With Memorial Day approaching and the holiday and summer spirit renewing, I was intrigued with Heath Adamson’s account (“The Sacred Chase”, pages 118-119) of the beginning of that great and wonderful organization known as the Navy SEALs.
Arguably one of the most elite fighting groups in the world, the SEALs did not develop from a grand strategy of the military, but instead from one individual who refused to allow his condition to keep him from moving ahead.
His name was Draper Kauffman, and today he is known as the godfather of the US Navy SEALs.
Upon his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933, Mr. Kauffman’s plan was to follow in the footsteps of another great man, his father, who also served in the US Navy. But it was not to be.
It was not because of drug abuse that Mr. Kauffman’s dreams were shattered, nor was it because of a life of crime. He simply had poor eyesight, and this was enough to prevent him from receiving his commission.
What do you do when you invest years of dreaming about a bright future and making plans to get there, only to find it sabotaged by something that seems so small?
With his door to the U.S. Navy closed, he joined the American Volunteer Ambulance Corps in France. This warrior trained to lead other warriors into combat found himself behind the wheel of an ambulance. He was imprisoned for a short time in France when the Germans occupied the country in 1940.
After his release, he joined the Royal Navy Reserve in England and served in their bomb disposal unit.
While he was home on leave, the U.S. Navy wanted to learn from his experiences. At their request Mr. Kauffman organized an underwater demolition school.
After the United States entered the war, Kauffman’s experience and trainees became crucial to U.S. amphibious operations around the world. They changed the course of the war through disarming underwater bombs and conducting top-secret reconnaissance.
Had Mr. Kauffman allowed poor eyesight to be the final draft of his identity, the Allies’ strategy during WWII would have been different.
Repeatedly in the Scriptures, we find men and women who did not let their personal shortcomings prevent them from doing great things for God.
One such character was a fellow who had spent most of his life walking in the shadow of one of the greatest leaders of all time.
Joshua, it seemed, was always trailing behind and picking up the pieces left by Moses and Aaron. But then one day, he found himself in the sole leadership position, commissioned to direct the course of well over 6 million people as they fulfilled the promise made by God to enter, conquer, and dwell in the land call Canaan.
From the very outset of his time as leader of the nation, Joshua wanted to listen to the voice of the Lord. God promised Him success if he would only listen to His word and follow his commands: “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-9).
And Joshua heeded those words from the Lord throughout his life in leading the nation into the Promised Land. Even at the end of his life, after a life of sojourning in the land, he was still pointing the children of Israel to the Lord: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Joshua’s lesson in courage is a strong lesson for us today.
The message of Memorial Day is a message of courage, gratitude, and prayer, whether it be finding an alternative direction in life, or providing a needed example for someone who needs courage.
The words of God to Isaiah the prophet apply to each of us on this coming Memorial Day: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10.
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected].