19 February 2009


At breakfast the next morning, Red mentioned his list to Mary.

“Why would an elder need to know all of that stuff,” she asked?

Ouch! If that is Mary’s reaction, what will others say? How do I explain this so that people will understand? Ah, yes, back to the beginning—my first day in OCS…….

Graduates of the other services frequently comment on the loving and detailed understanding that Marines have of the history and traditions of their Corps. From Day One in recruit training or officer candidate school, Marines are given a solid foundation in the mores and standards of the organization.

Ask any Marine you know to explain the significance of Tun Tavern or of Bladensburg, or of Derna. Ask the history of the “blood stripe,” or the quatrefoil, or the mameluke sword. He will be able to explain why Dan Daly and Chesty Puller and Carlos Hathcock are still standard bearers of the Corps. And, deep down, he will carry a visceral desire to never, ever, let down “those who have gone before.”

From the beginning, recruits and candidates learn from whence hath come the Marine Corps and they understand that they must never stray from those standards.

“Well, m’dear, it’s like this,” Red responded. “My first Commanding Officer once told us about a conversation he had with his son, an Air Force ROTC cadet. It was on the day that Jimmy Doolittle died. Doolittle was the legendary Army officer who came up with the idea of an early attack on the Japanese home islands just a month or two after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. He recruited a volunteer squadron of B-25 pilots and air crew who trained to fly land-based bombers from aircraft carriers. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.”

“When Doolittle died, the Colonel called his son at school. ‘Will your ROTC unit be conducting any kind of memorial service,’ he asked?”

“‘Oh, you know, Dad, the Air Force is not all that big on that history stuff. We’re not like the Marines.’ Truer words were never spoken.”

“The Colonel replied ‘Well, that’s a shame. When you are in the lead bomber en route to Baghdad with the mission of knocking out the air defense headquarters, when you know that you absolutely must hit your target or the guys behind you will be sitting ducks, and your airplane is shot up and on fire, it seems to me that it helps to have Doolittle and Tibbets and Bud Day right there in the cockpit with you, saying, ‘OK, lad, it’s a bad deal, but you can do it. Don’t let us down!’”

“In the same way, when elders have a basic understanding of the history of the Church in general and the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition in particular, they are better able to perform the really important duties of their office. When they know how to read the Bible and are introduced to the framework for Christian thought, including theology (the doctrine of God), anthropology (the doctrine of the human condition), Christology (the doctrine of the person and work of Christ), soteriology (the doctrine of the means of salvation) the doctrine of the church, including the sacraments and ecclesiology, and eschatology (the doctrine of the last things), they are better prepared to take on the responsibility for the spiritual life and health of the congregation. When they have a basic understanding of church government under the Presbyterian system of governance and the role and duties of the officers of the Church, they are better prepared to prioritize the demands placed on them and to decline to take up those things that are better left to others in the congregation. Finally, instruction in the life and character of the officer ensures that they have been instructed in the standards that are expected of them—so that they may never let down those who have gone before.”

“It seems to me that churches run into trouble when the ‘leaders’ do not know exactly what is expected of them. A uniform, formalized training program ensures that all of the leaders are ‘singing from the same sheet of music,’ and that they are more likely to put their emphasis on those things that are most important.”

“You’re probably right,” Mary responded. “But does anyone at Graying really care?”

Good question. Will anyone care? Will the elders be willing to take the training course? Can anyone tell me what happened at Tun Tavern? Or why you never open a can of apricots in an amtrac? Tune in next time when these and other burning questions will be debated in the further Adventures of Graying Pres.


Reformed Catholic said...


not all AF types feel that way!!

Mac said...


Moleson learned better after he joined his first fighter squadron.

He was a student, and later an instructor, in the 95th, "The Boneheads", whose mascot, Mr. Bones, is a full medical skeleton, complete with top hat, monocle, and cane. He "sleeps" in a casket in the ready room and is only hung up for squadron functions.

When Moleson was a student, a retired WW Twice pilot who had traveled 250 miles out of his way south to Orlando, stopped by, "just to see 'Bonesy'." Yeah, the know their history.

Later, Moleson was a flight leader in the 94th FS, the "Hat in the Ring", once commanded by MOH recipient Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. The squadron had a Niewport, complete with Hat in the Ring in front of the squadron HQ, and the quarterdeck (or whatever you zoomies call it) was full of Rickenbacker memorabilia.

I donated a copy of "Captain Eddie's" biography that was given to every Eastern Air Lines employee. It had been my Dad's. (He met Cap'n Eddie several times, and he sent us a very nice letter when Dad passed away.)

I'm sure Dad would have given it to his grandson himself, but he died before Matt was born.