Sermons

Summary: Rolls reflect association. Membership in the Body of Christ is essential for eternal joys.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.” [1]

His name was Charlie Greer. I doubt that many people outside of his family remember him now. I am reasonably certain that his parents are no longer living; if they are, their hearts are undoubtedly still raw despite the passage of over forty years. He had an older brother and two younger sisters; I met one of those sisters, Roberta, this past year; I hadn’t seen her since Charlie came home for the last time. She still thinks of him; the family members no doubt value the few ageing photographs in albums or hanging in cherished places on the walls. Every Veterans Day and each Memorial Day they probably go to the cemetery and place flowers on the grave, shed a few tears and think of Charlie. Frankly, I can’t forget Charlie. A raw memory of Charlie forces its way into my consciousness at the most inopportune times.

The last time I saw Charlie is vividly etched in my memory. We had joined forces in Fredonia, the county seat of Wilson County Kansas. From Fredonia we rode a Continental Trailways bus to Cherryvale. In Cherryvale we caught the Missouri Pacific passenger train to Kansas City. By unspoken consent Charlie had hidden a couple of bottles of peach brandy in his luggage and I smuggled a couple of bottles of “Old Sour Breath,” and so we spent the hours tippling. We were two teenage boys on our way to war and with teenage bravado; we vainly tried to forget the threat hanging over our heads. By the time we got to Kansas City neither of us was able to form a sound opinion about much of anything; but we were still teenagers and life was sweet and we were about to enter into the service of our country and we would live forever. What would one more night matter? Who could possibly object to us having a little fun?

So we two boys from a small town in Kansas wandered the streets of the big city until well into the morning hours. I had a ticket to stay at the YMCA courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and so I invited Charlie to sleep on the floor for the remainder of the night—all three hours of it. We would then get up and report to the induction centre across the street.

Those few hours swiftly fled and soon we were entering the imposing looking building where we asked a few questions and discovered where we were supposed to go. Pausing before a stern looking United States Army sergeant, Charlie gave his name and stated that he was to report for induction. Looking down a rather long list the sergeant looked up and said, “You were supposed to be here last night, Greer. Where were you?”

Charlie stammered some reply which made no great imprint on my memory, but the rejoinder of that sergeant is stamped indelibly on my memory: “Son, you just bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam.” In retrospect, his words were more a prophecy than a statement, and the words are chilling in their impact to this day.

Charlie grinned and waved good-bye to me and disappeared through the door behind that old sergeant while I continued on my way to the Marine Corps induction centre. Two years later, in April of 1967, Charlie came home from Vietnam. Charlie’s final journey was in a metal coffin carried by six men and accompanied by a friend who had also joined the Marines, Lance Corporal Jack Fail. Two weeks before rotating home, Charlie was shot in the head by a sniper as he walked about believing himself to be secure in his own camp.

Charlie Greer—it’s just a name to most people; but when viewed on line #4 of panel #17E, together with fifty-eight thousand one hundred ninety other names engraved on the black granite wall; but for me, that name evokes some of the most powerful memories imaginable. What memories flood visitors as they approach the wall laughing and chattering! Nearing the wall a strange phenomenon is observed as voices are first muted and then silenced. Other than quiet sobbing or the occasional whisper as a visitor speaks the name of a departed friend or family member, there is no sound. Those 58,191 names of dead and missing men and women are a powerful reminder of the cost of freedom and the folly of unrestrained government.

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