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FIRST-PERSON – America’s 210 million call-up: The mission — live to the full

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–We’ve heard about the initial call-up of thousands of reserves, citizen soldiers summoned to active duty in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. A few days ago, I saw a military police unit in convoy down Half Day Road in Deerfield, Ill., probably out of Ft. Sheridan. Perhaps some of these men and women were about to finish projects they’d nurtured at home or the office. Maybe some were up for promotions, now on hold. Some might have been looking toward their kids’ weekend football heroics. Still others could have been building or repairing delicate relationships.

Never mind that. Uncle Sam calls, you pull on your BDUs, muster at the reserve center or armory and head out in the Humvee. “When will you be back, Daddy?” “I don’t know, son. When we get the job done.”

These are the most visible troops, but let us count ourselves part of the larger call-up, that of the 210 million Americans age 18 and older. Yes, many of us don’t fit the enlistment profile. We’re too old. We suffer disabilities. We’re too tall or short. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. We can and should serve anyway.

Yes, there are risks. You may well have to push yourself into some zones of serious discomfort and sacrifice. But the payoff is great.

Okay, ready? Here is your mission. Live life to the full as if little or nothing had happened. Assemble in large numbers for church. Attend ball games. Book a flight and take it. Frequent tourist sites and shopping centers. If they’ll let you, go up in the Sears Tower, the Gateway Arch and the Space Needle.

Are you putting yourself in harm’s way? Not likely, but it’s possible. So what? That’s what call-ups do in the interest of national defense and security. This isn’t pittypat. It’s an adult response to assault on our way of life.

Okay, now get out your checkbook. Let’s see whom we can help. Buy or continue to hold stocks. Buy bonds. Patronize honorable businesses showing signs of strain. But what if I lose a substantial portion of my estate? Hey, many policemen, firemen and soldiers are losing a substantial portion of their eyesight, respiratory capacity, mobility and blood. What’s your problem?

Now, let’s hide some things. Take the phone numbers of tort lawyers and put them in the attic. Don’t think lawsuit at the slightest inconvenience, indignity, affront, injury or disappointment. I’m sure those lawyers will be happy to suffer some loss in the interest of national unity, for they’re part of the call-up too. We might also hide the cheesecake. Those reservists have to weigh in when they report, and it would be a good time for all of us to work at reversing the national trend toward obesity. How can we soldiers sing heigh-ho if our fat makes us sleepy, dopey, grumpy, sneezy and bashful?

Now, go find that Middle Easterner in your traffic patterns and tell him you’re glad he’s here. Ask him how he’s doing. Invite him to coffee. But what will you talk about? What if he thinks you’re weird or if he rejects you? Welcome to the line of fire.

They say that the best revenge is living well. Then let our enemies see us doing the wonderful American thing in the face of their threats. They’ll have no rest.

Christians should be at the forefront of the muster. After all, we’re the folks who take no thought for the morrow, what we shall eat or what we shall wear. We’re the ones who cherish the principle that there is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. We’re the ones who know the secret to a peace which passes all understanding. Like the serene Moravians who astonished John Wesley on that stormy Atlantic crossing, we live and give testimony in tumult.

“But I have to think of my family.” “Oh, and the reservists don’t?” Let me tell you the greatest thing you can do for your family: Model greatness. The rest will work itself out.

“What did you do in the war, Daddy?” “Son, I answered as part of the 210 million call-up. I went to a prayer rally, stood in line for hours to ride on half-empty airplanes, sang ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ in the bleachers at Wrigley, finally made that trip the Smithsonian, bought some stock while it was still dropping, gave blood and wrote letters to the families of victims.”

“Did they give you a medal?” “Oh, no. Nothing heroic about. Just basic soldiering.”
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. His next column will appear in Baptist Press on Tues., Sept. 25. Other reflections by Coppenger can be seen at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger