Sunday, June 10, 2007

Listening to History on Flag Day 2007

06/10/2007 LANGHORNE, Penn. This morning as I listened to the pastor teach us about the meaning of prayer and what it means to pray in the will of God something very strong came to my heart and mind. It was the question, “What is God’s will for our country as it concerns the war in Iraq?” Then I remembered a phrase I often use, borrowed from someone many years ago, “History repeats itself. It has to. Nobody listens.” What history is repeating itself in Iraq that maybe God wants us to listen to that maybe we do not want to hear? Is it the history of the Vietnam War or is it a history much further back in time?

Go out and buy yourself a map of Iraq. They sell them in the bookstores. There is always at least one in stock. Then start looking at the towns and cities and especially the historical sites. Not too far from the Persian Gulf , about a third of the way up the road from Basrah to Baghdad is the city of An Nasiriyah. You have heard of this place in the news. If you have a map that shows historical sites, look just southwest of the city. You will find Ur. This is the same Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham from the Bible was called by God to go to the promised land that we know as Israel.

Now go further up the road, closer to Baghdad. You will find three towns. An Najaf is the southern most one of the three. Then there is Al Hillah, and west of that town is Karbala. Among coalition forces, the area between them has acquired the name, “Triangle of Death.” There have been many Iraqi deaths in this area, especially in Al Hillah. But also this area is where two American soldiers were kidnapped in May of 2006 and were later found dead and mutilated. Also, on May 12th of this year, a month ago, three American soldiers were taken captive. One was found dead and the other two are still missing.

Look at your map. Just north of Al Hillah is where the city of Babylon once stood. If you remember your Sunday school lessons, this is where Daniel was in the lions den. It is also where Shadrach, Mishack, and Abednego were put into the fiery furnace and came out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.

Now go way up the road from Baghdad to the northern city of Mosul. This is one of the main cities for the Kurdish part of Iraq. Remember, there are three major people groups in Iraq. The Kurds are in the north. The Shia are in the southeast. The Sunni are in the southwest. Now look just north of Mosul on your map. You will find what is left of Ninevah. In the Bible, Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah and tell the people to repent. Jonah went the opposite direction and ended up in the belly of a whale. Then when Jonah repented and God saved him from the whale, he went to Ninevah and did what God told him to do. The people repented.

In the context of these stories from the Bible, how important do you think the country of Iraq is to God? What does God want us to learn from this history and the history that is unfolding even now with our military in harms way? Are we to run like Jonah did, only to come back later and do what we were supposed to do in the first place? Also, what will be our whale if we go in the opposite direction. Who should we fear more, the God of Abraham Who sent us His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, or the terrorists who would like to see us all dead? Do we fear more the lions of our age or the God Who created them as well as the sheep of His pasture? Do we fear more the fiery furnace, the burning caldron of war, or do we listen to the God who promised never to leave us nor forsake us?

Does speaking about the war in this way mean that this writer is a war monger? General Douglas MacArthur once said of those who wear the uniform, “This does not mean that you are war mongers. On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our minds ring the ominous words of Plato: ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’”

There are more difficult days ahead for our country, and especially those who wear the uniform which includes their families as well. But what are we to do? When peace came in World War II there were those in uniform who stayed in Europe and in the Far East to maintain that peace. After the armistice was signed in Korea there were those in uniform who stayed to maintain that peace. The military unit that my Uncle Lou served with in that war is still doing duty in South Korea and part of that unit is also serving in Iraq. It seems therefore that once the peace has been established leaving Americans there maintains that peace. But when we leave, as we did in Vietnam, disaster strikes for the people groups that are left to take care of themselves. Thus we had the Killing Fields of Cambodia where two million people were killed by those in power after the war. There were also many who were killed by Saddam Hussein after the first Iraq War. We tend to forget that.

Let me close by going back to the beginning of these few words written today. The words came because the pastor today was teaches us the importance of praying in the will of God. We need to pray about this war on a daily basis. We need to honestly seek the will of God. Even those who do not practice some kind of religion pray in certain circumstances. Should not we who do practice religion pray even more, especially about this situation? Please keep this in mind as you celebrate Flag Day this June 14th.

God Bless Ya'll real good,

Sunday, May 6, 2007

When Heroes Speak...Who Will Listen?

05/06/2007 LANGHORNE, Penn. May 4th was my fifty-ninth birthday this year. It was also the twenty-seventh anniversary of when the picture to the right was captured for all time as the symbol of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The tragedy of the Kent State Massacre in 1970 lives on in our collective memory of how things can really go wrong, and even more wrong after that.

History records that the demonstration that May 4th was specifically against the invasion of Cambodia that President Nixon had launched on April 25th. If that is the case then I know exactly where I was personally on the day of that invasion.

It was a Saturday, and for some reason I had the day off from my work as a machinist in a maintenance company stationed at Ankhe in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. I awoke that morning to the sound of moving vehicles, lots of moving vehicles. Our company was near the front gate of the base camp that had a twenty-two mile perimeter with Hong Kong Mountain in the middle. When I saw that the line of vehicles was not stopping, I got my camera and sat with a friend on the roof of the barracks.

It was the whole Fourth Infantry Division moving out to somewhere. Later I would find out that it had been Cambodia. There were gun trucks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), artillery pieces towed behind other vehicles, everything you can imagine when an Army division gets ordered into battle. Our company, thank God, was not part of the Fourth ID. So I stayed where I was that day. I didn't have to go. Later, they would come back, but Camp Radcliffe was pretty much like a ghost town without them.

It was September of that year that I finished my eighteen months, went back to the States, and got out of the military, not knowing that three years later, almost to the day, I would be in the military again, this time as a Military Policeman who stayed in as a career. It was sometime after that that I read about Kent State. The hairs on the back of my head raised up and a tingling sensation went down my back when I read that it had happened on my birthday while I was in Vietnam. Woodstock also happened while I was gone. That I knew about because I had accumulated quite a large record collection over there.

But this May 4th, in the year 2007, was different for me. When I went for my birthday breakfast at the local diner, the headlines of the Bucks County Courier Times read, "Bucks Marine's Casket Arrives At Willow Grove." There was the family picture, similar to the one on the right, with his brother-in-law, his sister, the mother, and the father in the full dress uniform of a Marine Reserve colonel. Willow Grove is the local Naval Air Station where he was brought in by military helicopter with full honors. Saturday he was laid to rest with more than 600 in attendance at the funeral.

First Lieutenant Travis Manion graduated from the La Salle College High School in 1999. He lettered in wrestling, football, and lacrosse. He had a 3.7 GPA and a commission to the Naval Academy. The Lieutenant graduated from Annapolis in 2004 and was a preseason national top 20 wrestler that year.

Lieutenant Manion, 26, was serving his second tour in Iraq. He was embedded with an Iraqi Army unit that he was leading and training. During a patrol mission on Sunday, April 29th in Anbar province, his unit came under sniper fire and the young Manion was shot and killed. Here are two things in particular that he wrote while over there, one to family and friends, and the second to a local newspaper.

"As far as the job is going, the area is not good right now - but it's getting better, and to be honest, I'm amazed at the ability and dedication of some of these Iraq Army soldiers. ...The AI's in this battalion are very eager to fight and to take control of this city. ...It was at times frustrating the first time I was here and it will and has been this time, but as in anything in life, true success does not come from battles won easily.

"There are many different views on our mission here. However, all I can say with certainty is that there are thousands of Americans over here working hard towards a positive outcome in Iraq. ...I am not sure the average American sees the positives these servicemen and women accomplish or even understand the sacrifices of their efforts. However, whatever course of action our leadership decides upon, there are those in waiting, ready to carry out the mission in support of our country and in defense of its people and their freedoms."

When heroes speak...who will listen? Who will act upon what they have heard and will rally to their cause in some form or fashion? There is much more involved in supporting our troops than putting on the uniform and joining them. For me, at my age for instance, first and foremost is prayer. Second is to make it a topic of discussion among family, friends and co-workers. Third, but certainly not last, is the ballot box. We all hate war, especially the soldiers and their families. We wish that we could come home and put war behind us. The problem is that our enemies will not allow us to do that. On top of that they have brought the war to American soil.

So I pray. I talk about the mission and the men and women in uniform that believe in that mission. They are the heroes. Then I write to you, my family, friends, and co-workers. And when it is time for the ballot box, I will be there too, an old soldier who still believes in the mission of freedom, no matter whether it is in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or right here in my own backyard.

Rest in peace Lieutenant Manion. Semper Fi Sir! We who salute you have heard you loud and clear. We know the mission and we will not let you down.

Allan L. Winger
Staff Sergeant
U. S. Army Retired

(Links to the source stories for this blog as well as credit for the photographs utilized are in the Blog Spot Resource Center listed in the sidebar to the right.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Honor - What Are You Doing This Easter?

04/04/2007 LANGHORNE, Penn. Today was another one of those days where I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. After I got up and started thinking about the day, I remembered some words that are very important to me and I began to repeat them several times:

“Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3 quoting Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16)

Another is something that my mother taught my family when she lived with us for a short time. In her younger years she had been a nanny for a Jewish family in Baltimore and she was to make sure that the children recited the following every night before they climbed into bed:

“Sha-ma Is-ray-el. A-do-nie El-a-hay-nu, A-do-nie a-hud” which translated means, “Hear O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) In Jewish tradition this is called “The Great Sha-ma.”

A couple of blogs ago the word “Honor” was used in a context where you might think that it was only related to one’s service to their country. But that word has a meaning that includes much more than that. I had the privilege of serving in Vietnam . I am also married to a wonderful lady who was born in South Korea . Our last duty station overseas was as a family for two years in that same country. My brother Warren worked for two years in Japan for a large company. So we Wingers know a little bit about the oriental culture.

We here in the West to a large part think in terms of “Right” and “Wrong.” If you’ve ever wondered why you couldn’t understand maybe the Eastern culture, it’s because they don’t necessarily think and live in the framework of those Western words. Their culture is all about “Shame” and “Honor.” Think about that for a minute. There’s a whole lot more involved in those words than in ours, isn’t there, especially when you think about family and the whole social structure thing.

But getting back to those words above, who are those that you honor in your life? Who in your life are those that you hope each day you will never bring to shame? Is it your father and mother? Is it other relatives or friends? Think about the ones with which you spend Thanksgiving. For many that holiday is spent with the most important people in our lives – family or some version of it.

Yesterday was the Jewish Passover. The day after tomorrow is Good Friday. Sunday is Easter. It’s Holy Week. It’s a time where most of the nation honors God in some way – God our Heavenly Father. Back in the day when my brother and I were kids, we were in church on Good Friday and on Easter morning. Even if we didn’t want to go, we were there. Mom and Dad said so – end of story. Solomon wrote to all of his children who would someday be parents:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 6:22

Maybe you needed to have confirmed today that being in church is still the right thing for you and your family on Easter morning. Maybe you only go to church once a year and Easter is it. It still is the right day to go. Maybe you haven’t been to church in a long time and because it’s been so long you just don’t think you should do it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s never too late to try church on Easter. Maybe you’re older and your kids are all grown up and out of the house now and you many not know what they’re doing this week. Call them up. Remind them that being in church is still the right thing to do this Sunday.

Shame and Honor – Right and Wrong – there is a whole bunch of meaning inside those words. But maybe your definitions have gotten blurred of late. Maybe you are only seeing them through a glass darkly. Go to church on Easter. You might just find the definitions for which you’ve been looking or of which you need to be reminded. Oh yeah - and after the service, drop someone a line who may have taught you that being in church on Easter morning was a good thing to do. Tell them how it went. Be a blessing. Honor them, and through that experience, honor the God they serve, the same God Who loves you and has a plan for your life.

Happy Easter :-)


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Toward a Philosophy of...(Reader Please Fill In)

03/27/2007 – LANGHORNE, Penn. There is only so much time in our lives. My mother lived until she was almost ninety-three years old. My father just had his eighty-ninth birthday. Other relatives on my side of the family, who took care of their health, have lived or are living into their eighties and nineties. I haven’t always taken good care of my health, so logic tells me that my life will be shorter.

I don’t think there is any debate that if you have used tobacco most of your life that your years will generally be less than those who have not. There may be some discussion as to what alcohol does to your health over the long haul. But when doctors review my medical history with me, there seems to be one answer they like when they ask me whether I use tobacco, alcohol, or recreational drugs. They like the answer “No.”

I made a promise to my wife back in 1986 that I would stop the tobacco and alcohol. The alcohol was easy. The cigarettes were not. I was stationed in Honduras at the time as a Military Police Desk Sergeant and Patrol Supervisor. I told my Lieutenant and my Platoon Sergeant that I was quitting smoking and that I would be very cranky for the next few days until the nicotine was out of my system. They put me on walking patrol by myself in downtown Comayagua for the next five days straight. I must have walked more than fifty miles and I had the opportunity to practice my Latin American Spanish with the locals a whole lot. It’s been twenty-one years now and I can honestly say that I have no desire for tobacco anymore. I was almost up to three packs a day before I quit. If the health issue is not important enough, think of what you can do with the money you save.

On the same token, because of my own experience, I don’t criticize others if they smoke, drink or chew, and it doesn’t bother me one iota to hang around with those that do. It’s more important for me to treat others with dignity and respect than it is to criticize the way they have chosen to live their lives. Bottom line – it’s their health, and they have chosen the inevitable benefits and/or consequences of how they have taken care of it just as I have. But then again, we all don’t live in a vacuum do we?. Our personal health will always be a family matter as well.

All this to ask the question, “If today is the first day of the rest of your life, what are you going to do with it, and what will be the philosophy, the framework that will govern how you live it?" Seems like a really deep question doesn’t it? Well it is, and I’m asking because I’m concerned. I’m concerned about you. And if you are one of those who have read this far in this blog, you are one of the ones I’m concerned about. I might not even know your name. But it doesn’t make any difference. Why? I am concerned because I know something about you that you may not even know about yourself. What’s that? You were created in the image of God, and that’s true even if you don’t believe there is a God. It is just a fact of life. You have value. You are important. Even if you think you are alone, you are not. God loves you and has a plan for your life.

In my last blog I shared with you an old composition of sorts. It was written two days before I married my wonderful wife. It was also used that year and others since then to celebrate not only our wedding anniversary but also the anniversary of the United States Army Military Police Corps. Both anniversaries are on September 26th. I retired from active duty December 31st, 1991. But the marriage goes on. Last Summer my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by renewing our vows. When my two children - and hopefully my grandchildren when they finally come – when they read that composition of mine, they will always know that the words written there is what Dad (and Grandpa) held as his personal core philosophy. Those words will always be what Allan Leigh Winger is (and was) all about.

Those words have stood the test of time for me and others as well. Why have they stood the test of time? Many have shared with me over the years what those words have meant to them. But as for me personally, back then and now, it has been through those words that my Father in Heaven has shown me, really shown me, that I am created in His image. I have value. I am important. I am not alone. He loves me and really does have a plan for my life. Wow!! Talk about self-esteem builders :-))

There is a maxim of sorts that I learned years ago – “History repeats itself. It has to. Nobody listens.” My Dad once said that if a book was ever written about him it should be titled, “You Can’t Get There From Here.” I need to ask him what the title is now because I know it has probably changed. But, right now, if say maybe a genealogy entry was made in the family history book about me, or maybe if someone needed to put an epitaph on my grave stone, the following two words would be enough – “He Listened.”

What about you? What philosophy is governing your life. I certainly don’t have a corner on the market when it comes to an answer to that question. Please share, if not with me, then with someone you care about. I’m sure they would love to listen. God Bless :-) Allan

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Breaking the Silence

02/17/2007 – LANGHORNE, Penn. It has been a while since the last blog. Events, both world and of a personal nature, have necessarily occupied the time and caused much reflection. In light of all this, but in also looking toward the future, it is time to break the silence with a few words that have served this writer well for many years. It is hoped that they will serve you well too.

Caretakers of the Colors
by SSG Allan L. Winger

Each morning the caretakers and I go to our appointed place of duty. As the sun slowly rises, I hear the faint sound of a bugle. Then I hear the loud reverberating shot of a cannon.
Why does the bugle sound?
Why does the cannon fire?
My caretakers raise me up so that I may see.
All around me are soldiers. Some wear the rank of officer. Some wear the rank of enlisted. Some are civilian. Some are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Some are children. But all are soldiers in their own way.
Then I see them salute me. Some by raising their hand to their brow. Others by resting their hand over their hearts. I try to hear what they say, but I can only make out four words,
"...One nation, under God..."
"What does that phrase mean?" I ask myself.
Then a strong voice comes from the wind that blows through me,
"'One nation' means a people united for one purpose. 'Under God' not only means in service to Me, but also that by My authority their nation was born and by My authority it is able to live on."
There is a moment of silence and then the voice continues,
"You belong to them and they belong to Me. The faces you see are not only the ones of the present, but also of the past and of the future."
The voice stops and I turn again to listen to the words of those below me, only to hear six other curious words,
"...Duty, Honor, Country...Faith, Hope and Love..."
"What do they mean?" I ask.
"They are your passwords," is the quick reply.
"By them they live and die. By them you were woven together one thread at a time. By them, your colors of red, white, and blue will always flow side by side. By them, the first stars were drawn together, and by them their number multiplied. And by those words, you and them through Me will never be brought to shame."
Then the voice grows silent for the day. The sun begins to fall behind the trees. I hear the sound of footsteps below me and the bugle sounds once more. As I look out over the faces, the cannon sounds, the soldiers salute, the second song is played and the caretakers lower me down. Gently but firmly, I am folded and tucked away for yet another night of peaceful rest. And as we make our way back home, I hear the voice of a young boy say,
"Dad, who are they and what are they carrying?"
"They are members of the Military Police Corps,"he replies.
"They live by the motto, 'Of the troops, and for the troops' and what they carry are the Colors of the United States of America,...One Nation, Under God..."
(Composed 24 September, 1981 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts)

There is still much to do and much to say as Americans and as a human race. After all, God is not done with us yet and that should give us both pause and concern as well as laughter and joy.

If you would like to read more about the above composition and how it was developed, go to the new Blog Spot Resource Center which has a link in the sidebar to the right and click on the Blog Library.

Happy belated New Year and may God richly bless ya'll :-)