I had lunch yesterday with Bart, the 20 year old from our church who is home for a visit from the Navy. By his own assessment, Bart didn’t show a whole lot of focus in high school. He weighed over 300 pounds and didn’t apply himself to his studies. Somewhere along the way he caught hold of the idea that he wanted to serve his country by entering the Navy like his mother had done a generation earlier. In order to qualify he needed to lose over a hundred pounds. He amazed and inspired us all when he did just that, going out jogging every day.

Bart’s just finished his first yearof service, during which he’s been stationed in Mississippi, and deployed for  extended stays in Guam and Afghanistan. He is in the branch of the Navy that builds the buildings and bridges and other physical structures that support their work, so he is learning pretty much all aspects of construction. Bart hopes to start his own construction business when he finishes in four years, building houses from the ground up. He can’t really say he enjoys life in the Navy, but he clearly appreciates what the experience has done for him in terms of developing self-discipline and focus to his life. Although Bart has made close friendships with the soldiers with whom he lives in extremely close quarters, he has come to a deeper appreciation of his family and friends back home with whom he is rooted, and who he misses a great deal. Although the nature of Bart’s service isn’t intended to place him in combat, the possibility exists in settings like Afghanistan that his unit could be attacked, and so he is trained to defend himself. He hopes he will never be put in a position of having to take another person’s life. Future deployment could well include Iraq. He goes where he is sent.

Bart is his parents’ only son, and they have been worried sick over him. There is no mistaking, however, the transformation that has come over Bart. How easy it is to drift through life. Bart is an inspiration to the rest of us who struggle to find focus and self-discipline in our lives.

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