The Value of Water
Colonel Nick Rowe is not a name most of you have probably heard of before. He was a war hero, in a war that had so few heroes.
He was killed in the Philippines by an assassin. His funeral was one to be remembered. He is buried in Arlington national Cemetery. In all the history of that cemetery, there is only one funeral that had more people in attendance – the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.
Though I never met him, he taught me a lesson that is important for everyday life. But first let me tell you why he is a hero, and among the most honored names of all Special Forces officers.
LTC Rowe was first and foremost a Green Beret soldier – that is Special Forces.
He was captured and made a prisoner of War during the Viet Nam War. Deprivation, torture, hunger, and physical abuse were all used to break the wills of prisoner. It worked on many. But LTC Rowe did not have his will broken.
He always remembered what the first duty of any American soldier is if they are captured. You are to try to escape.
So LTC Rowe worked on escaping. He finally made it one day. He got through the barbed wire, and the razor wire. He made it into the jungle.
Then came the hard task of making it back to safety.
He hid from enemy patrols, running in the night.
In the jungle he was cold, hungry and thirsty.
He finally saw a helicopter. To a soldier like LTC Rowe, it was easy to spot the difference between a U.S. helicopter and that of the enemy’s. It was as easy as it would be for you to spot the difference between a Ford Pickup truck, and a Dodge Caravan Van.
You can tell the difference by the number of blades that you see spinning.
He ran out into the clearing and waved down the helicopter.
Too late – as it landed and he saw the men coming out of the helicopter, he realized he had waved down the wrong kind of helicopter.
For his attempt at escape, they put him into a small cubicle made of steel.
In the daytime the temperature is like an oven.
At night it is like a freezer.
But he didn’t give up his determination. A soldier’s job is to escape. And so, as soon as possible, he did so again.
More physically beat than the first time, he snuck throughout the jungle. Enemy soldiers almost tripped on him in the bushes a couple of times.
This time, he did wave down the right kind of helicopter.
As the helicopter was landing, North Vietnamese troops saw it and came. They were shooting at him as he was dragged on to the ship of his salvation.
He spent time in a hospital, of course. He was one of only 34 prisoners who escaped during that war.
After he recovered, he volunteered to go back to Vietnam. The military had different ideas for him though. They had him teach survival skills, so that others would now how to survive if captured. He is credited with creating all of the military’s escape and evasion courses.
The key question was asked him:why were you able to know the right helicopter the second time, but not the first.
Great men seem to answer with short sentences at key times, and this is what LTC Rowe did. He simply said three words:
Drink more water.
A simple thing. The eight glasses a day that we are supposed to drink has meaning.
Drink more water, and your head will be clearer.
Drink more water and you will be better physically.
Water…a simple answer.
And yet key to his escape from prison.
Salvation, because of water. God’s action through water is something that LTC Rowe taught me.
I knew, “And the Spirit of God moved over the face of the water”, from Genesis. I knew that God was active in creation with water. But it hadn’t really sunk in how God continues to re-create you and me with water each day.
And our word would die without water. We take water for granted.
Water re-created you when you were baptized. While you can’t be re-baptized each day, you can go back to recall that God re-created you that way. In that you can let your spirit drink from that as new life.
From a sermon by Wally Seibel, The Miracle of Water, 1/7/2010
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