Putting the Serve into Your Military Service

by CAPT Terry S. Wichert, USN

New officers--congratulations on your commission! Welcome to active duty in the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.

I served as the commanding officer in a Naval ROTC unit at a university where the combined Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine ROTC units comprised merely one percent of the entire student body population.

Commanding a college officer development program constantly reminded me of just how starkly different your journey has been and will continue to be, as compared with rest, in your chosen life of military service.

I attended a lot of ceremonies and events where students were honored, usually with some sort of public address to them. And in those speeches I largely heard the same messages packaged in slightly different ways, "Live for the day. Find your passion. Follow your heart."

Try as I may, those messages never resonated within me, and I left those events disappointed and thinking something is missing. And I concluded that the missing something is the call to service and sacrifice.

And whether or not you realize it, you accepted that call along with your commission.

It is a call that General Douglas MacArthur challenged a graduating class at West Point to in his "Duty, Honor, Country" speech. I highly recommend it as it contains a truly remarkable set of ideas--the giving up of self and doing the distasteful business of war when every passion in your body is fighting against it:

"Duty, Honor, Country" - those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.... They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

General MacArthur's words of service and sacrifice are remarkably similar to the words spoken long ago from the greatest leader ever, our Lord Jesus Christ, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

As God's Word so clearly states, and General MacArthur so eloquently repeated, only when our professional conduct is marked by service and sacrifice will we find the true fulfillment of our calling as military officers, leaders, and stewards of our great nation.

Each of you new officers raised your right hand and repeated an oath to faithfully support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The enlisted men and women you now lead vowed to faithfully follow your orders as their officer in support of the Constitution.

After thirty years of active duty, my undeniable observation is:  if we commissioned officers and Christian military leaders truly showed our troops that we didn't come "to be served but to serve," they would follow us-willingly and ably, to every place, circumstance, and challenge imaginable.

Captain Terry S. Wichert is a retired thirty-year Navy veteran. Adopting Hebrews 12:1-2 as his life verses, it's his goal to "run well" and "finish strong."