Reflection on Afghanistan, COVID and Leadership

Everything about Afghanistan has confirmed my strong conviction that sacrifice, duty, and leadership count. God bless the families of fallen service men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice and those who have paid the last full measure of devotion. The latest casualties strike at the core of what makes America great because their mission was humanitarian. They were there in Kabul to rescue and evacuate. May their memories encourage us, and inspire us to be like Jesus who gave his all so that we might live, and in life itself was willing to wash the disciples’ feet.  Lord, have mercy, we plead and pray.

Lord, give strength and comfort to all those who have given of themselves in all of our battles, especially against illnesses like COVID, injustice, terrorism and every infraction against the Golden Rule. Help our teachers, parents, nurses, doctors, caregivers, hospice workers, firefighters, police, EMS, first responders, last responders, and, of course, our brave service men and women who serve in harm’s way. All of these are for whom the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” are eerily appropriate today.

That charge at the 1854 Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War by the British was heroic, but disastrous because of miscommunication, but they did their duty nevertheless. It reads:

Theirs was not to make reply,

Theirs was not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

Duty, honor, and sacrifice are the by-product of leadership in families, schools, churches, and town halls on up to the highest reaches of government. We are a chain, only as strong as the weakest link, and the crucibles we’ve been facing have proven the mettle of our leaders and found it either worthy or not. The history books are the final arbiters. There will be applause and pundits in the meantime. The best leadership is gauged not by polls, but purpose.

For instance, I have been reading about Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., often called, “The Toughest Man in World War II.” He and his family were keen on purpose. His father was President Theodore Roosevelt of San Juan Hill and Roughrider fame who proposed that prudence demands that freedom-loving people, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” President Teddy Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin, was shot down and died in World War I. Another son, Kermit, served in World War I and II. Son, Archie, retired from the military after being shot in the knee in World War I, but insisted on coming back for World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater, was wounded again and received the Silver Star with three oak-leaf clusters. Ted, Jr. led the D-Day invasion as a part of the first wave at Utah Beach.

Why so much dedication to fight for their country? Their father, President Teddy Roosevelt, modeled and instilled a mindset of duty and military obligation. So, no wonder Ted, Jr. was the highest-ranking American officer on the invasion beaches. He was warned against it, but he replied that his troops needed him.

One author, K.S. Bruce, sums it up with this account: “Imagine it is D-Day, June 6, 1944, and you are a young private hitting Utah Beach in the very first wave, into the teeth of the German army, against a rainfall of enemy gunfire, artillery shrapnel and gore. You are filled with fear, and there on the beach in front of you, stands an old man. An American brigadier general – bull-frog voiced, pop-eyed, 5-foot-8 inches tall and directing the troops with his cane. Calm as a man can be in combat, he is Ted Roosevelt, Jr. At age 56 with bad arthritis, he had volunteered to be on the landing boats in order to give the young troops reassurance and to arm them with his same fortitude and courage, and he did exactly that. When he realizes he and his men are a mile from their designated drop-off point, he calmly looked at a map while dodging bullets and opined, ‘We’ll start the war from here.’”

Now, how’s that for leadership? In 5 weeks, he would be dead from a heart attack, but not without first leading his men ashore. His own son, Quentin, named after Ted, Jr.’s brother who was killed in World War I, was also in the first wave on D-Day, only to die some time later. How many invasions had this privileged son of a President been in that he, no doubt, could have escaped? Basically, all of them. As a combat officer in the 26th Regiment of the First Division (The “Big Red One”) during World War I, Ted, Jr. helped lead the Americans into France. In 1941, he was back again to help lead the same regiment in the amphibious invasion of North Africa in World War II. He battled into Sicily, and he was with the Fourth Division at D-Day.

For his bravery on Utah Beach, General Ted Roosevelt, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor. His father, President Theodore Roosevelt, also received one for his leadership and bravery on San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. They, along with Arthur and Douglas McArthur, are the only father and sons to ever both win a Medal of Honor. Ted, Jr. is buried in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, alongside his younger brother, Quentin, who was killed in World War I. Leadership’s ripple effect spreads far and wide. Its lack does, too.

Oh, how we need leaders today. God help all of those trying to do their best to emulate duty, honor, and sacrifice in our battles both at home and abroad: in classrooms, boardrooms, family rooms, hospital rooms, and in the continued fight against all that is not of God everywhere. May it be said of us, we pray. Amen.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., seen in Ste. Mere-Eglise on July 12, hours before he died of a coronary thrombosis. Arthritis caused him to walk with a stick. The 4th Infantry Division commander described him as “the most gallant soldier and finest gentleman I have ever known.” (US Gov)

15 thoughts on “Reflection on Afghanistan, COVID and Leadership

  1. Tim
    Thanks for an inspiring message of dedication and commitment 👏. We all need to understand that the privileges we enjoy are as a result of those willing to sacrifice for our country. May God always bless our troops and their sacrifice.

  2. Well said . What a shame our country has changed so much in our lifetime. You brought it all together in a neat tidy package.
    Amen , Brother
    Wayne and Swanie Smith

    1. Wayne, It’s a terribly sad day for the US and civilization. Lord, help us and bless you and Swanie. Tim

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  3. Amen and Amen.
    Thanks for the history lesson…we all need to know our history, from the youngest to the oldest.
    Thank you to our heroes who are also our examples of how to live, putting others first.
    May America bless God, so God can bless America…this is the right order…2 Chronicles 7:14
    Thank you, Pastor, for your leadership and example.

  4. Tim, thank you for honoring our service men and women. And especially those who have paid the highest price like the ones in Kabul.

    We certainly need brave leaders like the ones in Teddy Roosevelt’s family.

    We continue to pray.

  5. Dr. Tim,
    Millie’s thoughts, above, are spot-on. Thank you for your words of wisdom, God inspired, of patriotism and solid inspiration. The 20-foot flag pole in our front yard proudly flies our American flag and the Gadsden flag which we lowered to half-mast yesterday to honor our mortally wounded Military Personnel and our injured at Kabul airport. May we suggest that others do the same.

    1. Bob, Sounds so appropriate to fly the flag at half-mast. A sad day and God bless their families and the wounded, too. T

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  6. Dr. Tim,
    Thank you for honoring our service men and women. Praying for the families and all loved ones suffering these catastrophic losses. I pray for evil to be ousted at all levels, foreign and domestic. Praying for strong, decisive leadership in the days ahead and beyond. A truly sad day for America!
    I consider our nurses, doctors and all healthcare workers as “soldiers” in the ongoing fight against COVID; particularly those in ICU settings. These “medical soldiers” are on the frontline of this terrible fight everyday. Similar to our military soldiers, these “medical soldiers” have no choice but to confront this evil, regardless of its form, and do their best to help contain it. May God have mercy on our nation and this world.
    I’m so thankful St. John’s has such strong leadership in you, Dr. Tim. We are blessed to have you, Reverend Butch and Reverend Herlong.

    1. Janis, It was a sad sad day and pray those wounded make it home, and, indeed, all those fighting against COVID are heroes, too. God bless and protect us all, and give us leaders! Tim

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