While I was serving on Air Force Reserve Duty in May, I officiated a retirement ceremony for a man who served his country on active duty for 25 years. Senior Master Sergeant Octavius Duffey, III—he goes by “Duff”—and I worked together. Since meeting him seven years ago, he’s become a friend and a brother. I was deeply honored when he asked me to be part of the ceremony.
When you ask people why they serve in the military, many will tell you “comradery.” When I think of comradery, I think of my basic military training. I was 18 years old, first time living away from my family, thrown into this experience with these other young people and over the course of two months, suffering and striving, failing and succeeding together, those ladies became my sisters, those men became my brothers. That’s comradery.
A military retirement ceremony is never about just one person. This one was about the people with Sergeant Duffey in the Command Post on the morning of September 11th, 2001, when every phone in the building rang at the same time. It was about the people with Sergeant Duffey who hit the dirt alongside him 2 minutes and 37 seconds after getting off the plane in Afghanistan when the first of many mortars fell. It’s about the people who were with him on that deployment, and the ones who never came home.
I asked Duff what he remembered about his assignments around the world. He told me, “I was blessed to meet great people.” He said, “It makes me wonder how different I would be had I not met all these people,” these friends, these sisters, these brothers.
Comradery is close to what the New Testament means by the word fellowship. Fellowship, like comradery, is what happens when people are drawn together around a common vision, a common life and love. Fellowship draws me out of myself, out of my preferences, fears, and limitations, and links me to others in a greater purpose. Fellowship makes strangers into brothers and sisters.
The New Testament invites all who have ears to hear … “have fellowship with us … and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:4). I have experienced the power of comradery in my nation’s military. This mission is only for this fleeting, passing, mortal life. I yearn for fellowship in a greater mission—a mission inviting all nations into true life, the life of God’s kingdom that will have no end.
Would you be my comrades in this?
In Jesus, Pastor Zeigler