EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–Someone has attacked the Pentagon. Let me say a word about that “city” of 20,000, having served there at various times over 11 years as a U.S. Army Reserve officer.
The Pentagon is not some monolith of and for aggression, but a huge office building with some great people hard at work to protect the security of this nation. For all its flaws, America is a beacon of freedom, opportunity and excellence in the world, and the military and civilian personnel who serve in this headquarters for the Department of Defense are imbued with that conviction.
They are very hardworking folks. As one officer told me, “I work half days. 6:00 to 6:00.” And he wasn’t kidding. He began at 6 a.m. after having driven an hour through tough traffic from his home in northern Virginia. And when he quit at 6 p.m., he had to face that same traffic — every day.
They are courageous people, with ribbons to show it. Their patches and awards announce their willingness to go in harm’s way, whether in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea, Somalia or Bosnia. And they know that they work in a dangerous building. On one of my two-week tours of duty, doorway guards just down the way wrestled a man to the ground who tried to storm the place with a pistol and a knapsack full of loaded clips. And it was common knowledge that foreign missiles were targeted on the central courtyard.
Many are Christian people. (Four were featured in the October 1994 SBC LIFE.) I think of the captain at the desk across from me. He kept wanting to talk about his church and its activities, about the Christian upbringing of his kids. His work ethic and competence were a testimony to the soundness of his soul, and his winsome holiness was conspicuous.
I think of the college intern who belonged to a Southern Baptist church in the area and of the gracious civilian technician who loved to talk about the Lord. I think of the bulletin board in the main concourse, the one with the announcements of prayer breakfasts, Navigators’ meetings, noon fellowships and such.
So when you see the images of smoke pouring from the grounds, know that the Lord has many people in this “city” (see Acts 18:10), just as he does in New York City. Also know that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). God is watching, and in God we trust.
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be seen at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.