Blessed Memorial Day, Howard

Published 9:31am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro

Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! Happy belated Memorial Day to all! I do hope the holiday weekend was a relaxing time for one and all.

Last Saturday, our community lost at least one veteran. Howard Peck lost his battle with pancreatic cancer late Saturday afternoon. He fought the good fight, as the scriptures say, in more ways than one.

Howard was somewhat of a beloved curmudgeon. You see, Howard had strong opinions about most everything and he was never shy about expressing his opinion. He would also offer his counsel on how things ought to be. He always did so with a wry, knowing smile.

I have never met a veteran who did not express great concern for others. I think it has a lot to do with an understanding of service and sacrifice that is easily forgotten by some of us. Howard combined strong opinions with an incredible gentle, humble spirit. If this sounds paradoxical, it is. Anyone who knew Howard would understand what I am saying, I believe.

I never served in the military. When I turned 18, I had to register with Selective Service, but I have never had to worry about being drafted. I have never been faced with the option of kill or be killed, nor have I ever had to fight physically in any way to protect the freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen.

I am blessed because I have been in the company of others who have served in the military my entire life. I have shared many conversations with veterans since I was a child. I have always been fascinated with stories of military service.

Sometimes those stories are of the glory days variety. Former soldiers tell endless tales of the colorful camaraderie that accompanies military service. These stories underline the strength of the relationships formed in military service.

Other times these stories are much less glamorous. Soldiers tell of the harsh realities of combat. The real challenge of living faith often comes to the surface in unavoidable ways.

In either case, one of the underlying themes of stories from veterans is service. I have been positively influenced since early childhood to serve others because of the witness shared to me by veterans. I have never met a veteran who did not take great pride in the things they did in service to our country that had nothing to do with waging war.

There are times when combat is unavoidable, but there are many other times when situations call for a strong, peaceful, disciplined presence. The veterans I know and have known embody those characteristics. Howard Peck certainly did.

At least half of the new members I have the privilege of welcoming into the fold of First Presbyterian Church came here in the first place in part because Howard invited them to come. He may have expressed strong opinions about flags, appropriate worship attire and behavior and preachers with long hair, but at the end of the day what mattered most was being faithful.

This Memorial Day, our whole nation had the opportunity to remember those who have served our country, especially those who lost their lives doing so. We had the opportunity to give thanks for the sacrifice, the lessons learned and the freedoms protected. We remembered our veterans and said thank you. We are all stronger and wiser as a result. Think about it.


The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.

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