Archives For sacrifice

In a world of real loss, this post may seem insensitive but stay with me.

On one of my favorite shows on television, The Walking Dead, one of the main characters is killed. His name was Hershel Greene and served as a patriarch to the group of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Over the past few seasons we have gotten to know him better and his wisdom became clearer with his smooth Georgia accent. Hershel seemed to be a devoted husband before losing his wife during the apocalypse. He was also a father of two girls and tried to be as good of a father as possible despite the circumstances of the world falling apart. His clothes were tattered, wore suspenders and throughout the story his beard grew longer and more scraggly. When he died, it was as if we lost a lion. I was stunned by his loss and for the next few days I’ll admit, I kind of grieved. I thought I was ridiculous to grieve for a person I didn’t know let alone even exist. Then I realized that the reason I grieved was because I connected so deeply with the idea of Hershel.

Hershel was a walking and talking, wise Proverb. Hershel was a central voice of reason through the past few seasons of the show and felt almost like another father for the viewer. He sure was to me. He was far from perfect and full of rich humility acknowledging publicly when he was wrong. In the group’s darkest days, Hershel’s words would provide comfort and guidance to everyone.

You walk outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays you breath and you risk your life. You don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.

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I loved Hershel because he was such a genuine character, made for a great book and for a great show. Legendary teacher of story through film, Robert McKee shares in his book Story

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

Hershel was character. I will miss Hershel but I am also reminded that to love a character you must risk losing him or her. Losing Hershel also shows us that sacrifice is important. We run toward a safe life yet our heart screams out for real adventure. Characters like Hershel remind me that we have a short time on earth and life is worth risking.

To risk is to live. 

Hershel carried a beautiful worn leather Bible with him throughout the show. I think if he were sitting next to us today he would share where he derives his wisdom. He would share something like this.

Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure. – Proverbs 4:25-26

Who is your favorite fictional character? Why? 

March 26th, 2013 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Airborne assault during OPERATION Iraqi Freedom to establish the northern front. That invasion was the first sortie in a conflict of a different kind than those that came before. For one, today’s military is made purely of volunteers. Therefore, unlike previous wars, it is harder to personally know someone who fought in it. For another, the Iraq War changed how we understood wars to be fought. The demarcated battle lines of World War II or the Cold War were replaced by an invisible enemy. Even the name “The War on Terror,” suggest a combat of ideas more than adversaries.

I am thankful to come from a family of many whom have proudly served our military. As I’ve written before, although I have not served, I believe it is a mission of mine to tell their stories. That’s why I would like to introduce you to my cousin, the young 2nd Lieutenant Shane Kelley, and share a piece of his story.

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Meet my cousin, Major Shane Kelley. In this picture he is being promoted to Captain in Afghanistan (courtesy of Major Shane Kelley)

I was blessed to see my cousin Shane just a couple of weeks before he left for Italy to join the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The war in Iraq was looming, and after 9/11 some called the men and women insane who volunteered to be the first in harm’s way. Yet, he was determined to take on this new challenge in life. It was inevitable that Shane would face combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Shane had finished college earlier in 2002 and was in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Radford University. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry after graduation, and attended Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, and Airborne School before heading to the 173rd Airborne. In a conversation before he left, we spoke a lot about what was ahead in the Army. He had been training for four years, and he told me, “Dave, we are ready to go. We just need a mission.” Soldiers aren’t meant to be idle. They are created to fight and protect. And my cousin was ready to go. A few weeks later, he boarded a plane for Italy; he was on his way. I’d read enough books and watched enough movies to know that our conversation may have been the last conversation we ever had.

The first words Shane heard from his first Company Commander were,

“Welcome to Italy, we’re jumping into Iraq.”

It was time and immediately he and his fellow soldiers went into preparation. They were about to embark on the largest combat airborne operation since World War II (1000 troops). The jump was also the longest combat operation in airborne history, over 1800 miles from Vicenzia to Iraq.

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Preparation for the jump in Aviano (photo by Sean LaFrenier)

I remember sitting at my desk at work when the invasion of Iraq began. What a dichotomy between what I was reading in the comfort of my warm office and my cousin literally stuck in the mud in Northern Iraq!

Later, Shane was asked to keep a blog. He recorded his jump experience in the post The Six Jump Chump. I think it is one of his most fascinating stories. Shane recounted,

…this five-hour flight seemed to last a month. Some slept. Some reviewed notes. Some even cried. I spent the time envisioning the mission on the ground and reviewing all of my tasks in my head.  Eventually we snapped every snap, buttoned every button, hooked every hook and tightened every strap of our equipment; each of us now weighing an additional 140 lbs. on average.

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C-17s lined up at the airfield (courtesy of the 173rd Airborne)

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Soldiers seated on their C-17 during their long flight to Iraq (courtesy of the 173rd Airborne)

It was Shane’s first jump from a C-17, and he stumbled and hit the side of the plane on the way out.

I slowly began to spin… and then quickly began to spin, until my risers freed up and I was now ready to control my decent to the ground.  I looked up and checked my canopy, thankfully seeing a fully open parachute above me.  Now time to look below me and… PLOP!  My feet sank into the mud below me… I was already on the ground.

Next up was finding everyone in his platoon while carrying over 100 lbs of gear through the mud. With that jump and those steps, Shane’s war, and his military career, had begun.

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A soldier from Shane’s company in the 173rd Airborne taking a kneel in Northern Iraq the morning after the jump (courtesy of the 173rd Airborne)

I still have the letter that Shane wrote to me from Northern Iraq describing the jump, and I will cherish it and share with my own girls when they are older.

I am thankful for my cousin Shane as well as all of those who have sacrificed careers, families, limbs, and even their lives to protect us. We live in a complicated and gray political world, but I am inspired today by his words to me before he left for war.

“We are ready. Just give us a mission.” He went on to serve two more combat tours: one in Afghanistan (2006) and once more in Iraq (2009).

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Eternal thanks to my cousin Shane as well as the multiple others, including his lovely wife Tiffany, who have served to protect us. It has been a joy to play together with Shane as children and as adults see each other find our ways.

*****Tomorrow, I will be posting an interview with my cousin, now Major Shane Kelley. You will hear from him directly and learn more about his experience.*********

I believe that each moment in life requires a unique and inspirational movie. Other things can be inspirational. I find inspiration in life’s story, in my wife and kids, the Bible, hiking, traveling, or a great book. But nothing quite beats the perfect movie for life’s important moments. Movie heroes overcome great odds, and their stories inspire us to get up on our feet and do something spectacular!

Below is a list of my top ten inspirational films. I drew it up by narrowing down all the ones I could think of by category and then asking myself, “When I feel like (fill in blank), which movie will help?” The result is my arsenal of cinematic emotional motivators.

I hope it will also be helpful to you in your journey.

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Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies

Big Fish (2003) (Living the dream, Pursuing the love of your life)

I first saw Big Fish when I was trying to compile a bucket list. It challenged me to keep thinking well beyond what is ordinary and to strive to always go deeper into the dreams I have inside of me. This life is a grand adventure, and God wants us to think big! And so, like Edward Bloom, I am learning to think bigger than my small pond.

Edward Bloom: There’s a time when a man needs to fight, and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny is lost… the ship has sailed and only a fool would continue. Truth is… I’ve always been a fool.

Roman Holiday (1953) (Becoming yourself/Adventure)

Roman Holiday is the perfect antidote for when I feel most constrained by everyday life. It is the story of a love affair between two strangers, a princess and a reporter. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are some of my favorite classic actors, and the film is an ode to beautiful Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world. Watching this movie makes me smile at the thought of how I can live a better adventure.

Dr. Bonnachoven: The best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while.

Braveheart (1995) (Freedom/Adventure)

Although Braveheart is far from being historically accurate, it was spot on for inspiration. To watch it is to understand what it means to fight for someone or something you believe in. Braveheart had a big effect on me. I went on to learn more about Scotland and eventually moved there six years later.

William Wallace: Every man dies, not every man really lives.

We Bought a Zoo (2011) (Risk/Adventure)

I have shown some parts of the movie to my daughters so they could get a beautiful glimpse of what courage looks like. This quote captures the essence of not only the movie for most of Cameron Crowe’s films.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Dead Poet’s Society (1989) (Risk-taking and the value of teaching)

I wrote about Dead Poet’s Society in an earlier post called Raising the Dead Poet’s Society. This movie reminds me that I should be a student of life. The students it portrays are young and eager for life. They are reminders that though I am now in my thirties, I should not lose their spirit. Similarly, the young men of Welton Academy fear failure in the face of their parents sometimes overwhelming expectations. And though today I do not fear the rejection of my parents, I still have fears of failure and often find myself timid and needing a talk from Professor Keating.

Professor John Keating to his students looking at alums from decades ago: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

October Sky (1999) (Belief in yourself/Friendship/Father-son relationship)

I wrote about this movie in an earlier post called Being There as a Father in the October Sky. It is one of the best American stories set in the 1950s, and it reminds me that I should never stop dreaming and setting goals.ver stop dreaming and setting goals.

Homer (to his dad): Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either, it’s because I’m the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Wernher von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn’t my hero.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Sacrifice)

I have a deep appreciation for our military and the sacrifice they make for ordinary Americans like you and me. Saving Private Ryan captures the service of our American military during World War II. It is an inspiration and a reminder to thank any soldier who has served or is currently serving in our military.

Sergeant Horvath: I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. He asks what he’s done to deserve this. He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But then another part of me thinks, what if by some miracle we stay, then actually make it out of here. Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home.

Chariots of Fire (1981) (Strengthening Faith)

This is another movie that captures the beauty of Scotland. I was a young Christian when I first saw Chariots of Fire, and it helped me understand what deep conviction looks like. It is a beautiful portrait of a man Eric Liddel loving his God first; thanking him for the ability to run; and rejoicing in the service of his country, Great Britain, and of his true and eternal King.

Eric Liddel: You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

Moneyball (2011) (Overcoming “the way it’s always been done”/business as usual)

As a businessman, I am in a daily battle analyzing what should and should not be done to achieve results. In an ever-changing business world, it is easy to sit in a corner and rely on a comfortable strategy. Anytime I feel stuck in what I am doing in business, I use this movie as a lesson to reject business as usual and take time to strategically think what really needs to happen. On top of that, I am a huge baseball fan, which makes the movie even more enjoyable.

Scout to Billy: We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) (Fatherhood/Honor)

Atticus Finch is a man of action eager to do what is just in the eyes of God. What man doesn’t want to be like Atticus Finch? As a father of two daughters, I think often about what it means to stand up for what is right. My children pay close attention to not only my words but, more important, my actions. Therefore, I am thankful to Harper Lee for creating such a wonderful character and to Gregory Peck for bringing that on-screen character to life.

Rev. Sykes: Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.

Honorable mention: 

Rudy, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happyness, Invictus, Finding Forrester, Rocky, Jerry Maguire, The Way, and Say Anything. I am sure there are many more but these are the ones that stand out.

What are your top 10 most inspirational movies and why? 

Which ones stir your soul and make you want to act?

It’s a Jelly

November 10, 2011 — 2 Comments

Ever wanted to achieve that specific goal in life?  You want it so bad, you can’t help it?  But you know deep down you can’t just step out and grab it.

Sometimes it requires more from you.

Sometimes in life, it requires a sacrifice.

Sometimes you need to give up a jelly donut.

I love jelly donuts because they are the “best of the best” when it comes to donuts.  My favorite movie from the Great White North is Strange Brew (1983)  I even parodied the McKenzie brothers with a friend at a Young Life camp. We of course drank “Eh” Root Beer instead of Elsinore but you can imagine how much fun we had with our accents.  We even played donut hockey with campers.  God bless Canada and their accents I say!

For Bob McKenzie, giving up the jelly was essential to get what he needed to accomplish the mission.  (Yeah, I know theirs was a bribe but you get the idea)

What are you trying to achieve today?  What do you need to give up? 

You may need to give up the jelly.

PS Maybe this is a better post for lent? But enjoy the clip from Strange Brew if you’ve never seen it.