Chaplain’s Corner: Once Upon A Time

chaps-cornerBy Chaplain (Capt.) Mark A. Johnston, Fort Benning /

FORT BENNING, Ga., (Oct. 12, 2016) — Once upon a time, 1968(ish) to be exact(ish), there were two boys growing up in the huge metropolis of Opp, Alabama. These boys we will call Mark and David. We will call them that since these were their name.

Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Johnston

Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Johnston

It was sometime around the Thanksgiving Holidays and these two boys were feeling rather bored and looking for a little excitement. Behind David’s house, across a field of broom straw, was Perry Store Road. (If you drove on this road far enough you would end up at Ellis’ Store. I guess years ago Mr. Ellis bought the store from Mr. Perry. Whoever they were. I never have figured out the derivation of the road name.)

Anyway, if you drove left for about a mile from where the boys were standing in the broom straw next to Perry Store Road, you would find the Opp Concrete Company. The cement trucks (pronounced SEE-mint in Opp) would speed up as they passed where the boys were standing in order to get up the hill on which the cement plant was located.

One of these boys asked the other: “I wonder how fast one of these cement trucks could stop?” In finding out the answer to this fascinating question, the following sequence of events took place.

The boys waited for a cement truck to reach the top of the hill to their right. As the truck began to pick up speed, the boys stepped out of the broom straw and into the path of the on-coming truck. Like two very small traffic cops, the boys put out their hands for the driver to stop.

Apparently the driver of the truck understood the universal symbol for stop and slammed on the brakes with all his might. The truck veered to the right, narrowly missing the boys (who continued to stand in the middle of Perry Store Road with their hands outstretched) and flipped on its’ side into the ditch. (I am still not sure how we, I mean, the boys planned to measure the stopping distance of the truck if it indeed did stop but I suppose it is immaterial at this point.)

The driver of the cement truck, as you can imagine, was not at all interested in how fast cement trucks can stop. However, he was very interested in speaking to these two boys and he insisted on speaking with their parents.

After ascertaining from the boys where they lived, he escorted them to David’s home, and in very vivid detail and colorful language explained to David’s mom what the boys had done. In doing so, he completely missed any scientific value such experiments might yield and only focused on his poor driving skills.

We, I mean, the boys never got a chance to explain their application of the scientific method to a problem of physics involving cement trucks and stopping distances. Instead, the boys got a whoopin’. You may know it as a spanking but that would not be a forceful enough word to adequately describe the procedure. Then David’s mom called David’s dad who came home immediately from work and proceeded to speak to the boys in the same colorful language the cement truck driver had used. He too gave both of us a whoopin’.

Then, as if that were not enough indignity for one day, both of David’s parents marched the boys over to my, I mean, Mark’s home where Mark’s mom whooped both of them. Later that evening, when Mark’s dad got home, Mark had to walk over to David’s house and invite him and his parent’s over as prosecution witnesses so that David could share in the unjust punishment inflicted upon him.

Finally, you will be glad to hear, the boys were not allowed to ride on the fire truck with Santa Claus during the annual Christmas parade. (I’m afraid they may have been on the naughty list anyway.)
What are the lessons to be learned here?

First, do not always listen to the good idea fairy when something pops into your head that seems like a good idea. Speak to someone you trust that has more experience in life than you do and see if it is still a good idea. I still do that and I am 55 years old.

Secondly, if I could survive childhood then your children are going to be just fine. Cut yourself a little slack. Some of you are too hard on your kids and on yourself. It is hard to be a parent but much harder to be an Army family.

I am proud of all of our Army Families on Fort Benning for going through all the deployments and PCS’s and to still do such an outstanding job as families. And lastly, it takes all of us to raise these kids. When you need help, ask for it. There is no better job than being a Chaplain in the Army and that is because I get to work with the finest people in the world. The Soldiers and Families of the United States Army.

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