Grace through a veteran

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

I was walking along the covered walkway from the cafeteria to the master’s building in New Orleans.

The only other person on the walk at that moment was a decorated veteran fighter pilot. He was the guest speaker for an event on campus later that day. I wanted to meet him, but didn’t want to bother him. So I was a little surprised when he turned to me and said hello.

He introduced himself to me, and I introduced myself to him. I have long since forgotten his name, unfortunately, but not what happened next. This man, small in stature yet still an intimidating presence, looked up into my eyes and his words were as direct as his gaze.

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“You need prayer. Tell me what’s going on,” he said.

I opened my mouth and rivers of emotion and stress poured out of my eyes over the contours of my face.

I don’t remember what I told him. I don’t remember what I was going through or dealing with. And I don’t remember the words he prayed.

What I do recall is that he put his right hand on my shoulder and prayed for me. I’m pretty sure I cried the whole time.

After he said amen, he patted and gripped my arm, smiled and spoke words of encouragement before we headed our separate ways.

About the only other thing I remember about that moment is that the sky was overcast. All other details are lost to me.

But after my dad and I prayed together over the phone tonight, that event from 20 years ago came back to the forefront of my mind.

I shared it with my dad, and found myself overcome with emotion once again as I recalled that moment of grace. Obviously, I can still feel its impact.

I guess it’s not important that I remember his name. I associate him with a fictional book for some reason, and have not been able to figure out who he was on the occasions I have thought about him.

I also assume it’s not important that I recall what was burdening me so much that day, or the words spoken by either of us.

That man was God’s instrument of grace and encouragement to me that day. That burden was momentary. It’s lost to history. Those words weren’t vital to recall.

What is important is that I needed to hear from God, to give that burden to God, and to have an encounter that has stuck with me all these years.

One day I’ll see that man again — a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces and a veteran follower of Jesus — but I’ll probably be preoccupied with seeing our shared Savior. I hope I can be that type of servant to God and instrument of blessing to others throughout my life.

And I’m grateful for reminders of grace.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at