Have you seen my son?
What a week of emotions this has been. I was four when World War II started and the memories of that time have been flooding back…nightmares of being chased by German soldiers with guns…flying bombs…carrying gas masks to school every day…scenes of the devastation caused by the Blitz…and of King George VI among his people in the midst of the rubble the day after the bombs fell…
… Ration cards for food and clothing…an absence of sweets (candy) in shops…seeing a real banana for the first time when the war was over…windows taped to prevent flying glass…blackout curtains…signs everywhere…”Careless talk costs lives”…”Be like Dad, keep Mum”…”Dig for victory”…British restaurants set up so the people could get at least one good meal a day at reasonable rates…
One of the most vivid memories was a picture I saw in a magazine after the victory was won. It showed a group of defeated German soldiers shuffling home. At the side of the road was an aged woman, obviously the mother of a soldier. She was holding a picture of a young man and asking that line of soldiers “Has anyone seen my son?” The despair in her face was evident and I could not help but be moved deeply.
I was reminded of it (after 46 years or so of not giving it a thought) this morning as a television reporter interviewed a line of family members of those missing after the World Trade Center atrocity. Each had flyers with pictures of missing relatives…wives, brothers, mothers, sons…and each was asking for help from anyone with information to give. “Have you seen my dad…my wife…my sister…my son…?”
New York has a special place in my heart: from 1976-1980 I was divisional music director for Greater New York Division. DHQ was then on 23rd Street and THQ on 14th Street…a street frequently mentioned in recent daily reports. We held our divisional youth band rehearsals in the Temple Corps building on 14th Street. The Armory, now a morgue site, was close…
We have talked much during the last few years of the unavoidability of change, of the inadvisability of trying to stand still when the very ground around us is shifting. The “good old days” are comforting memories but we shall never see them exactly the same again. They are gone, as surely as the way America finds it must address the realities of today’s world where the enemy is no less evil, but has resorted to warfare that no longer is a “game” played between civilized “gentlemen.”
So we find that in this–as the president puts it–“first war of the 21st Century,” traditional methods of defense or retaliation are no longer sufficient. The “goal posts” have been moved; the “fence” has shifted. It’s a whole new “ball game” where the old rules and strategies are simply inadequate.
The experience is being described as a “wake up” call for the world. This could well be a time for the Army to reexamine its role in today’s world. Where war is abhorred (and just this morning we have heard on television of the decision of the Russian government to try to oust the Army from Moscow) the military image of the Army–especially if interpreted as militant–may not be as effective as in the glory days of a British Empire busy “colonizing and civilizing” the world.
Perhaps it’s time to consider redefining ourselves–especially in view of our world presence–as “peacemakers” in harmony with Matthew 5:9. A focusing of our role that does not require us to give up the beloved title of “Army,” may be less threatening to nations who misread our intent, and more palatable–even welcomed–by generations who prefer making peace before war starts, to initiating conflict… a refocusing that could breathe new life into our beloved movement.
“THE SALVATION ARMY An International Peacemaking Organization.”
What do you think?