Friday, July 17, 2015

Playing Golf with a Marine: It's Dangerous Business

Reading the newspaper is dangerous business.  There is no telling how a particular article may impact your life.  Last week I played in a golf tournament with a marine. He is not an active duty marine, but years ago it was pointed out me that there is no such thing as a “former marine.”  During our golf round he shared a story that continues to impact me.

He got up one morning and read the newspaper.  That’s not an unusual routine for those of us that spent decades reading our news in printed version long before there were online sources for such material. The news that day included a story about a young marine that was killed in battle.  The story affected him deeply.
The death of this young man could not be erased from his heart, so he decided to do something. He sought out a place in the Marine Corps Marathon that is held annually in Washington D.C. Securing a spot in that race is apparently no simple task.  But he persevered and managed to navigate his way through a variety of obstacles. Ultimately, a place was secured in the marathon. 

The hard part then followed.  It was time to start training for a marathon!  Most people start training in an effort to get fit or to lose weight. In other cases, people start running for social reasons. They have running partners that they want to run 5K’s with.  Those are certainly legitimate reasons to work out.  But Van’s motivation for becoming more physically fit was far different.  Little did he know….He was about to make a difference in someone’s life.

He began communicating with the young marine’s father.  He explained the intent to run the marathon in memory of the man’s son. As you can well imagine, the marine’s father was deeply touched by this extraordinary act of compassion.  My friend would travel from his home state of Wisconsin all the way to Washington D.C. to honor the service of a fellow marine.

The big day finally rolled around.  My friend completed the race.  His objective was met. But the story is not over.  After the marathon, the marine’s father traveled from his home to meet this stranger that had been motivated to honor his son after reading a newspaper article.  During their interchange the father gave his new found friend something very special to commemorate the marathon that year.  It was the last gift the father had given his son.  There was no one else on the face of the earth that he wanted to have that gift more than the man that ran in memory of his son.

My golf round suffered substantially after hearing this story.  How could I think about staying in the fairway, when my mind was consumed with a young marine and his grieving father?  I couldn’t help but ask my friend this question: “Are you and the marine’s father still in contact with each other?”  He said:  Well of course, we are as close as brothers.”   I wept inside. How could I not be deeply moved?


I am having crazy thoughts these days.  I am thinking about the need to be fit.  But it’s not about weight loss or socializing… I want to get fit, because perhaps I could make a difference in someone's life too. .Reading the newspaper is dangerous business and so is playing golf with people that change your life.  I am grateful that I got to play golf with a marine. 

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