Christian Men's Breakfast

Presentation by Chuck Esposito

April 4, 2004

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"Not for fame..."

Thank you I. T., and Good morning, Gentlemen.

As the years go by, I find that my memory is less and less reliable – and I think some of you may be familiar with that condition – so I wrote out what I wanted to say today, and I hope you’ll bear with me as I read it to you.

A little over a year ago, I called IT and asked him if I could have a few minutes to address this group at the April 2003 breakfast. I wanted to share with you a brief description of a WWII episode between General George Patton and his Chaplain, which I thought had relevance to what we were just getting into in Iraq. He agreed, and some of you may remember hearing me at this meeting a year ago.

A few days ago, IT phoned and asked me to repeat the story this year, and I agreed. As I thought about it, I remembered some words from another chaplain, about some other soldiers, in another war, which I thought it would be appropriate to share with you, so I’m going to include them, too. In fact, I’ll start with them.

But first, let me ask, how many of you are not native Georgians?... OK. You may get more out of this first part than the natives.

In about three weeks, Georgia will celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. In 1874, Georgia officially designated a day to formally honor the lives of Confederate soldiers and the sacrifices they made. The date set for this purpose was April 26th, in recognition of the date in 1865 when General Joseph E. Johnston (who was in command of the Confederate troops from Georgia) surrendered, marking the end of the War for Georgia. Most Southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, but not all of them on the same date. Florida joined Georgia in celebrating on April 26th, but other Southern states have chosen other dates for other reasons; e.g., North and South Carolina celebrate it on May 10th, the anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ capture; Louisiana and Tennessee celebrate on June 3rd, Jefferson Davis’ birthday; and Texas celebrates it on January 19th, General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Why do any of them celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day? Here are the words of Confederate Chaplain Randolph McKim, as inscribed on the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery:

“Not for fame, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

Gentlemen, I believe the words Chaplain McKim wrote about Confederate troops, are equally applicable to our troops in Iraq.

Not politicians in Washington, but troops on the ground in Iraq.

During the last year, >10, 000 of them have been wounded and

> 600 of them have died. Paraphrasing Chaplain McKim:

“ not for fame, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men, and women, suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all.”

General Robert E. Lee provided the guidance for them a hundred and fifty years ago when he wrote:

"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less." ....

And now, the episode about General Patton and his Chaplain.

In December 1944, American soldiers were fighting desperately against the last great German offensive of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. Men were dying in large numbers. Planes could not fly because of low clouds. The US counterattack had bogged down in mud and rain. (Tullahoma).

General George Patton, commander of the Third Army, called his chaplain into his headquarters, and the two men had the following exchange:

Patton began by addressing the Chaplain: I want you to publish a prayer for good weather. I'm tired of these soldiers having to fight mud and floods as well as Germans. See if we can't get God to work on our side.

Chaplain James O'Neill: May I say, General, that it usually isn't a customary thing among men of my profession to pray for clear weather to kill fellow men.

Patton: Chaplain, are you teaching me theology or are you the Chaplain of the Third Army? I want a prayer. O'Neill: Yes, sir.

The prayer was printed on a card and distributed to every soldier of the Third Army. It read:

Almighty and most merciful God, we humbly beseech thee, of thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon thee that, armed with thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

An editor's footnote in Patton's memoirs tells what happened next:

"The day after the prayer was issued, the weather cleared and remained perfect for about six days. Enough to allow the Allies to break the backbone of the German offensive and turn a temporary setback for the Allies into a crushing defeat for the enemy."

Gentlemen, regardless of what you think of President Bush’s decision to attack Iraq, the fact is that we have more than a hundred thousand young American men and women in uniform, in harm’s way, and they deserve our prayers. I pray for them every day, and I would ask you to do the same.

I.T. invited me to end this with a short prayer, so I’ll ask you to bow your heads and join me:

Dear Lord,

There are young American women far from home,serving their nation.

We pray You keep them safe, we pray You keep them strong, we pray You send them safely home ...

Bless those who await their safe return.

And Bless those who mourn the MIAs, the more than 10,000 wounded, and the more than 600 Killed In Action.

In Jesus name we ask ...


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