March 2, 2017
“America, to me, is freedom” – Willie Nelson
It is an oft proclaimed quip from strangers and friends alike around here, over the low rumbles of an AC-130 or oscillating hums of a hovering CV-22, that these powerful sounds of air domination are the “sounds of freedom”. Some say it with a smile, many with pride, and depending on the hour of night, with a hint of frustration. There is an intimidation factor to military aircraft, both in form and function. It only takes one observation of a tilting Spectre or Spooky II gunship, slow and precise while unleashing side-firing weaponry, two 20mm Vulcan cannons at 7,200 rounds per minute, a 120 rpm 40mm Bofors gun, and a 105mm howitzer with thunderous, destructive 6-10 rpm in the case of the Spectre, for one to be keenly aware that these mechanical feats bring freedom through annihilation.
The operators of these aircraft, like their counterparts in uniform across all branches of American military service, awaken every morning to regimented duties. Time is coded, attire is mandated, grooming is strict, training is precise, and in the case of modern service, personal freedom is voluntarily deferred for obligation to the constitutional duties of national security and most assuredly in the hearts and minds of those that serve, for the greater freedom of American citizens and ultimately the world. It is never too far from the thoughts of these men and women, even when threat is not imminent, that they have promised the nation freedom will be protected with their lives. Like soldiers before them, they will die if need be so that we may be free. This is the ultimate sacrifice.
Ingrained in the human condition is a stirring to sacrifice. Reflexively, it seems, we put ourselves between those that we love and imminent danger. The love of a stranger pumps through us like adrenaline in our veins when a crisis is upon us. Not so evident in the calms of daily life, but a powerful force of shared humanity becomes hands to pull one from sweeping waters, the multiplied strength of quick acting men rescuing victims in fiery crashes, and innumerable acts of every day heroism. You would be hard pressed to find one of these actors boasting of their actions. If anything, they are quick to say “I am no hero. Anyone would help if they were in my shoes”.
Humility is a hallmark of sacrifice. Risking death may come naturally when the stakes are high, but the power of a sacrifice made in blood is correlated with the motives, and the most powerful motive is love. We are unable to avoid the harsh truth that not all death for cause is noble or blessed. Wars are a balancing act of neutralizing evil without becoming a malevolent force in turn. We are all called to discern as “God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel” (Sirach 15:14). This requirement is not merely personal, but also permeates our societal obligation. We must form our consciences and temper our hearts when offering up our lives for that which is greater. Let it not just be for an ideal of freedom. Our annihilation at death is accepted by Christ, He having walked in our shoes, and transformed beyond the ultimate sacrifice into renewed freedom. A freedom no man, no war, no imprisonment can take from us. It is the freedom, seen in mere glimpses in our most humble human works, to love as God loves.
“Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.” – CCC 1744
(To read Chris’s excellent epistolary letters please visit his blog: Black Ribbon Award)