“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.
Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.
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In many ways a forgotten war, the War of 1812 was America’s first test as a nation. Had it ended differently, we might have been colonies again.
Reenactors and Living Historians in 2013 reveled in the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg, some of the most monumental battles of the American Civil War. Thousands of participants, tens of thousands of spectators, and merchants of all kinds have gathered to relive these events that shaped our nation and its people forever.
2013 and 2014 have seen anniversaries of other battles from an earlier war which has also shaped American History, the War of 1812. Though overshadowed by its later, longer and bloodier cousin, the War of 1812 was the first major military test of new United States, the only conflict in our history in which a foreign power invaded our states, and the only one in which our capital, Washington DC, was captured. The War of 1812 is famous for Fort McHenry’s valiant stand against the British fleet, the setting of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, and for Andrew Jackson’s (Old Hickory) decimation of the British forces at the Battle of New Orleans.
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Individual units of large organizations and higher headquarters always misunderstand each other. Front line personnel feel like their leaders are detached and sometimes incompetent, while higher level leaders have pressures that small unit personnel do not understand. How do we bring them together?
In Iraq in late 2003 a draft recommendation came to the Task Force 1st Armored Division Headquarters from our higher headquarters, the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters. It referenced tuberculosis in Iraq and proposed aggressive use of preventive measures against the disease, citing huge numbers of new cases per year. As the Task Force Preventive Medicine Officer and Deputy Division Surgeon, I was responsible to review all public health and other medical recommendations coming from outside. The math didn’t seem right and I went to the World Health Organization website to check the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis in Iraq. Suddenly I realized that whoever had made the recommendation had badly overestimated the incidence of new tuberculosis cases. To our medical team it was just another example of trouble from our higher headquarters.
Continue reading “The Dance of the Headquarters”