Our son-in-law David retired from the United States Air Force this week. After more than twenty years of serving proudly in our nation’s space and missiles program, he is hanging up his uniform and will soon embark on the next phase of his life’s journey. He carries with him a long résumé of impressive credentials—a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, two masters degrees in rocket science (don’t ask me the long technical names because I don’t know them, let alone begin to understand them!), the rank of lieutenant colonel, a tour in Iraq, and an extensive list of accomplishments that would boggle the minds of ordinary citizens like you and me.
The Air Force honored David with a ceremony on Friday. According to Julie, there was all the pomp and circumstance, complete with an Honor Guard and all, to make it impressive, but the ceremony still had enough of a friendly, informal feel to allow them to feel comfortable and enjoy it. David was allowed to choose the location, and rather than an auditorium or other indoor location, he chose to have it in a lovely, rustic pavilion at a beautiful park there on base. The Air Force brought in a podium, chairs and tables and flags, and two special chairs for David and his colonel, who had flown in from Colorado for the occasion. David and Julie chose to keep the refreshments served after the ceremony very simple—hors d’oeurves, cake and punch.
They were able to fly David’s parents in from Connecticut, and all of their six children joined in celebrating the occasion, as well, along with about forty other people. Benjamin played our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, on the accordion. Hannah cried during the part of her dad’s speech when he spoke of the pain in leaving his family to go to Iraq. And baby Josiah took no notice of the solemnity of the proceedings and entertained them all with his happy babblings and tossing his pacifier halfway down the aisle. I’m sure there aren’t many retirees who would have a one year old son present, anyway—grandson, maybe, but not their own son!
David was awarded another medal and a number of certificates honoring him for different achievements, as well as our nation’s flag after a special flag-folding presentation by the Honor Guard. Julie received some certificates also, and David gave her flowers, and each of the kids small gifts in honor of their sacrifices during his time of service. Julie presented David with an officer’s sabre, engraved with his name and years of service, and the children gave him a shadow box displaying his medals and with a space for the flag he had just been awarded.
Perhaps the greatest surprise was the manner in which David’s colonel spoke of him during the ceremony. After going through the long, remarkable record of David’s accomplishments in the Air Force and commenting on how he had always been at the top of everything he set out to do, the colonel began to speak of David’s personal life. Now, the colonel, David’s boss, was stationed in Colorado, more than 1200 miles away. They periodically got together for Air Force business, but their time was short and just that—all business. David had told Julie several times that he thought that his presiding officer might be a Christian, but they had never been able to speak about such things so he did not know for sure. In this day of “political correctness” and how, more and more, the military is being forced to take an anti-Christian stance, it came as a surprise, and really touched Julie and David’s hearts, that his colonel came out and spoke so forthrightly.
David and Julie, he began by saying, had met at a Bible study. He spoke of David’s outstanding character and that he was a godly man who always put God first in his life, his marriage and his family. “You can believe what you will,” he said, “but it is easy to see that the blessing of God is upon David for his faithfulness, and upon his family.” He touched on the adoptions in their family and likened them to the adoption into God’s family of all those who believe. What a testimony coming from this man in this setting—and apparently what a testimony David’s life has been throughout his years of service in the Air Force.
David is a young man still. He just turned 42 yesterday—young enough to start a whole other career and retire from that someday down the road! It will be exciting to see where and how God will lead him in this next leg of his life’s journey. David and Julie have talked for years that they would love to go into some sort of orphan ministry after he retired from the Air Force if the Lord should so lead. It could be that perhaps He will simply have them opening their hearts and lives and home to more “orphans” in joining the three they’ve already adopted and the three natural siblings who have so generously shared their mommy and daddy with others. Whatever the case may be, the Lord has promised that He has David’s future, and that of his family, under control. Psalm 37:3-7a, 18, 23 reads, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him… The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever… The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”
Hearing about David’s retirement ceremony and reflecting on his life made me think of the day when we who have believed and followed Christ will stand before His Judgment Seat when our work on earth is done, to give an accounting of how we have used our lives for Him. Not to be confused with God’s Great White Throne of Judgment, where the unsaved will find that their names are not recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they never trusted Jesus as their Savior and are cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity (Revelation 20:11-15), the Judgment Seat of Christ is for Christians, and will reveal the works they did for Him after they accepted salvation and be rewarded for them, just as David’s accomplishments in the Air Force were acknowledged and rewarded (I Corinthians 3:10-15; II Corinthians 5:10). And just as David’s boss gave a good testimony of the godly man and Christian example that David had been throughout his years of service, it will be our joy to hear our Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
As you might be able to tell here, we are very proud of David, not only for the awesome achievements he has attained in his career in service for his country, but also for the tremendous example and testimony he has been for Jesus Christ in an ungodly world. We honor him, and give the glory to God for his life. This week, November 11th, is Veteran’s Day. We also honor all the men and women who have served and/or are serving our nation. They deserve our honor, respect and gratitude. Freedom is not free, and this is the land of the free because of the brave. Some have paid for their service with the loss of limb, health and even their lives. We are grateful that the Air Force recognized David in such a fine manner. He is a humble man and would never draw attention to himself, so it is nice to see him receiving praise from his peers and superiors—and his in-laws! May we remember to have the same attitude of gratitude for all our vets—not only on Veteran’s Day, but always.