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Telling the Story
First Posted by Robert Certain on Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018

    When I was a boy growing up in south Georgia, there was a hymn I loved to sing. The second verse was:

    I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams. I love to tell the story, it did so much for me; and that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

    Of course, the hymn was about Christian faith; but “telling the story” as a concept has nearly universal impact. For instance, we veterans find it nearly impossible to refrain from telling stories of our military experience whenever we get together. Combat stories are even more compelling. While we may bore people to death when we begin to repeat ourselves, there is something deeply spiritual about story, something that brings us to hidden resources of virtue, strength, and, yes, faith.

    When combat troops come home from war, we have been profoundly changed. Some of that change is not so good; but some of it can actually lend us a greater understanding of who we are, what society is about and what God’s work in the world is about. Our wartime experience can bring a wealth of understanding as I discovered in my journey from the prisons of Hanoi to full freedom nearly three decades later.

    Most of us come home, leave the service, return to our families and careers and make good livings and good contributions to society. Even so, the intense experience of warfare leaves us with important work to do if we are to fully utilize the positive aspects of those days in subsequent careers. Bringing the troops “all the way home” is not just the responsibility of the government. Older veterans have a role to play in the full and complete return of those who come after us. As we share the experience, strength and hope of our post-military careers, other veterans may be able to gain insight into their own stories and find new ways of panning the value from the silt of their troubling times. All of us – employers and family members, churches and synagogues, physicians and veterans themselves – have a vested interest in converting combat liabilities into assets for societal leadership. We do that best by truly listening to the stories of these young veterans, not just to the words, but to the joys, tragedies, hope, strength, virtues, and moments of divine encounter.

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