Memorial Day in the U.S kicks off summer. In the fun of swimming pools opening, picnics, barbecues, summer fashions and the end of the school year, it’s easy to forget the true reason for this holiday: remembering our military servants who died in service to our country. Its roots go back to the Civil War in the United States (1861 to 1865). The end of May was chosen because there are so many flowers available, and there would need to be oh, so many flowers for the 625,000 soldiers killed in that terrible war. Those numbers bring to mind the Book of Mormon Battles.
Has there ever been a time when war was not part of life itself? From the moment that Cain killed Abel, it seems that there has been conflict, large or small, where inflicting human suffering and death is a reality meant to create some kind of winning outcome.
Wickedness, war and turmoil are an important sign of Christ’s coming. Many of the signs are terrifying and dreadful. The prophets have warned that the earth will experience great turmoil, wickedness, war, and suffering. The prophet Daniel said that the time before the Second Coming would be a time of trouble such as the earth has never known (see Daniel 12:1). The Lord said, “The love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound” (D&C 45:27).
Jesus told his disciples that war would fill the earth: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6–7). These wars will continue until a great and final war, the most destructive the world has known. In the midst of this war the Savior will appear. (See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 732.)
Well, Happy Memorial Day! We are living in a time of prophecy! Let us celebrate not only those who have served their countries in war, but those who currently serve and set an inspiring example for the rest of us!
Having lived in the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area for many years, our Wards and Stakes are filled with outstanding military personnel and their families. Most are here for 1-3 years on technical assignments and for training. Others have permanent assignments in the area, i.e., musicians that serve in the bands. Some are deployed, leaving their families here in our wards for safe-keeping while they are gone.
Whatever their rank and for however long they are with us, we love these men and women and their families! We honor them for the sacrifices they make to serve our country.
Without fail, of course, our military servants are physically fit and at an appropriate, healthy weight. It must be so, simply by definition. Their continually peak physique is inspiring to those of us who struggle. For them, it’s part of their job. Meeting that requirement every six months is as routine as making sure their uniforms pass inspection.
Here’s how it works: A weigh-in and a physical fitness test sit-ups, push-ups and a two minute run are given twice a year. Soldiers who exceed the weight charts are measured for body-fat. Those who exceed the Army body-fat standards are enrolled in the Army Weight Management Program. Those in the weight management program must lose between 3 and 8 pounds per month until they meet body-fat standards. Those who fail to make satisfactory progress are subject to involuntary discharge.
Individuals who exceed body-fat standards are ineligible for promotion, professional military education, most non-mandatory training schools, and reenlistment.
(In visiting personally with our military leaders, there is a great deal of support provided when they do not pass this six month test and it is usually resolved before termination is required.)
Of course, military service is not the only career path with a weight requirement that must be met to keep your job: Fire fighters, police and airline personnel and athletes quickly come to mind, not to mention Weight Watchers employees!
It’s a gift from our Heavenly Father, and an absolute truth, of course, that for the very most important jobs and roles in our lives (First as a child of God, and then as we go forth in various capacities as parents, sons, daughters, service in the Kingdom, etc.) what we weigh and our physical fitness level has absolutely no pre-defined bearing on our abilities to fulfill our responsibilities or to measure our capacity to experience joy and success in every way.
With that that being the foundation of this article, it’s interesting to consider …
What is it like live with a weight requirement for employment? Specifically, for our military personnel as they serve the United States in 2012? And would there be any benefit for we non-military individuals to take a closer look at how required fitness might be a very positive benefit for ourselves and our families?
To answer that question, I had two very interesting conversations with two Colonels in the U.S. Army: Colonel James E. Taylor, a Senior Intelligence Officer (a member of of the Rolling Valley Ward, Annandale Stake, and Colonel Brett Barraclough, Security Specialist providing analysis for major U.S. Bases (a member of of the Springfield Ward, Annandale Stake.)
They are here in the Washington, D.C. area on assignment. Both have been stationed here more than once in their military careers. Both grew up with dreams of becoming a military officer. In Brother Taylor’s case, there is the family tradition of having come from a family were every generation has had a military servant since the U.S. Revolutionary War in the 1770’s.
Both have served in various LDS Church leadership positions in many parts of the United States and around the world as they also have served in the Army. Both have families with their youngest children still at home. Interestingly, both are currently serving the youth of the Church: Brother Taylor in the Stake Young Men Presidency and Brother Barraclough as a seminary teacher.
“How do you handle that 6-month weigh-in and fitness test?” I asked both of them. “Is it something that hangs as a concern for you?”
“Absolutely NOT!” They both answered emphatically, and the conversations went from there. The were both adamant in explaining that managing their personal weight is daily maintenance issue, not a twice-a-year big deal.
Brother Taylor was 17 years old when he went to Boot Camp. “I was 20 pounds overweight. They worked it off me with running, training and the grueling physical demands that define boot camp. I have kept it off ever since with running every day. I like to do 5 miles, but when that is not possible time-wise I do whatever I can. An hour is optimal. It’s absolutely imperative that I DO find time to exercise.”
He then added authoritatively:
“I lead by example! It’s a leadership issue!!! I have many officers at various ranks underneath me, and they have soldiers underneath them! If I cannot find, create and manage the time and motivation required to keep my weight and fitness in top form, how can I expect it of them and their soldiers?”
I mentioned to him how amazing it would be, and how the overall health of the nation would improve if parents saw themselves as true leaders for their families, and set the example with adequate exercise and nutrition.