Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Amazing Grace

Forty-one years ago next month, the Colonel took his first love -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda on their first date.  

It was the last first date they ever had, with anyone.

Five years later, thirty-six years ago today, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda completed the Colonel's life.

The Colonel, as anyone who has known him for longer than a week will readily attest, has not one gram of empathy and very little sympathy in his entire being.  But, there is a teeny, tiny part of him that feels profound sorrow for one thing and all men.

The Colonel is sorry that he has the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the rest of you never had a chance.

Genuine sorrow.

Tears brought to a glass eye sorrow.

Guilt-ridden, gut-wrenching, favorite ball cap-lost sorrow.

Never been sorry for a lost hat?  Now the Colonel is really sorry for you.

Okay, not sorrow  -- disdain.  The Colonel digresses.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda has been the Colonel's rock since long before he even realized he needed a rock.

For reasons beyond fathoming, particularly by the loose collection of cognitive cells thinly covering the bottom of the brain pan in his cavernous cranium, the Colonel has been the frighteningly fortunate recipient of the faithful and caring love of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, despite his well-documented failures, faults, and foibles. 

The Colonel gives thanks to a Gracious God for sending Jesus to save his eternal soul. 

He thanks a Miracle-working God for sending Miss Brenda to love him here on Earth.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Charge of the Lieutenant Brigade

The other day a stray synapse in the pea-sized, shriveled lump of grey matter in the Colonel's brain housing group fired and he found himself remembering fondly a moment of great pain and professional gain.

Twenty-five years ago, this summer, the Marine Corps, in a rare lapse of institutional discernment, judged the Colonel, then a captain, competent enough to command a rifle company of America's best and brightest.

Within the first few weeks following a change of command during which an old friend, Ed Larkin, had reluctantly relinquished command of Charlie 1/8 (Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division) to the Colonel, the company marched from its barracks to a nearby set of ranges for a week of live fire training. 

Bivouacked in a field behind the range firing line, the Marines were in their platoon areas sitting in front of their shelter halves (each Marine carried half of a shelter and buttoned it together with another Marine's to form a pup tent -- a term Marines never used) eating their evening banquet in a bag (MRE).  Evidently, the day had not been too hot or too strenuous for them, because instead of falling quickly asleep as Marines learn to do as soon as strenuous activity ceases, they began to wrestle.

The wrestling matches evolved quickly beyond one on one and, as the Colonel and his lieutenants watched from a safe distance, one squad attacked another squad, and then one platoon attacked another platoon.

Each attacking unit would announce its intentions by standing facing its target and clapping slowly in unison, and then a roar would go up as the Marines rushed each other. 

The company's senior NCOs were doing a fair job of refereeing to make sure that things didn't get too out of hand, and the Colonel and his lieutenants turned their attention back to planning the next day's events.

Whenever a particularly large roar would erupt from across the field, the company officers would look up, chuckle, and comment on the battle's progress, "There goes First and Second Platoon" or "Tony, Weapons Platoon is getting stomped" or "Look at Smitty leading the charge," and then turn their attention back to planning.

Suddenly the low roar of friendly combat quieted. The Colonel and his officers looked up to see the entire company facing them and beginning to clap in unison.

The Colonel quickly scanned the faces of his five lieutenants and couldn't help but laugh at the looks of bewilderment turning rapidly to consternation...on all but the XO's (the Company executive officer -- second-in-command).  Brad McCullough was an accomplished martial artist and the Colonel never saw anything rattle him. The Colonel did see his eyes narrow, however, as he figured the odds and then saw him glance around for an escape route.

The other lieutenants were too shocked to do that much thinking.

"Gentlemen," The Colonel managed to muster without his voice cracking, "we can't run. We have to attack."

The Colonel turned and started jogging tentatively towards the company.

With that, Brad hollered "Keeeyaaa!," or something like that (the company officers laughed for months afterwards anytime one would yell "Keeeyaaa" in a not-so similar situation) and sprinted toward the 150 Marines facing us.

The Colonel and the rest of the lieutenants sprinted after the XO, and the six young Marine officers gave a long, wavering rebel yell that 125 years previous would have been right at home in Stonewall's Brigade rushing yankee earthworks.

The Marines actually stood stunned for a second at the sight of their officers charging them, and then recovered with a roar and charge of their own.

The gap of 100 or so yards closed in a few seconds that seemed like eternal anticipation of the painful collision with the camouflaged tide.

The Colonel picked out a big Marine in front of him who happened to be looking away at his own platoon commander, slanted toward him, and dropped him with an open field tackle that rung the Colonel's bell much louder than the Marine's.

The company engulfed its officers and all six went down under a crush of happily hollering Marines.

The company First Sergeant saved the Colonel from possible serious bodily harm, by reminding in his drill field voice, "Marines, that is your commanding officer!", and pulling Marines off of the pile atop the Colonel.

The Colonel and his First Sergeant did the same at the piles of Marines that marked the positions of the rest of the officers, and as the men respectfully separated themselves and headed back to their tents the Colonel heard a Marine remark proudly,

"Did you see the Skipper and the officers charging us?!?"

Little did they know, their leaders had no other choice.

But now, Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines really belonged to Captain Thomas E. Gregory. 

The next year and a half was the best time of his life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Semper Facetious

Amid appropriate trumpet fanfare (okay, it’s just his two grandsons -- the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes One and Two -- on kazoos) the Colonel proudly precedes this post with preamble proclaiming that it is the 600th time, since the inception of the “The Colonel’s Corner,” that he has subjected the thousands of you, who ingloriously imbibe, to the literary libations ladled out not-so-liberally hereon. 

To mark such an auspicious occasion, the Colonel feverishly fleeced the few remaining fertile cognitive cells lying fallow in forgotten recesses of his boney brain-housing group for a topic appropriate to the importance of the milestone.

He found nothing.

No witty repartee between the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.

No hijinks of the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes One and Two.

No feathered fable from the predator-safe environs of the Colonel’s Hen Herd House.

No legislative legerdemain of the Congress of the Tallahatchie Free State.      

No Biblical revelation.

No reminiscence from his career as a steely-eyed, roguishly handsome, amphibiously expeditionary minister of mayhem management in the service of his nation.

But, the Colonel must leave you with something…

So, he’ll leave with this to ponder:


Okay, the Colonel admits he ain’t got nuthin’.   

So, this post will henceforth and forever be known as a total waste of your precious time.

Pretty much like the 599 that preceded it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Battle to the Future

The Colonel has been, as many of you have no doubt noticed, somewhat lax in his writing and posting of late. 

He's been feeling a bit overwhelmed -- got a lot on his plate.

Besides the demands of tending to, harvesting from, and distributing the produce of a much too large garden this summer, the Colonel has also taken on responsibility for leading a strategic planning program for his church and has also been led to lead a couple of small group Bible studies.  

As happens more and more often nowadays, just as the Colonel begins getting comfortable in a rut of self-sorrow, God reveals new meaning in a well-read passage of scripture.

This past week, in preparation for delivering the lesson to his Sunday School class, the Colonel studied the 6th and 7th chapters of the book of Judges.  The story contained therein is a familiar one to all be the most recent beginner Bible students.

The writer of Judges details the Israelites' rhythmic falling away from God, oppression by enemies, calling on God for help, and receipt of a man from God to defeat their enemies.   In the 6th chapter the man, Gideon, raised up by God to deliver Israel is introduced to us hiding from the marauding Midianites.

Gideon is in skull defilade, threshing wheat in a wine press.   

Ordinarily wheat was threshed on a wind-swept hilltop.  But Gideon was afraid of sky-lining himself to the enemy and was instead hunkered down in a small cavity hewn from a rock, probably alongside a vineyard.    

While he was evidently successfully hiding from the Midianites, Gideon couldn't hide from God.  The writer of Judges tells us that the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said something in absolute incongruence with Gideon's actions:  "You are a mighty warrior."


Amazing point of new meaning # 1:  God's omnipresence is not limited to three dimensions -- He is omnipresent in time as well.

God wasn't describing Gideon's present situation, but what he would become.  God already knows our battles  --  He's out there in the future fighting them as we speak.

When God tells Gideon that he is to lead the Israelite army against the Midianites, Gideon's first reaction is to remind God just how weak and insignificant he, Gideon, is.  In effect, Gideon tells God that because he is the youngest son in the least influential family in one of the least influential tribes of Israel, he is absolutely the wrong man for the job.

God says:  "Have I not already sent you?"

Amazing point of new meaning # 2:  God begins to work on our hearts long before he gives us a definite command.

God was telling Gideon that he, Gideon, had already been receiving a calling -- some call it a "still, small voice" -- telling him that he had to do "something."  God is at work in all of our hearts -- he owns 'em, whether we have decided to "give them to Him" or not.

Skip over the parts of the story most of us are familiar with -- the fleece and the dew, God's whittling down of the Israelite army from 32,000 to 300 -- and stop where God tells Gideon to take his servant and go on a reconnaissance of the Midianite camp.

Gideon sneaks down in the dark and hears a Midianite soldier interpret another's dream of tent-flattening barley cakes as the fact that, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon...the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands."

Amazing point of new meaning # 3:  God sends us, but He goes before us.

God clearly orchestrated the Midianite soldiers' dream and interpretation for Gideon's benefit.  God was out in front of Gideon's small force, preparing the battlefield for them.  Before Gideon even employed the stratagem of fooling the Midianites to believe that they were surrounded by a much larger force than just three hundred cupped-hand water-drinkers armed with trumpets and torches in clay pitchers, God was already at work in the hearts of the enemy.

That the ruse worked is not a testament to Gideon's cunning, but to God's ownership of the hearts of all men.

Last amazing point of not-so new meaning: The battle belongs to the Lord.    

The Colonel begs your forgiveness for his literary lapse.  He'll take more time to write now knowing that his coming battles are already won.