Serviceman evokes feelings of faith, volunteerism

Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Just before I start to lose faith in the human condition and get swept away in a torrent of apathy, I usually meet someone who restores my faith. James Montgomery, a young National Guardsman from Portales did that for me this week.

James is home for a short two weeks, on leave from his post in Baghdad where he serves as an MP. He took the time to sit down and do an interview for the newspaper with me and I came away impressed.

I was impressed by the tough job and long hours he has been asked to do and by the matter-of-fact way he evidently goes about his dangerous duties. I was impressed by the maturity of such a young man and I was impressed with the caring attitude he maintains, even though he’s dealing with chaos nearly every day.

It was obvious that he had been instilled with the values of service and honor all through his young life and those values have been steeled by his training in the military and the things he has to deal with daily.

It’s hard for me to fathom how quickly a young man or woman can mature or why they should even have to, in our world of ease and convenience. One minute you’re a college student at Eastern New Mexico University, and the next your country calls you to serve amid the dysfunction of Iraq in the toughest and most dangerous job over there — that of military policeman.

The Vietnam draft was discontinued a few years before I became eligible. But I remember the fear I felt of watching the reports of the war on nightly news and worrying that I would go straight into that hell from high school.

James addressed that fear for his generation with a sense of duty and purpose and signed up voluntarily for the guard. He may have had some selfish motivations, like money for a new pickup or a college education influencing his choices but he knew the threats this country faced from terrorists, as we all did after Sept. 11, 2001. I believe after talking to him, he did it mostly to serve his country.

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” I’ve been a Rotarian for the last 23 years and I’ve tried hard to live up to that motto in every community I’ve lived in as an adult.

I know that manning the community garage sale to provide relief for hurricane victims, serving enchiladas to raise scholarship money or putting on a gala ball to fund non-profit grants is important stuff that needs everyday volunteers to make happen. But those endeavors pale during war-time in comparison to the sacrifice of service our men and women in the armed services make for us.

At times in my life my wife has been pretty frustrated with me because I got so many irons in the fire doing service work. But it was usually something I felt that needed to be done or for someone who needed doing for, so she sacrificed her time with me and I sacrificed the energy.

At times I’ve been really frustrated by the lack of volunteers available for different projects I’ve been involved with. It’s tough to look around you and see how many people don’t care to get involved. People have gotten too wrapped up in doing for themselves these days.

We can’t all be called to the kind of service and sacrifice that James Montgomery will return to soon. But we can all make a difference in our own little corner of the world. Portales is a great place to volunteer, be it for a service club, an event or just your church, and none of us has a good excuse to sit idly by.

The very least we can do is send our prayers and appreciation out to the men and women of our armed services.