In Memoriam, Rodney

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50 years ago on 5 Feb 1970, upon my return from Vietnam after serving 7 years, 3 months, and 10 days in the Air Force, I was discharged from the service. I took 3 months to relax and readjust before beginning my college career at Lake-Sumter Community College. The first day, my first class, I was sitting in English 101 being blown away by our instructor, Mr. James Rennie, a fine Scotsman and a great American. In that class was a man who also had recently returned from Vietnam and one who would become my lifelong friend and confidant over the next 50 years. Right off from the start we were able to share together our thoughts, ideas, any questions – anything that crossed our minds we were able to share. We’ve disagreed on many things in politics and religion, and other areas of life, but we agreed on more and had that human relationship that expands politics, religion, and culture in general.

Last Saturday I wrote in my weekly news article, The Chaplain’s Tent, an ode, or tribute to my friend Rodney as published on my Chaplain’s Tent Facebook page and in the Leesburg Daily Commercial – my thoughts as I thought of Rodney’s passing as follows:

“Upon the death of the 17th century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, some friends found papers he had written in a pile and subsequently had them published under the title, Pensees, which is translated, “Thoughts”.
Many, many thoughts came into my mind since serving in the barren desert of Northern Saudi Arabia and camped outside Kuwait City following its liberation. Over the years since I continue to think about many things – things like, who am I, why am I here, and where am I going? What should I be doing with my time? Can I influence others, should I, and if so, how?
In reviewing a few thoughts of the past with the view of thinking through them again, I continue to think, what is my life all about? That is a question that readily comes to mind when one is prepared to go into combat. For me, as a chaplain, I cling to an old favorite spiritual I learned as a youngster: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living will not be in vain.” It is not only who I am that counts, but what I do. It is not so much our status in life that is really important, but what we do in our life that has lasting value.
Life is short. The Old Testament says that life is like a flower which blossoms but soon withers and dies. It also refers to life as like the morning dew which very soon goes away. Use your time wisely. What will you do with your time left?
Someone once said, “One never learns to really live until one faces the fact of one’s own death.” I don’t mean to sound grotesque or to dampen anyone’s joy of life. But, I want to encourage you to think about your future in terms of the reality of death.
I have lost three good friends this past year. Last week I lost one of closest friends of the past 50 years. I encourage you to live life in all it’s fullness, each day as if your last. Resolve to use it to its fullest. Make up your mind that you can do anything you set out to do if you use time wisely.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” By the grace of God, I am what I am and do what I do!” You are what you do. It is what you do for others that really counts. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love is an action verb. How do you love?”

At the end of the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan, Pvt. Ryan, now older with a family, went to Normandy to the American cemetery to visit the grave of Captain Miller, his company officer after the invasion and as the American Army moved through France toward Germany. As he was kneeling, then standing up in front of Miller’s grave, his wife approached. He turned to her and said, “tell me I’ve lived a good life.” “What?” she responded. He repeated, “tell me I’ve lived a good life. Five men had died in order to bring Ryan back home safely and he wondered, was it worth it? Though he could never repay them for their sacrifices, he wanted to be reassured that he had lived a good life.

Jesus died for Rodney and he came home from Vietnam and lived a good life. How do I know? Because, regardless of his personality, his character and demeanor, and his experiences, He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind, and He served others. Like all of us he was not perfect. But he knew Jesus and followed Jesus, and friends, that’s all that counts.

Take a lesson from dear ole’ Bob and his friend Rodney, love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.


© Copyright 2020
Robert A. Haines, Chaplain Haines



We Were There Also

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Speech for the Vietnam Veterans Tribute ceremony.
Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park,
Gainesville, FL
1 Feburary 2020

© Feb. 2020
Robert A. Haines, Chaplain Bob Haines
All Rights Reserved