(Guest contributor – Chaplain Scott Foust)
Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
In 2015, while serving at Ramstein, Germany, I received an assignment notification, indicating I would be reporting to … drumroll … the 11th Operations Group at Arlington. I wondered two things: 1) Why am I being downgraded from a Wing to a Group? 2) What Air Force base is in Arlington, TX? Come to find out, it was not Arlington, TX; it was Arlington, VA. Furthermore, it was definitely not a downgrade; it was a special opportunity to serve at Arlington National Cemetery. I was not even aware that we had Air Force chaplains at Arlington, but we do! The Arlington mission is basically all about conducting funerals for Air Force members and their dependents. It may sound depressing, but I spent three of my favorite years at Arlington, and I would be open to returning, should the United States Air Force ever decide to send me back!
Whenever an officer is buried at Arlington, he/she is eligible for a “Full Honors Funeral,” which includes not only a team of pall bears, a rifle team, and a bugler to play “Taps,” but also something like a “parade,” which involves a military formation—to include the Air Force Honor Guard, the Air Force Band, and a caisson (a spectacular-looking horse-drawn carriage)–marching approximately one mile from what’s called a “transfer point” somewhere in the cemetery to the burial site. Our marches often took us past Section 1 of the cemetery, where you catch a glimpse of how officers from early on practiced a version of one-upmanship, when it came to choosing their headstone. The headstones were getting bigger and gaudier until the government stepped in and began regulating them.
One of the heroes buried at Arlington is General John “Black Jack” Pershing. You know why he’s called “Black Jack”? Because in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he led a cavalry of black troops, who took San Juan Hill. This helped propel Pershing to notoriety. Eventually, General Pershing was promoted to Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, and then to General of the Armies. Until that time, the only other person with that rank had been George Washington!
Pershing died in 1948, at the age of 87. Before his passing, he picked out his headstone. If anyone could have gone big and gaudy, it was General Pershing. But, that wasn’t his style. Instead, he asked for a standard government-issue headstone, the same as any private. Moreover, he could have had been buried at any of the prime locations within the Cemetery. Yet, he pointed to the section where his enlisted troops had been buried and made the following request: “Here let me rest among the World War veterans. When the last bugle call is sounded, I want to stand up with my soldiers.”
My prayer is that those of us who’ve been called to lead God’s children will never view ourselves as being “above” them or “beyond” them, but that we will live and lead—and even be willing to die—”with” them! PLEASE PRAY TO BE A MINISTER TO THOSE AROUND US. Always be willing to proudly stand up with our life’s fellow soldiers.