Come Home

It’s summer time! I teach junior high math, so for me that means two and a half months to recharge my batteries and have fun.  The day after school let out, I flew to Okinawa, Japan to visit my friends Victor and Annie who live here.

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Victor is in the Marines and they have been stationed here since January and will be here for two and a half more years.  It’s too bad that they live so far away from so many of their family and friends, but I’ve got to say, if you’re going to live half a world away, Okinawa is the place to do it.  This place is paradise!  Let me show you a few pictures to illustrate my point:

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It’s been such a beautiful vacation.  Seriously, the most difficult decision we’ve had to make each day is which beach to visit that day.

Because I’ve been staying with Americans, I haven’t experienced a whole lot of Japanese culture.  But I have been fully immersed in military culture.  Most of my daily interactions have been with military families and personnel and believe me  – it is definitely its own culture.   They have their own language – mostly consisting of interesting acronyms like BX, DOD, MEU, and countless others that I can’t remember now.  They have their own cultural prejudices.  For example, most Marines don’t like the Air Force guys.  Case in point –  this weekend One Republic gave two free concerts at two different bases in Okinawa – Camp Kadena (an Air Force base about 10 min away) and Camp Hansen (a Marines base about 30 minutes away).  Guess which concert we went to?

After a 30 minute drive to Camp Hansen, we found ourselves right up in front listening to One Republic.  I’ve always loved One Republic.  How could you not?  They have a cellist who also plays guitar!

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But I like them even more now.  I’m guessing that they made zero profit from the two concerts they did in Okinawa.  Before the concert started, you could see the band members setting up their own instruments and setting out water bottles for themselves. They didn’t bring any staff to do it for them.

Before the concert began, the camp director stood up and got his marines cheering.  He said something to the effect of, “You WILL have fun, and that’s an order!”  During the concert, a young Marine near us took his shirt off.  About thirty seconds later, an MP (military police) ordered him to put it back on.  One Republic has probably never played a concert with such excellent security.  In fact, during the concert the lead singer said, “When I found out we were going to be playing in front of a few hundred Marines tonight, it scared the hell out of me.”

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For me, the highlight of the concert was when they played the song “Come Home”.  They dedicated this song to all of the servicemen at the concert.  The lyrics to the song really struck a chord with some of the things I’d been thinking about all day. Earlier that day, I’d gone to lunch with three military wives.  Two of these women have husbands who deployed this week on the same boat to Australia for three to six months.  They will have very limited contact with their husbands until they return.

Military wives sacrifice so much, often leaving behind their families and their friends to move to a foreign land.  Frequently they are unable to obtain employment in their field of expertise once they arrive there. It must be so difficult for them to retain a sense of self during this process.  And then they are left alone for months at a time while their husbands are deployed.  I can only imagine how much more difficult this must be for military wives with young children.  I have so much respect for military families.

I found myself thinking of these women and others like them as I listened to One Republic sing “Come Home”.  I was truly touched.  One man who was standing next to us couldn’t restrain his tears during this song.  He explained to my friend that, in his command last year, 26 of his enlisted guys were killed and 80 of them had amputations.  He feels so responsible for the guys who will never ‘come home’ and all of them who will never come home the same.

I am so grateful to the military who sacrifice so much.  I am also grateful for my faith in God that gives me the assurance that someday everything that seems so unjust to me will be made right by Him.