THE MARSHALL PLAN: Inner peace in a cast

Culpeper Times columnist Marshall Conner

Over the last two months a pandemic has tested our will and wits. We search for the best ways to overcome the COVID-19 virus — a most complex, invisible and adaptive foe. 

This virus continues to cast a net of uncertainty and fear over our nation.

The question of how and when to resume our lives remains.

Amid the crisis new leaders must emerge. Ask yourself who has risen to the fight? Who has met the challenge and sadly who has retreated? Amid the waves of adversity and uncertainty, many have met the challenges; others have not.

As we approach Memorial Day weekend, let us look at a couple military heroes who faced incredible odds — in fact — near hopeless odds. Their spirit and willingness to endure and adapt should give us strength.

The first is a legendary Marine. In late fall 1950, thousands of Communist Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River and struck United Nations forces that were nearing victory against the North Koreans. Army and Marine forces had to fight their way toward the coast at a heavy cost.

Col. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller of the 1st Marine Division was tasked with the mission to break out of the overwhelming Chinese assault. He surveyed the options and said, “All right, they are on our left, they are on our right, they are in front of us. … They can’t get away this time.”

Puller also stated, “We are surrounded; that simplifies the problem.” 

This is the type of spirit needed when the odds are stacked against us. 

Look toward those who step forward into the fight and who retreats from view.

This will tell you who the true leaders are. 

My second example is Gen. George S. Patton.

When I was training for mountain warfare as a young soldier in the 1980s, I often thought of a scene in the film Patton as I sought courage to conquer a snowy mountainside. I heard the soundtrack in my mind as my boots moved through the snow. I thought about the scenes of Gen. Patton’s Third Army relieving the 101st Airborne at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. This made any peacetime ruck up a mountain pale by comparison. 

As we face the pandemic, let us note the ones who stand strong amid the storm and face the fire.

I was taught in military history classes that the Western way of war can be boiled down to an example of the Spartans at Thermopylae, where a soldier is only as strong as the one who stands beside him — shield-to-shield.

Are we standing shield-to-shield or are we easily divided by fear, politics, greed or aversion to tough solutions? Can we look our children in the eyes and say we helped our community in tough times, or did we take the easy way out? 

We stand in perilous times my friends and now is the time for innovation, creativity and bravery. 

A good friend and fellow Fishburne Military School brother Monty Warner offered this insightful societal warning recently on social media, “We are now basically entering — not only politically — the Road Warrior phase. No more movies, no more school as it was, no more entertainment as we know it. Probably not the culture of church or religion as we know it either. There are a small percentage already drawing up blueprints for what the future will look like. Others will cling to nostalgia until they find themselves at a baseball game drinking a beer through a mask and straw.”

He added this as well, “One upside … all the celebrity social media addicts and gadflies posturing with their phony altruism and compassion as they try to indulge and perpetuate their hideous narcissism. No one will be paying attention which to them is starvation. Ultimately things will return to the common denominators of survival: work, family and for most faith.”

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us reflect on who we are and the sacrifices that moved us through the challenges of history. Let us also ask who we will be when we emerge from this crisis.


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