Reflections on my commission

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by Donald Hostetler – 

I walked across the platform of Carnegie Hall, a young man of 23 years, married less than three years and parent of a 7-month-old son. The resonant voice of Commissioner Bramwell Tripp announced for all to hear that I was commissioned an officer in The Salvation Army with the rank of lieutenant and appointed the corps officer in Newport, Ky. From the second balcony of Carnegie Hall, my mother beamed with pride in her oldest son. Frail from the impact of surgery and radiation to treat advanced cancer, she was not to be denied an opportunity to witness my commissioning as an officer in The Salvation Army.

Mom’s was the first of three Silver Stars my grandmother received. Grandma received her Silver Star from General Evangeline Booth as the “representative Silver Star mother” at Mom’s commissioning. Mom received her own Silver Star for me, but never wore it—she entered the hospital mere days after returning home from my commissioning and entered Glory a few weeks later. I have no diplomas, not even my commission, on my office wall. But two generations of Silver Star certificates hang there in tribute to those who placed such high value upon officership.

Being commissioned an officer is not something that I earned. I don’t look upon my commission as an accomplishment like a diploma or a degree. Rather, I consider the commission as a trust that the Army bestowed upon me. Only a lifetime of service can prove that I have been worthy of the trust. Perhaps that is why the Silver Star certificates mean so much.

I don’t recall reflecting much on the meaning of the commission itself. Commissioner Philip Swyers often makes reference to “the privilege of a commission.” Maybe I would have thought more about it had such a phrase been emphasized to me as a cadet. But from the moment I heard Commissioner Tripp say so, I knew that I was an officer. I was honored to be an officer—I only hoped to live up to the legacy of those who had modeled officership for me: corps officers, officers at music camp, my DYS and my training principal.

What does it mean to me to be an officer in The Salvation Army? It is ”co-mission”—being in mission alongside others who have been called by God to serve in this unique expression of service. I am part of a worldwide soul-saving team.

It means being “in sync” with the mission of the Army. I have never questioned what my mission is as an officer. Even though the international mission statement was revised during my tenure as an officer, the mission of the Army—and my mission IN the Army—has not changed. It is militant salvation proclamation in word and deed.

It means being dispatched under the authority of a superior officer to accomplish a specific mission. The salvation of the lost, the sanctification of the believer, and serving suffering humanity have been my charge for 35 years.

What an adventure it has been! And it all began with those marvelous words, “I commission you an officer in The Salvation Army.” I praise God for the privilege of a commission.

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