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May 20, 2015


 

On Remembering And Duty

Submitted By The Rev. Curtis Metzger, 

Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Pittsfield, Rural Health Manager, NH Division of Public Health Services

Pittsfield Metzger.jpg

Col. J. Hayes Metzger, B. Sc., M.B.A, M.Ed.

(West Point Yearbook, 1949)

 

A little over a year ago my father died. He went to West Point and then spent a career in the Army, airborne infantry. He served during three wars, still had bullet shrapnel in his right shoulder from Korea, and was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, and many other campaign and service medals. He and my mother retired here in NH. The year of firsts is over (first Christmas, first birthday, etc., without him), so the shock of his absence is waning, yet, there are still days of missing him. There are still those times I suddenly realize I can’t call him about something I knew he would know, and I’m reminded that I am at the front of the generational line.

 

One of the things that was “bred in the bone” for me and my four siblings was the motto of West Point: “Duty, Honor, Country.” These were not just words, they were the way we were taught to live. We weren’t required to recite them, nor was there a punitive ‘yes ma’am’, ‘yes sir’ culture around them; and though they did talk about them in many and various ways, they mostly lived them… and we watched them.

 

Well, some may chuckle and say, “how terribly earnest,” but our country was built on these watchwords, and our society is maintained by them. I think most people can give at least some nodding ascent to ‘honor’ and ‘country’, but ‘duty’ is something that seems to have become passé. In a time when our technology has isolated us more and more from actual direct human exchange, and our politics has driven some to cynicism and despair, ‘duty’ seems to have just wandered out the door and down the road. There’s no “app” for it. But cynicism, after all, is a good excuse for becoming a societal leech.

 

Duty is what we do that acknowledges our responsibilities, some derived from explicit commitments and some as citizens of our community, state, and country. Doing one’s duty means giving of oneself to help build the fabric of society, when we would rather be doing something, anything, that serves ourselves.  A lot of duty really is just showing up and taking part for the greater good. We do this not only in our jobs or with our families, but we do it when we help out in community organizations, respond to someone in an emergency when we are in a position to help, attend worship in our chosen faith community, participate in elections and community meetings. But for many who have learned the grace of service to others, one’s duty can often be, as a wise teacher once said, an easy yoke and a light burden. Sometimes duty means a hard sacrifice, but sometimes happiness and fulfillment—and sometimes both at the same time.

 

Of course duty is especially important for members of the armed forces, because, for some of them, doing their duty may end their life. And honoring those who have done their duty in service to our country is a duty we all share. They have served to protect our freedoms. One of those freedoms is the freedom to worship God as we please (or not). As a Christian pastor, I am thankful that we have that freedom; and though we may smile and scratch our heads at our fellow citizens’ beliefs, we are not inclined to cut off their heads for their beliefs, as in some parts of the world. 

 

This Memorial Day my little church will host the American Legion Peterson-Cram Post 75 who has made it a habit to celebrate freedom of religion and honor the memory of those who have served by rotating attendance at a local house of worship the Sunday before Memorial Day—regardless of their own personal beliefs. They choose to show up. So let me challenge you to ‘show up’ to your own faith community, and show up to your local celebrations of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day to honor those who have done their duty. By doing so you will have done yours.

 



Vintage Hill








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