Being Prepared – Views From A Loft

bibles001“Did you carry that thing with you all the time?” a co-worker recently asked. “Of course,” was my answer. He said, “I know other people have them, but they don’t carry them all the time.” “That’s probably because they’ve never had to face a sudden crisis without one,” I replied.

A case in point: one night in late July of 1971, I was a brand new warrant officer pulling duty as the Officer of the Guard for the U.S. Army Aviation School at Ft. Rucker, just outside of Enterprise, Alabama: snowbird work while I waited to go on leave before heading to Viet Nam. One of the jobs of the duty officer was to walk through the various parking lots of the buildings owned by the School a couple of times during the night. Some of the lots were for office buildings and were almost completely empty at night while others belonged to the barracks buildings and were full of cars. A little after midnight, I was walking through one of the latter lots and realized I wasn’t the only person out there. Another man was there, trying the door handles of the cars. With the length of his hair and moustache, he was clearly no soldier, so I went over to confront him. When we met between two parked cars, he dropped the bag he was carrying, reached into his back pocket, and pulled out a switchblade knife that had a blade on it about a foot and a half long. Okay, maybe it was only five or six inches long in reality, but that night, it looked like you could hack your way through jungles with it. The click as the blade locked into place was thunderous.

Good News, however; I had a pistol. Yay! Bad News, the pistol was two hundred yards away in another parking lot, securely locked in the trunk of my car. Boo! The only weapon I had on me was a Swiss Army knife with a three -inch, single-edged blade that didn’t have a lock; half the length of my opponent’s blade and able to make only forehand cuts with no thrusting capability. It was definitely the inferior weapon. We were still out of lunge range of each other, so I slipped my field jacket off my right arm and wrapped it around my left forearm to provide something of a shield and opened my knife. Strangely, he didn’t move in during this time and, as he was only wearing a sweatshirt with no jacket, he didn’t have the shield option. With my less effective weapon, I decided I would wait and receive his attack, hoping to entangle his blade with my jacket and cut at his hand or arm as he came in. From my side, at least, there was a lot of prayer going up at this moment and some Bible verse recitation. I wished I had David’s sling and David’s skill with it. We ended up kind of staring at each other across ten or twelve feet of narrow asphalt between the two cars.

Though better armed, my opponent apparently didn’t like the look of the Lion Way that night either and was opting to wait on my attack. When a few minutes passed in the impasse, I told him I was going to the nearest barracks and summon the Military Police. After I moved a little away from him, he turned and ran off, presumably to wherever he had left his car. He left his bag, though. When the MP’s arrived, he could not be found. Okay, so not my finest hour as a warrior. Certainly, I did not earn a seat at the table of feasting in the Hall of Heroes in Valhalla for that night’s work. However, nothing got stolen and no one bled, so I guess that was something good to come out of it. Moreover, after that night, duty officers got issued radios so they could call for help from the scene if required, so that was something else that was good too. The most important thing to come out of that night, though, was a lesson that I learned — when the crisis comes, it is not what you might have available somewhere that is important, but rather it is what you have on you at the time that counts.

This is more than just being prepared. It involves setting priorities about what is most important. No one can carry everything he or she might need for every possible crisis that might arise. So, the question is posed, “What is most important?” the answer, for me, has always been the Word of God: both those bits I’d memorized (like the Twenty-third Psalm I was using that night in the parking lot) and the comfort of carrying a Bible or New Testament with me. I was missing that last item in the parking lot that night and was surprised at how important its absence was. In Viet Nam (and ever after), I always carried a copy of the New Testament in the breast pocket of my flight suit and it was that copy that my co-worker was commenting upon. Of course, that copy is especially comforting because, in addition to the Word of God, it has a steel plate in the binding — the better to stop a bullet with, my dear. Today, I’m able to carry two complete Bibles on my phone in electronic form — an NIV for study and a King James for the pleasure of reading the language. It is a habit I developed and I think it’s stood me in good stead through the years. Certainly, it has given me a great deal of comfort in time of sorrow or fear and it seems that, often, these things leap upon you without warning. When the crisis comes, it is what you have with you at the time, in your heart and in your hand, that counts.

Of course, in fairness I should say, I always carry a better knife now-a-days, too.

~ Kurt Hendrix

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