One July afternoon in 1955, my grandmother and a friend sat rocking on the porch, talking about their grandkids. Grandma seemed worried. The United States Air Force had sent me to Alaska, and she hadn’t heard from me.
Her friend, a Red Cross volunteer, offered to help. She contacted a New Jersey congressman who then called the Pentagon. I was called in by my base commander at our remote radar site in Alaska and stood smartly at attention while the major scolded me for not keeping the home folks apprised of my well-being. Then he ordered me to my quarters to do so immediately.
I still smile recalling this, knowing that my grandmother, in her heart, wasn’t really worried about me. Because of what she’d learned about God through her study of Christian Science, she knew that I was always safe and well in God’s eternal care. The thousands of miles between her sunny porch and my grim outpost in Alaska could never separate me from that care.
Faith in my divine birthright as God’s child – a birthright I acknowledge for everyone – was tested often in my four years as a military journalist. But a little book my grandmother had given me, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, helped me through tough times. The Bible says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isa. 40:4). There were times when I felt that the crooked was indeed made straight and the rough places, plain.
A big test was my 17-month tour at Naknek Air Base, a bleak, male-only radar site deep in the Alaskan wilderness with about 80 men protecting “the Lower 48” against possible nuclear attack. Loneliness and anger pervaded the snowy compound.
Granted, our fellow troops fighting the Korean War half a world away faced more danger. Our less heralded job was to stand silent guard at the top of the world, watching the skies for rockets streaking across the Bering Straits. If an attack were launched, we would be the first to know. Men hunched over flickering radar screens served in dark secrecy, barred even from writing home about their mission.
The lessons learned through such hard times, though, can bless us. I’ve learned that, as the Bible says, God’s care is a “very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). My deeply held belief in this biblical truth rescued me from despair – I knew I was truly never alone or isolated.
When your greatest enemy is the weather, and you live in a windowless complex connected by frosty hallways, those who cook meals, dispose of garbage, put fires out, or keep the plumbing from freezing – who see that you have a warm bed at night and a hot shower in the morning – these are your true heroes.
We were from all races and backgrounds, some had dropped out of high school and others held advanced degrees, all working together for the same cause, reflecting the richness and harmony of divine creation. The weekly newspaper I published there celebrated this. Hence there was no dearth of news, despite top-secret restrictions on what was printable. Men with good stories lined up at my door. “Pop,” for example, fought in four wars under Generals Pershing and MacArthur. And “Terrible Tommy” was a Russian language expert who monitored secret Soviet broadcasts.
This Veterans Day, I’m grateful for the selfless men and women serving in our armed forces, many of whom are unsung heroes. We can pray for their safety and strength amid the challenging situations they face and for their – and their families’ – peace of mind.
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