If you’ve ever visited the JFK Chapel at Fort Bragg then you know it is situated on a narrow road just off the main boulevard which belies just how wonderful it is inside. The steeple is small, the lawn is short; it doesn’t drift along like some lawns do and sprawl out in wide expanses of green. I would call the place tiny and once you enter through the lusterless doorway it’s apparent that it’s altogether a unique place of worship.
The main room of worship is bigger than I imagined but my eyes were drawn to the windows which flanked my shoulders; large windows, stained windows that when the sun comes through them they are suffused with brightness. With sunlight backing it the colors rise again to a new life and vigor like ourselves when we feel revived.
I surmise that something speaks to each man in the light of this place. Mysteries waken men and they go onto find their mission upon visiting this place.
In the decorative art upon high I could see shapes of fallen soldiers, the wounded soldiers and the like, molded into the glass as they are gathered in some type of reverential moment; a chaplain in combat boots reads words of comfort, a knight sends an echo of air from his lungs into the trumpet which he holds high and far to my right shines a window of a soldier cradling his fallen brother in his arms.
The colors brilliant and the light manifold yet singular as it drops upon our shoulders to where we sit upon the pews. We sit in beholden splendor. Wood, glass, stone, men, all natural things that came from the earth and will one day return to it.
Visiting there I felt as if I were in some movie scene from Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams gathered round him in the hallowed corridors young men whose hearts he must open. And near the silent memorials erected to the all the young men whom had come before him, the dead gaze back from their photos of black and white.
The schoolmaster croaks, “Carpe Diem.” And the sound of his voice builds, “Carpe Diem.” he says, until he knows they’ve followed the quaver of his sound enough until they’re absorbed into hearing all that he has to say. And in the pause between those poignant words each young man considers how other men lived or considers what it feels like to even be alive; engrossed in discovering a purpose in life.
Upon the chapel walls are placards with the names of the fallen; men of the Special Operations community. Flags hang from the walls. Embroidered upon the soft cloth is a symbol or just a single word; a picture of a sword or beneath it in Latin is written ‘veritas’.
Sitting with their families in the pews are some veterans of warfare. I cannot speak enough of the devotion some of these people have to God and country. It is an honor to be among men like this and I do believe that my individual perspective becomes muddle-headed from time to time but here today I’m reminded that we are part of a body and when one part suffers, the whole part suffers, just as Paul had described.
The chaplain speaks and introduces men who’ve come back alive and well. I get the sense that an unremitting desire to serve regardless of the difficulty is a feeling that I should not let become absent in my own small world. My mind is at rest in places like this, my Spirit is at ease. I find a strengthening in a place like this and I float upon the sound of the music as we sing the hymnals and my heart is flush with this mysterious excitement that builds in me until I find jubilancy in praising God. My senses are electric as I become elastic to the growing that will come upon me. I feel as if I hear a voice, silent but strong and I am called to follow.
I will obey.
Be well, I hope your day is full of wonderful considerations to live and grow no matter what it is you believe.
“The old hunger for voyages fed at his heart….To go alone…into strange cities; to meet strange people and to pass again before they could know him; to wander, like his own legend, across the earth–it seemed to him there could be no better thing than that.” ― Thomas Wolfe