respected. I remember my inbriefing to the 109th MI. He shared our history, our mission, and then thanked us all. The he dismissed all but the paratroopers. Praised our service, our toughness, reminded us of our fate should we be captured in combat. 20 years later I realize his speech was brilliant...he knew how to motivate men. He was honest, and honorable and worthy to be followed. He trusted us to carry out our missions.
We were paratroopers, and Colonel Hughes was the commander of a bunch of "Legs." He had wings I guess, and a combat patch, but how tough could he have been? We liked him, offered our respect, but often thought of him as the MI Colonel who knew little of infantry real army stuff. He tried to run with us...to keep up. We respected that...immensely. Even kept with us for the first mile of the Sound to Narrows. We respected that he tried to be a part of us, like a loving father teaching his son to play ball. He included us, and at times excluded us from the chores of post duty, and he worked us hard. No, he inpired our officers and NCOs to work us hard. We earned all that we received, and we gave of ourselves gladly.
Social media can be a great thing. I met the Colonel again three years ago. Wished him a Merry Christmas and shared a memory or two. Didn't think much of it... until the next year. I was curious how he ended up. Only then did he correct me...humbly with a simple link I read later that day. He was no longer Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, but rather, General Hughes. Lieutenant General Hughes - three gleaming heavy stars for all you civilians out there. I was shocked...that man we had the audacity to think of as the "old old man?" His career is impressive by any standards, and as hard as I thought I was at 20, I think he'd lost more by then than I've ever had. Read it if you like:
Great things come in unassuming packages. Maybe that's why MI treated him so well? I'm a little awed that I stood at attention, and I stood casually shaking his hand, so many years ago...having no idea. And he wasn't pretentious enough to care who he was - at least it never showed!
So to General Hughes I say, Thank you for your leadership, your example and for your service.
But it's also time to turn back to the day at hand. There was another man, a greater man. The greatest man who ever existed. He was born in a humble manger, lived a quiet and blameless life, died for sin, was raised from that same death so that we may live. Unassuming, he was the King of kings...is the King of kings. I make no comparison between Jesus and my beloved Colonel who became a General...but this one. Sometimes it's worth the time to get to know a man. Especially if your life is in his hands...your eternal life is in His hands.