I grew up in Escondido, California. I am the youngest son of a Korean War veteran. Dad served in the Army as a postal carrier in Seoul from 1952 to 1954. He shared a few of his interactions with the Koreans, enough to indicate that he struggled with Post Traumatic Stress.
That may be why my mom insisted that I couldn’t play with GI Joes until I was 10 years old. I remember coming home from elementary school every day and turning on the TV for cartoon time. GI Joe was one of my favorites and I was captivated by the struggle between the valiant Joes and evil Cobra Commander.
When I turned 10, I loved and began collecting all things GI Joe, from the sea base, to headquarters, to the stealth jets. I was a young warrior and these toys were my invitation to connect with the warrior inside.
My best friend, Nathaniel Pesacreta, collected as well, so we’d play together every weekend setting up mock battles and ultimately defeating evil together.
Of course, 30 plus years later, not much is left of my collection. However, I continued to be meticulous in the care of my action figures, many of which I display in my office today.
However, due to wear and tear, many of the rubber bands that held my most beloved action figures together have long disintegrated leaving most of my favorite characters in pieces.
As Wounded Warrior Battallion’s chaplain, it struck me that we are often tempted to do to people what I do to my action figures.We keep them out of sight. It’s a shame really. The ones I loved and played with the most are the ones that broke first.
Instead of displaying the broken figures nearest and dearest to my heart, I’m displaying the ones that haven’t been battle tested in all my mock play. I see that happening in our culture today. Instead of placing our vets and our broken in places of highest honor, we’ve proverbially found storage in the attic for these warriors.
I’ve read that it is the least among us that will become the greatest. I’ve also read that judging the outside of the warrior may keep us from being blessed from the wisdom that resides within them – wisdom gained through the painful process of injury and the even more maturing process of recovery.
I’m going to get back into storage and collect all my broken action figures, and I’m going to find a way to display them next to the others. In doing so, I’ll be reminded of my favorite memories of the Joes.
It will be my way to honor our active-duty warriors and veterans who continue to remain in the fight – some of whom are fighting for life, fighting against evil, fighting harder today than they ever did down range. Would you join me in finding a way to honor a veteran or a wounded warrior in your circle? I believe by blessing them, you too will be blessed.