He appreciated every day that God gave him because he was alive. He held no malice to people who weren't so grateful or for those who took it all for granted. They couldn't understand and he didn't blame them.
He was glad for the gifts he had been given. When asked, he would share his story, but he was content to go to his job as a postal worker, sit in traffic every day and come home to his loving wife.
He was hungry today and
was looking forward to her cooking. He never disliked a meal she prepared.
He appreciated ALL that he had. He developed an attitude of gratitude a long time ago, in a place far, far away.
At the time he wasn't grateful. He was just scared. He had been a soldier in Vietnam and he had survived. There were times, years ago, that he felt he didn't deserve to survive. He had been haunted by the demons of survivor's guilt, but that was long ago. He had witnessed so many die, and many were better men than he.
"Preach" was just one of the many men of memories. The guys called him "Preach" because he was one of the few
Christians in his unit and he was bold in his witness. Preach never missed an opportunity to tell anyone and everyone about the "good news" of Jesus Christ. He frequently thanked the Lord for Preach, because it was because of him he had been saved.
It had happened over 30 years ago in a foxhole,
after a long bloody firefight. He had changed after that long, traumatic night. And it was good he listened to Preach, since his friend and mentor died within the week. He didn't pray for Preach since he knew he was in
During quiet times, he would sometimes think about him and be grateful that he would see him again on the other side. He had peace today and he thanked God for putting Preach in his life.
The traffic edged forward, slowly to his Mecca. His house wasn't big or special, but it was warm and comfortable and filled with love. Coming home was a joyful experience. Every day it was. As he sat in his car, and looked at the American flags on the antennae in front of him, he smiled to himself. He was glad.
He was not happy about the Sept. 11 attacks and that his country was at war. He appreciated that more people were expressing their pride and support. Being a veteran was a unique experience. He had heard on the radio a phrase he liked: "When you almost die fighting for
freedom, the taste of freedom is very different in your mouth!"
The speaker was a Christian and a veteran. He liked the expression and might use it sometime, talking to a co-worker or someone on the postal route he walked daily.
He also liked one he heard from Preach: "My job here in Vietnam is to go to heaven and take as many of you with me!" It wasn't suicidal, just a
statement of fact. He knew where he was going, and he wanted his friends to join him. He knew something that the others didn't and it was good news. He had never appreciated the red, white and blue before he had served his country.
As a veteran, he had come up with his own interpretation of the colors and what they meant.
Red was for all the blood that was shed to protect our freedoms and way of life. A price had to be paid, and he would pay it again.
Blue was for all the sadness families would experience when members wouldn't come home or would come home damaged. The toll road to freedom had a cost, and it wasn't just the veterans who paid it. The reality of this road was it paved with pain.
White symbolized purity in that what was being fought for was something good and of value. People died for freedom, democracy and other ideals on which our country was founded.
As he grew in his faith, he came to believe that the red was his sin, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, the red stain could become clean and become white in God's eyes.
Although baptism didn't really do anything, the bathing under blue water, signified to those on the outside what had happened on the inside.
Veterans Day had just passed. He had survived two wars. The first for his body, the second for his soul. He thought about Preach. He saw the little flags flapping in the wind. Yeah, the wind. You can't see the wind, but you know it's there, by its effects. Just like God.
He smiled to himself and
thanked God for the traffic. His car moved ahead six more feet. He would soon be home. He wondered what was for dinner. He knew it was going to be good.
>> El Centro resident Jim Shinn is a counselor at De Anza Junior High in Calexico.