Some people might say that jumping out of a plane and free falling until a parachute is opened is not really flying or superheroic, but I argue that it is. It was man that put himself up on that plane and man who figured out how to free fall to safety. It was man who realized the need to do this in order to defend the innocent people of his nation. Any soldier who commits himself to the defense of his nation signs a “blank check” to the people of that nation. The call of his duty will determine how that check is cashed – anything, up to and including his life.
HALO stands for High Altitude, Low Opening, and it is a form of military insertion. In HALO training the soldiers are taken up to 32,000-46,000 feet above the ground and they learn to use night vision goggles and radar altimeters strapped to the chest to monitor position relative to narrowly specified landing positions. To get some perspective, 747′s fly that high. So next time you are on passenger airliner, imagine jumping out of it and guiding yourself to a certain predetermined location – in enemy territory – at night! At those altitudes there is little oxygen and great care must be taken not to panic and to regulate the body to avoid decompression sickness. One breath of the air could render the jumper unconscious. The temperature is 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. A hole in the protective suiting means frostbite, hypothermia and death. It’s that cold. And there’s always the danger of the parachute not opening. I asked my husband, “Knowing all of that danger, what goes through your mind when you jump?”
“Man, I hope I don’t die.” He always said the Lord’s Prayer too.
Men do die in training. It’s part of the commitment and it takes a lot to learn how to complete a HALO insertion. The soldiers train 20-30, or even a hundred, times before they actually begin the mission. In HALO school before anyone jumps there is intense training in a wind tunnel and the soldiers learn to fly their bodies. They literally learn to maneuver together, to manipulate the body synchronized with everyone else so that they will land where they are supposed to land.
All that danger just to get to square one of the mission.
So, about that “may can fly” thing. Yes, he can fly because he was meant to fly. It’s not just that man has figured out how to build airplanes, how to parachute to the ground, or even that man knows he must defend and uphold something greater than himself – that makes him able to be a superhero. It is that the human spirit, when lifted by faith, can reason that peace and justice are worth defending because mankind is progressing towards the ultimate end, to the Kingdom of Justice and Peace, the Kingdom of Heaven. Man, created in the image and likeness of God the Father, redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ the Son, and sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was in fact made to soar. For that matter, the ground was never given to him as a permanent dwelling place anyway.
I also found myself wondering how any man could commit himself to such noble acts without faith in something greater than himself. Why would you risk your life for strangers, for justice, for peace, for the future of a nation? Why? If there is nothing beyond yourself, then what is the reasonable argument for risking your life for nothing? I am overwhelmingly grateful to the soldiers out there who do these things that we never hear about. We don’t know who has has done what to keep us safe. I will never even know the details of my husband’s missions over 20 years ago. Obviously he didn’t pay the ultimate price, but he was wounded and he has memories. Some of the dozen men in his A-teams were killed under his command and he considered it his duty to tell the parents in person. That haunts him more than anything else.
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