Principal’s Notebook: Nov. 6, 2014

Next week is Veteran’s Day. This is the story I will be reading for Monday morning prayer. I thought you might find it interesting.

The Cost of What We Take For Granted

by George Hofbauer

We hear many stories in our lives. They are like raindrops falling upon our head. It is impossible to discern one from the other. But every once in a while we are suddenly drenched by a story that renews us as it challenges us. It changes us because it makes us think. It helps us understand what we really thirst for. But most important it makes us feel thankful for what others have done. Hopefully, this will be such a story for you.

Years ago I heard a gentleman give a moving story when he was honored as a “Hero” for Catholic education. This took place at a formal dinner for over 1000 people. It was for the Fulcrum Foundation in Seattle, Washington. He reflected on the impact Catholic Schools had had in his life and demonstrated that in sharing his experiences as a member of the armed forces in Viet Nam during the Viet Nam War. The audience fell silent and no one even moved. I found the words, as well as the delivery to be both powerful and moving and I thought, “That is a person I would like to know.”

I believe that reaction takes place for many of us when we hear truly excellent presentations, but the fact is that we know we will probably never meet, much less get to know the speaker. Well, luckily, that was not the case for me. I found myself a number of years later to be on the same Board as the speaker. I came to realize that he was a close friend of a good friend of mine. And I found myself building a relationship with him. When we were at lunch one day he told me a powerful true story that I am now going to attempt to share with you. It is very appropriate as we come closer to “Veterans Day” — a day that all too often we simply see as a day on which we do not have to go to school. As with all stories, the impact of the words is more powerfully felt when the person involved in it is the speaker, so forgive my poor secondary source role, but I feel the impact and the message will still be felt.

My friend Gene was from New York. He had a very close friend named “Petey” that he grew up with. Gene’s family moved from New York to New Jersey. Luckily one of those serendipitous acts of life took place in which Petey’s family ended up moving to New Jersey also. Their friendship became even tighter because they were transplants from a common reality. So these young boys were able to continue their friendship as they became young men together. And they became young men during the height of the Vietnam “Conflict”, which Gene, as one who was there, is rightfully quick to correct and point out that it was a “War”.

Gene and his friend Petey both joined the army at the same time, and they served over in Vietnam together. They invested more than their fair share of time in defending the people of Vietnam and the interests of America. They were loyal and actively committed.

As their tours were coming to an end, Petey decided to go out one last time on patrol simply because he wanted to be doing something rather than just sitting and waiting to go home. Gene and Petey ended up on the same plane on their return to America. Their parents and families were there at the airport waiting for them filled with understandable tearful emotion.

While departing from the plane Gene reached over touching Petey and said, “Well, we are home.” But Gene had disembarked from the top of the plane and his lifelong friend Petey had, at the same time, disembarked from the bottom of the plane — in a body bag. Petey’s last mission was truly to be — his last mission — in life.

This is the story of a true journey of brotherhood and camaraderie. This is the story of the true cost of freedom, defense of others, and preserving the American way of life. It is worthy of some silent reflection about — and deep appreciation and honor for — those who serve — those who protect — those who pay the ultimate cost.

So you see — Veterans Day is not simply a day off from school. Pray for those who have taken on the role of defender for our country. Pray for those who are now actively defending our country.

And to this we say: AMEN!

– George