Friday, May 15, 2009

Band of Brothers

I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" Grandpa said, "No... but I served in a company of heroes. "
-Mike Ranney, Veteran Paratrooper

Jobina and I have been watching the HBO series "Band of Brothers" this past week on DVD. The series follows the story of Easy Company, paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division. It chronicles them as they begin training, engage the enemy in Europe, and eventually see the end of WWII. It is gritty, intense, violent, graphic, and coarse - yet I found it reflective and inspiring. What makes it special is that before each of the 10 episodes (the series took three years and over 110 million dollars to film) you get small snippets of interviews with some of the very veterans who are portrayed in the film. At the last episode you get to finally find out which veterans are who as they are finally named. The fact that the people portrayed were real people and that you get to see who they are adds a realism seldom seen in such movies. Very compelling.

Today as I was dropping Riker off at the bus stop before school, I was standing with a grandpa who was doing the same thing I was doing. He reminded me of these older veterans and for perhaps the first time ever I thought of myself as an old man and liked the image. At the end of Band of Brothers there are extended interviews and documentaries with the veterans and you can see the comradery and brotherhood that they still share - decades later. They were bonded for life, the kind of bond that is forged in combat and the shared experience of something both traumatic and heroic - and I was jealous of them. I too want that. I too want to be part of a band of brothers. Watching and reflecting on the stories cemented and explained a heart's desire that I always knew I had within me. I've always been excited about the idea of "team" but now I can finally articulate it.

And it doesn't have to be band of literal warriors. In Bill Hybels' book, Courageous Leadership, he talks about how Billy Graham's team went all over the world for many years on their mission to share the good news about Christ. These men were so bonded together from their ministry adventures that they too became like brothers. When it came time for them to retire they loved each other so much that they all built houses in the same rural area so that even in retirement they would be close to each other.

What makes that powerful bonding so enduring? I believe two thing: the shared experiences must be intense and they must have a noble purpose or mission. I've talked to many men who after watching Lord of The Rings desire to be part of a fellowship on a great mission - a mission that is crucial and at great personal risk. They too want to be part of a band of brothers. I found myself praying last night that God would bless me with the opportunity to create or be part of such a group. Although the veterans from Easy Company were severely traumatized by their war experiences they also were given a great gift - the gift of true brotherhood. And that is no small blessing.

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