With Honor

IMG_9130It’s 6:00 a.m. and many of us have been up since 3:00. The airport hangar in Toledo echoes with chatter, the occasional announcement coming over the loudspeaker. We’re standing in a long line, and from my vantage point, I see white caps on gray heads and bright gold t-shirts with a quote from John F. Kennedy on the back lining up to go through airport security. The quote says, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, along with their guardians (some family, some newfound acquaintances) await the opportunity to board the Flag City Honor Flight to spend one day in Washington, D.C., visiting the war memorials. I am guardian for the day for my dad, a Korean War vet, and throughout our trip, I am struck again and again at the respect that is shown the veterans.

Leaving the plane, we are greeted by a long row of active service people, shaking hands and welcoming our group to Baltimore. After loading the bus, there are some issues with the wheelchair lift so we are delayed by about 30 minutes, just sitting on the bus waiting to go. Outside the bus, a row of active service people stand in their dress uniforms at parade rest for that half hour, solemnly staring straight ahead while it lightly rains on them. As the bus pulls away to take us to the memorials, they salute, holding the posture until the buses are past.

At the WWII memorial, there are a number of school groups taking field trips. “Thank you for your service,” a few of them tell my dad, shaking his hand. Later, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, signs posted say “Silence, please, as a gesture of respect.” Small stones are lined up in a row on the top of some tombstones, along with coins, a tangible indication of honor and respect paid by visitors.

We observe the changing of the guard, the meticulously choreographed routine that honors the Unknown Soldier as representative of all who never made it home. Normally, the sentry picks up his feet in a precise manner, and he does not acknowledge the crowd in any way. However, to honor veterans who visit the memorial, the sentry will scuff his shoes as he passes by. Those in our group, some in wheelchairs and some standing, hear a number of scuffs as we watch the practice of honoring in action. I am honored, feeling very special, and I am not even a veteran. When we witness others being honored and shown respect, it is contagious and uplifting.

This trip makes me think about honor, respect, and love, and how they are very much a part of the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we consider the story of Jesus’s baptism, Jesus is honored by both the Father, who announces, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” and the Holy Spirit who appears as a dove (Matt 3:16-17 NIV). Honor and respect is an integral part of love, and anytime we show honor and respect to others, we are participating in a practice that started before the foundation of the world.

Your practice of honoring others might not take place on an Honor Flight, but it might happen in a long line at the bank with a teller who is trying to do her best. I might show honor and respect as I grade my students’ papers, attempting to find something they’re doing well along with pointing out areas they could do better. In our families we honor each other by showing little considerations, small gestures of kindness and concern. It is through these practices which may seem insignificant that the love of the Triune God flows.

The Honor Flight may have been intended to honor veterans, but I felt honored, too. I learned about the positive effect of honor on all those who witness it, and I recognized the goodness of God as it was revealed that day.Though JFK’s quote is inspiring, I’ve decided to tweak it a little: “A person reveals the love of God by the way he or she honors others, and when a person is honored, everyone including God celebrates.”

~by Nan Kuhlman

2 comments so far

  1. Jerome Ellard on

    Really, really good, Nan!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Hi Jerome,
      Glad to hear you were inspired!

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