A Veteran’s Day Story

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My brother, Curt Daniels, me, and my Mom and Dad, Bill and Jan Daniels.  This picture was taken on Veteran’s Day before the Chiefs game.

Core scripture“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

Message: I was in a bit of a pickle last Friday.  It was our school’s Veteran’s Day assembly, and I had planned my final exam over Freak the Mighty weeks earlier for the same day.  Over half my students would have missed the lesson to prepare and participate.  Staring at my half empty first hour class, I shifted on a dime and punted the test to Monday.  It just wasn’t worth it.  Too many makeups.  Too much confusion.

Plus, the pictures on my back filing cabinet were calling my name.

My mom had made these for me years ago.  They were framed pictures of my family military legacy.  My Great Grandpa Van (World War I).  My Grandpa Bill Connely (World War II).  My Dad (Vietnam).  And of course both my brothers, Clay and Curt Daniels, who proudly served in the Army.  Each picture had a story that was just waiting to be told.  I addressed the class.

“How would you guys like to celebrate Veteran’s Day by hearing some stories from my family?”

You would have thought I just announced there was a snow day!  The kids leaned in.  They asked questions.  They told a few stories of their own.  And they listened.  They listened to the masterpiece God created through his majestic power.  Though I could not cite it, each story was supported by scripture.  I would love to share a few of these stories with you.

Bill Connely (Navy): Drafted into World War II following high school, my Grandpa was assigned to a mine sweeper in Okinawa. He was stranded at sea.  A monstrous typhoon struck, and he survived it, seeking shelter in a cave where he found two dead Japanese soldiers.  Upon being rescued, he took with him two mementos: an authentic teacup and—get this—their dead skeleton teeth.  The man was going to be a dentist.  Who could blame him!

Papaw survived the war and came home with both relics.  When customs saw the teeth, they immediately confiscated them, but the teacup was his to cherish.  To this day it still rests in my parents’ kitchen.  His story is one of endurance, and can be told through Romans 5:3-4 when it states, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Clay Daniels (Army): My brother Clay thrived in the Army. A graduate of West Point, he went on to Special Forces, Ranger School, you name it.  Meeting his beautiful wife Mallory and starting a family of his own changed his life forever.  Deployments had taken their toll.  He was now a father of two young children.  There came a point when he had to make a choice between his career or his family.

My brother did it right.  He chose family.  He now is putting his West Point degree to use, working for US Engineering.  He has coached all three of his kids’ teams through the years and remained true to his wife as well.  His story is one of devotion to his wife:“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Curt Daniels (Army): I had to plan my wedding around both my brothers’ deployments in 2007. When Curt’s deployment was extended through January, he could no longer be my co-best man.  I was crushed.  Things got worse when I got a phone call from my mom letting me know he had been run over by a Humvee in Afghanistan, crushing his hip.  Emergency surgery saved his life, and he recovered in Walter Reed Hospital.

He called me that Thanksgiving.  They weren’t going to be able to send him back to war, and on December 29, 2007 Curt was there in his wheelchair to celebrate my wedding day.  Living in the moment, he spun circles in his wheelchair on the dance floor.  Just another reminder that God works everything—even shattered hips in Afghanistan—for our good (Romans 8:28).

I would not change a thing from the way things went down last Friday.  Those stories probably inspired a dinner table conversation or two at home that night.  The assembly was reverent.  Emotions swept through my classroom like rolling thunder.  And I got to finish by letting my students know my Dad, a Navy vet, was going to celebrate Veteran’s Day by being the coin toss captain at the Chiefs game.

My Dad never sought glory for himself.  He was always about others.  Though he never saw combat during Vietnam, he still served our country proud.  Watching him take the field with KC Wolf, the Chiefs mascot, swelled my heart with pride.  But my Dad never let that get to his head.  He is all too quick to give glory to others for he knows that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

All these stories point back to a legacy that will reign supreme forever.  This story is told inJohn 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Your stories reflects that story.  It is time to shout your story from the rooftops.  Let it be heard!

Challenge: Kids love it when you get real.  What story do you have that might speak truth to your students’ lives?  Share it!  You never know which kiddo will be inspired to apply that lesson to their own life.

Prayer: Lord, may we use the stories in our lives to inspire our students, reflecting Your perfect love and grace.  Amen.

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