Veterans Day was observed in the U.S. last Thursday, November 11. This is the second of a 2 part series. You can read the first installment posted on November 10 on this blog.
“Boots on the ground” refers to success by direct physical contact. In her distinguished 28 year career as a Christian Science chaplain, Janet Horton has had innumerable encounters with the men and women who serve in the military. By her own estimate she has logged over 200 pages of incidents that have special meaning to her. This is just one of those stories.
After some political wrangling between superiors, Horton was assigned to a post at the Pentagon. At the time she considered it one of the worst assignments you could get. “I thought this was a big mistake”, but her prayers led her to conclude God doesn’t make mistakes. She eventually came to realize that she was at the right place and the right time.
Sept. 11, 2001. The World Trade Center had just been attacked. There was great confusion as our country was waking up to the news. While the world watching the twin towers burn, other events were still unfolding that would be forever embedded in our collective consciousness. At 10:03am United Flight 93 crashes into a Pennsylvania field. Seven minutes later American Flight 77 rams into the Pentagon.
The nose of the plane that struck the Pentagon that day hit the rear of the personnel area. There was an explosion and fireball. In the ensuing minutes many stories unfolded. One was of a Lieutenant Colonel who injures himself while jumping out of a second story window. His legs won’t move. Another individual remains above and throws others out of the same window. Despite his injuries, the Lieutenant Colonel uses his arms to help break the fall of those jumping from the window.
Horton was one of three chaplains on site that day along with fire and rescue personnel. While medics were trying to figure out the Lieutenant Colonel’s condition, she asked if he wanted her to pray with him. She notes she always asks first, not knowing the individual’s faith background and wanting to honor their wishes. He said yes. He was a Baptist.
While trying to pray, the man kept yelling and was distracted by all the activity surrounding them. Horton felt she needed to get his attention and keep his focus off his legs. “Speak to him with more authority,” she thought to herself. “Nothing can separate you from the love of God,” she recalled saying to him. She continued to pray.
The minutes ticked away. It’s hard to imagine the chaos. Because the medics had removed his pants, the Lieutenant Colonel’s legs were now exposed. At one point they came in contact with some leaves on the ground. The man quickly complained the leaves were hurting him. Everyone looked at each other and knew at that moment the feelings in his legs had returned and that he would be alright.
Upon reflecting on the events of 9/11, Horton says she feels privileged to have been at the Pentagon that day. It gave her the opportunity to do what comes natural to her, to minister.
And it’s the same for other Christian Scientists like myself. I, too, have ‘enlisted’ to minister to the needs of my neighbors and to heal when called upon. I work hard to live up to the tenets of Christian Science found in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The concluding tenet reads, “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.”
There is an old saying, “To understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not.” The Bible has a similar thought in Matthew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” While honoring the men and women who have served selflessly in the armed forces, we can look to Janet Horton as an example of someone who has gone that extra mile while walking in others’ boots.