The more I travel around the country visiting wounded warriors like Jeremy Muncert and their families, the more I realize how connected we all really are- even in tragedy.
When life seems to overwhelm us, the easiest thing to do is let it isolate us. This gives the darkness strength and can lead us to believe that their is no “life” to look forward to.
Not only is there life, tragedy can often be the fuel that for the first time allows us to examine ourselves with brutal honesty and find true purpose and direction.
At Fort Bragg this week, I met an incredible warrior, Jeremy Muncert, and his incredible family. Blind in one eye, his body shattered in a car wreck, he survived injuries and combat in Iraq to come home and die 3 times after a drunk driver wrecked the SUV he was a passenger in. Jeremy had every reason in the world to be angry, depressed, and hopeless. It has been, and will be a tough and long road of recovery for Jeremy, but when I met him, I met a great American full of hope and determined to continue his own incredible journey. He wanted to talk about life and how excited he was to live it. He enjoyed my talk that evening and even volunteered to help me! His tragedy had given him a great appreciation for the “gift that is life” and he was determined to take nothing for granted ever again.
Looking through the fog is hard when it seems that all we will be greeted with is darkness. But the fog is a deceiver, beyond the darkness their is always hope and a purpose that we each are uniquely designed to fulfill. We all get broke. We all get angry, depressed, and want to give up. Sometimes, we do give up. But we all have a new life on the other side of the dark haze and I believe in every one of you. I never loose hope in the human soul.
Thanks for everyone who has made my journey so amazing. 15 years ago, recovering from a jet crash, I thought life was completely unfair and without purpose. Little did I know it was only the beginning of a journey that would end in wonder, excitement, and thankfulness. Just like the flame of Jeremy Muncert’s life.
It is dawn. My cup of coffee is hot and gingerly rolls down my throat a smooth nutty brown. I’ve just finished showing my oldest daughter Mary Inger some new chords on the guitar (she woke up before sunrise to have some alone time with me), and now I’m staring out the immense window of my basement with nothing but the smell of java and the activity of wildlife greeting one of our first warm spring days. I can hear heaven in these simple sounds.
Squirrels scurry up trees, deer meander down the gully below, a mysterious coyote runs and cries through the woods to hide from the breaking day as a woodpecker pecks and birds sing. The trees are lit by the rising sun and the first colors of dawn are rich and vibrant, almost hyper-real. When you can hear heaven, life just makes sense.
I am reminded of a classic Thomas Merton phrase:
“The rain ceases, and a bird’s clear song suddenly announces the difference between heaven and hell.”
Looking ahead at my day, I focus on clarity and simplicity. What is important, what is necessary, what things will lead me to that quiet place where we are allowed glimpses of heaven.
Making my way up the stairs, the rest of the children are still asleep and if I stand still by their bedrooms I can hear their breathing. It too is a song, another glimpse of heaven. In the quiet I thank God and the burdens of the day already seem much lighter.
Our lives can get so hectic and busy we quit making time to listen. Listening to creation is a prayer, and it is here we can see, hear, and feel the heartbeat of God. And we needn’t escape to a park or go on some long, expensive trip. It can be right where you live, early in the morning, making time to just listen to those people and things you love as the world is waking up.
Thomas Merton’s bird sings, “Wake up.” May we all listen.
Freedom isn’t free, someone always pays. Here are some veteran facts to consider from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans:
1 out of every 4 homeless men (or 33%) in the United States is a veteran.
There are anywhere from 529,000 to 840,000 veterans who are homeless at some time during the year.
47% of homeless veterans are from the Vietnam era, 15% are from the pre-Vietnam era and the remainer are from the post-Vietnam era including such conflicts as Granada, Panama, Lebanon, the Gulf War, the military’s anti-drug efforts in South America and the current Iraq War.
67% served 3 years or more.
89% received honorable discharges.
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems.
Pretty unbelievable. It is clear, for those who serve, freedom isn’t free. War can tear you up, turn you inside out, and leave you a shell of a human being. If someone isn’t there to help you clean up the mess, the mess doesn’t get cleaned up. If you know a vet, reach out to him and say thanks for serving. Make yourself available if they need a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. Freedom isn’t free, don’t take yours for granted.
A few weeks ago I was driving down to Fort Bragg to perform at their Oktoberfest for wounded soldiers when I noticed a sign on the freeway, “Scenic Overlook Open”. A true Road Less Traveled, it was through a gate at the back of a rest stop. Ordinarily, I would have just driven by, but I had been traveling all day and although I had driven through West Virginia many times, I had never stopped to take in scenery. So I turned.
The road through the gate wound into the woods much further than I anticipated. I parked in a cul-de-sac and through some trees saw a railing. Grabbing my camera I headed for the outlook with no idea what lay ahead, the trees obscuring any further view. It felt like I was on the road less traveled. Walking through the trees I approached the wooden security rail and this is what unfolded in front of me. I was alone with nature’s perfection, and a huge smile spread across my face.
It was a stunning reminder that it is all too easy to let the freeways of life speed us past some truly magical moments. Consumed by the internet, cell phones, work, and the blinding pace of life in the America today – why don’t you slow down and take that next exit to a road less traveled.
West Virginia is such a beautiful, wild place. Take a journey and find your own Road Less Traveled. Here is a good place to start: West Virginia Traveling – The Wilderness Awaits!