“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
― General George S. Patton
An often cited issue today is the lack of strong male figures in the lives of young boys and girls, serving as the root cause to a myriad of problems affecting society as a whole. While this is certainly true, sometimes we wait for legendary heroes to emerge who will set the example that will bring order to the chaos. We look for a new Julius Caesar to cross the Rubicon or a George Washington to cross the Delaware, but in the meantime do little to recognize the work already accomplished by the unsung heroes of our day.
There are in fact men who have been carrying out their duties this whole time, quietly providing a model of Christian masculinity for their sons to emulate while setting the precedent for the type of man their daughters should seek in marriage. Unfortunately, we don’t hear enough about these men and their stories, despite the fact that their leadership and wisdom is just as important, if not more impactful, than the famous heroes who we admire.
Less than two weeks ago, the world lost one such man, as an uncle of mine succumbed to a hard fought battle with COVID-19 and passed away alone in a hospital.
My uncle, who was married to my father’s oldest sister, embodied the qualities and virtues of masculinity that allowed him to humbly exude a positive influence on everyone around him. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother. He admirably served our country in Vietnam and was awarded for his valor in combat. He possessed a sly sense of humor and a willingness to use his mechanical skills to help anyone build or fix anything at any time. His faith in Christ was evident to everyone around him.
When I was a boy, we spent what seemed like every single day and night of the summer at my aunt and uncle’s house swimming in their pool. Learning to ride a bike consisted of my dad and uncle placing me on the seat, pointing out the brake pedals, and then proceeding to push me down a grassy hill to figure out the rest. I could either learn to peddle and steer or crash into the building at the bottom. I’m sure the Karens of the world today would shriek in horror at this practice but this is truly how boys are turned into men.
Like many military veterans, my uncle never spoke much about his service. When he graduated high school, his own father took him down to the Navy recruiting office and signed him up. A few years later found himself on a river boat, patrolling waters of Vietnam. After my own time in the Army, he and I had a few brief conversations about our shared experiences overseas, but regrettably we never got the chance to talk in any depth.
Following his passing, I decided to search for any relevant information that might tell me more about his time in the military. Through an internet records search, I was amazed to discover that in Vietnam he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” device. That “V” stands for Valor, and valorous awards aren’t just passed out for no good reason. To earn one, you have to put your own life on the line in the heat of battle. Not many men these days can say they’ve done that.
Unsurprisingly, my dad said my uncle never mentioned that he had earned this award, but he did have a guess as to how he did so. After many years, my uncle told him a story of how he was on a patrol searching for water mines near the banks of an undisclosed Vietnamese river. Their contingent began to take incoming enemy fire, but when they tried to drive away, they realized something underneath the water was caught on their boat, preventing their escape. My uncle and another sailor dove into the water in an attempt to break it free. After cutting it loose, my uncle came to the surface and climbed back on the boat. To his dismay, the other sailor, who was his friend, never came back up. However, their actions did allow the rest of the crew to escape unharmed. My dad didn’t know for certain if this was the incident that earned him that combat medal, but if it wasn’t, he must have done something even more extraordinary at some other time.
After his year in Vietnam, my uncle returned home and married my aunt. They had two brilliant and talented daughters, and four gifted grandchildren. After thirty-one years of dedicated service, he retired from the local steel manufacturer, a feat which is almost unheard of today. Even after his retirement, he never really stopped working to better the world around him.
I consider myself fortunate that I grew up in a large family surrounded by many men like my uncle. Both of my grandfathers were patriarchs who worked hard to provide for their families and pass down their faith to their children and grandchildren. My own dad has always been present in my life as a teacher, coach, and mentor. I also had nine other uncles who served as role models in my life. There is a now clichéd African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child” that is usually co-opted by Progressives for silly socialist arguments. But from a traditional perspective, it takes a tribe of strong men to raise a boy the way God intended.
In our crazy world of deconstructed gender-norms and rising political and cultural tension, there will inevitably be strong men who rise up and assert themselves as leaders of various tribes. These men will be needed, but perhaps the real path to victory for traditional Christians lies elsewhere. What we really need are more men like my uncle. Men who are tirelessly devoted to their God, their family, and their country, who choose to disregard the glamor and greed of our age and go about their business of building future generations through their hard work and leadership.
My uncle will be missed by all who knew him, but his influence on this world will remain. And there is no doubt that when Christ greeted him in heaven, He repeated His words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”