Thursday, May 2, 2013

Falling on Deaf Ears?

He took his ears off!

He was one of the injured soldiers helping to MC a charity benefit banquet Tuesday night here in Dallas.  At one point during the live auction, when the professional auctioneer was joking around with him, the soldier took his ears off.

His own hears, mind you; not the ears of the auctioneer!

You see, this wounded veteran had scary-looking burn wounds all over his head, face, and neck.  He was wearing his snazzy dress blues, but from the stiff way he moved about, I imagine his scars covered more of his body than just what we could see.  He could hear through small holes in the sides of his head, and the stick-on prosthetic ears only funneled sound into those holes, like our own attached ears do.

Weird, huh?

That was just one of many odd sights at the Helping a Hero Warrior Dinner at downtown Dallas' fashionable Fairmont Hotel.  And speaking of fashion, for a while, several of us in our group didn't know if we were at a Republican event or a porn convention.

Although, I suppose liberals would say they're both the same thing!

Technically, the evening was billed as a non-partisan affair, but it was obvious which political party guests overwhelmingly favored, even if conservatism was a concept observed more in theory than style of dress.  There were so many women with fake tans, bleached blond hair, artificially-fattened lips, skimpy dresses, high-heeled shoes, and absurdly large chests, you'd have thought Hugh Heffner's harem was crashing the party.  My friends and I had to keep from literally laughing out loud at some of them.  Especially the ones who obviously weren't young.

Actually, I kinda felt sorry for them.  But not for their plastic surgeons.

Poor Miss Teen Dallas was there, too, and the girl had more makeup caked on her face than her grandmother probably wears.  Talk about gilding a lily.

Indeed, people-watching the women with all of their silicone body parts and orange tans was entertaining in and of itself.  It was about as unsatisfying, however as the event's official entertainment, a vulgar-mouthed Irish golf pro who, aside from failing horribly at mimicking Joan Rivers' legendary bashing of minority groups (in this case, disfigured war veterans and gay actors), proved to be a poster child for everything liberals say is wrong with conservatives.  Not only was his partisan rhetoric stale, but much of it has been proven to be unfounded.  After a while, even the conservative audience grew tired of him.

So, what kind of benefit banquet was this, you ask?  It was thrown by HelpingaHero.org, a charity that builds handicap-accessible homes for wounded veterans around the country.  They were raising money for more homes, and also raising awareness of the growing need for housing that is functional for soldiers returning home without arms and legs.

HelpingaHero.org isn't the only group doing this sort of thing, but they're one of the largest, most visible, and most respected*.  Considering the need for such homes, I got the impression that if, for some reason, you didn't want to give money specifically to their charity, they want you at least to give to another homebuilding charity for veterans.

Apparently, our government contributes next to nothing for these homes.  Most of the cost to construct and furnish such a home is borne by HelpingaHero.org and their army of volunteers, suppliers, and celebrity advocates such as Ross Perot, Laura Bush, Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith, and Roger Staubach.  Local municipalities usually waive permit fees and expedite inspections in an effort to help.  About $50,000 from the cost of each project is paid for by the servicemember and their family, so they can claim some ownership stake in their home.

Tuesday night, ceremonial keys were given to six local wounded veterans and their families, although only five of the veterans could be there in person to give a short speech, and let us give them a standing ovation in gratitude for their service.  The vets were all well-spoken and apparently adjusting well to their new physical condition.

One of the veterans, a leg amputee, had just received his new prosthetic leg, and was still "on a test drive," as he put it, walking gingerly with a cane as he teetered about the stage.  Another veteran, burned almost as badly as the guy with fake ears, gave a resounding testimony to his salvation through Christ, and how God had given him hope despite his obvious infirmities.  If the MC hadn't moved to reacquire the microphone, he'd have probably gone on for a while, sharing his joy in Christ.  It made me wonder what my own attitude would be if I got burned so badly in a war.

Actually, much of the evening was poignant for me, since I'd just spent the day researching and blogging about Michael Weinstein and his efforts at making proselytization in the military a court martial offense.  Weinstein claims that religion that provides private comfort to the troops is tolerable, but the minute a soldier crosses the line and starts sharing their faith with another soldier, they're destroying morale and usurping the authority of our Constitution.

Which makes it ironic to hear the one burned veteran so cheerfully and convincingly share his faith with us in the Fairmont's ballroom.  Does Weinstein really think that the power of God in a soldier's life could ever be inhibited by a Pentagon directive?  Forget the theology about this for a moment, and consider the practical basics of what Weinstein wants:  if you've got a soldier in an Army hospital, who's been burned within an inch of his life, and that soldier wants to tell people about why he's not bitter or angry, who's gonna stop him?  Who would want to?  Even if you're an atheist nurse, isn't it counter-productive to outlaw those things which provide such healing to the soul?  And, by extension, the body?

According to some advocates of criminalizing proselytization, being in the military is just like working for any company with rules of conduct prohibiting the sharing of one's faith while on the job.  But how many companies, say, that were headquartered in the World Trade Center on September 11 would have forbidden their employees from reciting Scripture and praying out loud after their buildings had been attacked?

In an article today for World Magazine's website, my reporter friend there, J.C. Derrick, quotes Rear Admiral William Lee as saying that no matter what the Pentagon may say about sharing one's faith, he's going to continue doing so.  That's not exactly the clear-cut refutation we'd like to have heard; that there's nothing for us to worry about regarding Weinstein's antagonism.  Liberals have been trying to clamp down on the religious stuff in our military for some time now, and even Lee predicts that this issue isn't going away.  But if somebody can find a Constitutional way to prohibit proselytization in the military, doing so logistically will only work as long as soldiers aren't staring death in the face.

It's almost as if Weinstein and his conspirators have the same type of ears as the other burn victim on the stage this past Tuesday at the Fairmont.  Stick-on.  Fake.  Deaf to the reality of life in Christ.

Let's pray that Weinstein will hear the voice of God.  And that for him, it will be a voice of mercy, and not of banishment.  Hell may not actually be the pit of fire it's popularly characterized as, but the two burn victims I saw Tuesday night should convince anybody that fire's not something to be mocked.

And I can proselytize to Weinstein like this because I'm in God's "army," not his!
_____

*Update 11/17/14:  Helping a Hero is now being accused by some injured veterans of fraud and mismanagement.

Update:  For more information on the increasing restrictions on religious liberty in our military, click here.


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