Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Navy SEALs: No Regrets

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
-- John 15:13

Yesterday I was trying to organize all the bills I had paid from mom’s funeral and her recent household expenses, so that I could reimburse myself from her accounts which are now available to me again, when suddenly my computer softly chimed.  You’ve got mail!

The note was from my parish pastor, Father Ed: “Today is the second anniversary of the downing of Extortion 17, the military chopper that was carrying 31 American heroes, most of whom were Navy SEALs.  Fr. Jeff Huard's nephew was among those who died. I will be celebrating a Mass at 10 pm tonight at Christ the King for the repose of their souls and the comfort of their families.  Anyone who would like to join me for the celebration would be most welcome.”  The late time was convenient for me, since I have a midnight adoration hour on Tuesday nights, and so I went to the mass.

The church echoed with only a dozen people present, and so father didn’t use the microphone to amplify his voice as he said mass.  That made the mass seem more personal --- as was his homily.

Father Ed spoke to us about the Navy SEALS who were on that tragic flight, and of the funeral masses that he had attended.  He spoke of their dedicated wives and children.  But mostly, he spoke of the SEAL’s humble dedication, to God, country, and to each other.  A Navy SEAL flag was standing next to the altar, and Father Ed showed us how the eagle depicted there is unique among the military flags, in that the SEAL flag has the eagle shown with its head bowed down, in humility.  “These are the best trained soldiers in the world, whom many would think should be the proudest, yet they dedicate themselves to humility.”

Although he said it in a matter-of-fact manner, I don’t think Father Ed was pleased that President Obama had identified Navy SEAL Team Six as the ones who had taken down Osama bin Laden; in taking his bows, he had put a target on their backs.  And now many of them were dead, killed on that helicopter two years ago.

You could tell how much Father Ed admired these men, as he mentioned that the gospel he read this evening was the one read at their funeral masses: “Greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for his friends.”  And he mentioned a number of stories telling of sacrifices that SEALS had made, individuals choosing death to save their brothers.  And he told us of the words on their gravesites, that he had visited --- SEALs choose in advance the words they would have put on their gravestones.  I liked the one he described that simply said: No regrets.

Over these past few years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve come to appreciate more and more my blessings, the blessings of our country, and of the changing attitudes within our culture.  People are forgetting what love means.  So many think of love and think: That’s what I want – for me.  They’ve forgotten:  He who loves his life, loses it (John 12:25). 

The gospel notes that it was Jesus who said Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  He preached to us with each of His parables:  “Look, this is it.  This is why I came, to teach you how to love, to love with a great love.  Love isn’t something you spend your life seeking, it is something you spend your life giving, to others, even to the point of that greatest love:  laying down your life for your friends.

At a time when I’ve been meditating more about our culture and how so many people are concerned only about what they want or what they “have a right” to be given, it was good to hear stories about these Navy SEALs, who still know what love is, and who willingly give it.

No regrets.

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Now these are the directions that have been given to us for this journey:  love your Creator; reverence your Maker; give glory to him who redeemed you when you were dead; be single-minded but rich in spiritual treasure. … Do not put on airs, but be modest whatever you do; claim no credit for yourself.  Love your neighbor more than your own life.  Do not kill an unborn child through abortion, nor destroy it after birth.  Do not refrain from chastising son or daughter, but bring them up from childhood in the fear of the Lord.  Do not set your heart on what belongs to your neighbor and do not give in to greed.  Do not associate with the arrogant but cultivate those who are humble and virtuous.

Accept as a blessing whatever comes your way in the knowledge that nothing ever happens without God’s concurrence.  … Share with your neighbor whatever you have, and do not say of anything, this is mine. … Do not hold out your hand for what you can get, only to withdraw it when it comes to giving.  Cherish as the apple of your eye anyone who speaks to you of the word of the Lord.

Night and day you will bear in mind the hour of judgment:  every day you will seek out the company of God’s faithful, either by preaching the word, earnestly exhorting them, ever considering how you can save souls by your eloquence, or else by working with your hands to make reparation for your past sins.

Such then is the way of light.
                        -- from a letter attributed to Barnabas.


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to the Seals and to all our service men who give their lives that we might remain free.

    The letter attributed to Barnabas is so timely for our present age; clearly stated in words that reflect the words of Jesus. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed my pastor's thoughts regarding SEALs. The letter of Barnabas was in the Brievary readings this past week, and seemed to simply state so many important things --- and fit in with the topic of the SEALs story. After a walk, I'll write down another story here, one I heard at a conference yesterday. (I AM trying to get out more, ;-) )