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Many parents teach their children that, “fighting never solves anything”; but that always seemed a bit narrow to me.  A child could easily, and understandably interpret that to mean that there was never a time to fight, and from my perspective, that is not true.  Though I’ve taught my kids that fighting is almost never the answer, I’ve balanced that with the understanding that there are times when it is absolutely necessary to take a stand.  As my son now stands at the threshold of military service, I offer this context for the battle that lies ahead.

 

Our battle is not with flesh and blood

But with the spiritual forces of darkness

We do not fight to show ourselves strong

We fight in order to defend the weak

We do not fight to enslave our adversaries

We fight so that all men can be free

We do not fight to obtain what does not belong to us

We fight to preserve our God given rights

We do not fight because we hate our enemies

We fight to protect the one’s we love

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Our son Patrick made what promises to be a life-changing commitment yesterday, as he signed a contract with the United States Marine Corps. Under the terms of this agreement, he pledged to become a member of the active duty service upon the completion of high school, and within the next 12 months. As such, he was sworn into the Inactive Reserve component of the Marines and will work with the Recruiting Command for the interim period, in preparation for his service. If the schedule holds, he will be leaving for Parris Island within a few weeks of graduation. It was a serious step and one that I believe he was ready to make.

There are some who would question the wisdom of allowing our 17 year old son to make such a commitment, and to be sure, it wasn’t something we came to suddenly or lightly. In fact, this was really the culmination of a journey that began the moment he was born. On that day, I wrote him a letter, which I’ve linked to this article (go tohttps://bryancorbin.com/2010/02/15/letter-to-my-newborn/ ). Within it, I acknowledge that the season of our influence would be relatively short, and I express my desire for him to become the person he was created to be. Ever since then I’ve been looking for clues as to who that might be. From day one, he was a high energy action figure. Climbing, jumping, talking, singing, dancing, laughing… he was always ready to charge up the hill, even when no one was willing to follow. He started in soccer at age 5, and through the years he’s continued with basketball, football, baseball, and wrestling. And for him, it has never been about winning games, it has always been about going into battle alongside his brothers.

The military tradition is strong on both sides of our family. My wife’s grandfather was in the Army during World War II, her brother enlisted in the Air Force, and my kids were old enough to remember when her cousin was in Iraq. My father and his brother were both career military men and Vietnam vets. My dad did 26 years in the Air Force, and my Uncle did 29 years in the Marines. My brother and I joined the Navy together, and I eventually did 12 years of service. From a young age, Patrick loved Veteran’s Day, and beamed when I’d come to the school programs. Years ago, as we visited some old mothballed ships in Charleston, he bought a US Marine flag that hangs over his bed to this day.

As he grew, many other gifts emerged, and we pondered whether these other things (e.g. acting, singing, dancing, drawing) might be a pathway to a different future. For the last couple of years we’ve talked a lot about potential careers and colleges, but it all seemed to have an unsettling effect on him. The further we went down those avenues, the more confused he seemed to become. At times, he even wondered aloud at who he was supposed to be. Eventually, I realized that he was simply afraid of disappointing us and that these things weren’t really what he was after. As we revisited the idea of the military, he seemed to come alive. As I prayed about how best to guide him, God seemed to remind me of who Patrick is at his core, and I began to feel the momentum building toward this end. Even though he’s grown up in a time when these things are not especially valued, he passionately believes in the concepts of duty, faithfulness, honor, accountability, courage, and valor. The fact that things are hard or dangerous doesn’t seem to hinder him. And in the end, I concluded that what we wanted for Patrick wasn’t nearly as important as helping him discover who he was made to be, and encouraging him down that path.

Again, there are those who might question the idea of embracing what could be a dangerous road for our son to go down, but I would submit that there is no pathway forward that is without risk. Indeed, one need only watch the news to see that peril can appear anywhere and without warning. Our world needs brave men (like Pat), who are willing to step into the unknown, and to make a stand for the things that truly matter. Though we clearly recognize what is at stake, how can we justify trying to inhibit him from answering that call. No parent wants to ponder the possibilities, and Lord knows that we will be praying fervently, but if this is who he was created to be, we’ll have to fight the Creator in order to make him something else.

We did require him to look at all four branches of the service, and he did like them all to some degree. But everything about the Marines seemed to fit; heck, even his recruiter is named Staff-Sgt. Corbin. None of us knows the future. This could simply be a necessary step in Pat’s preparation for something else, or maybe this will be the place that Pat shines his light for years to come. I firmly believe that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God, and that He works all things to the good of those who love Him and who are trying to fulfill His purposes in their lives. I believe that Patrick is that kind of man.

As a parent, our strong impulse is to protect our kids; but just as important is the need to prepare them to make a life of their own. Though we will always love them, they were never meant to remain our children (i.e. be dependent on us). I’m proud of Patrick’s decision to jump into adulthood with both feet. It is typical of the way he’s always done things. He is full of passion and low on fear. I’m proud that in an age of entitlement, he embraces the values of service, and sacrifice. I’m proud that he’s not tempted by the path of least resistance, which I’ve come to view as the road to hell.

Just like the night he was born, I’ll struggle to let him go. But I will. I always knew that the day would come when I’d have to put him back in the hands of the One who handed him to me.

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There is an old saying that goes something like, “I wish I knew back then what I know now”.  And as I look back to my own graduation, here are some of those things I wish I had understood.

 

  1. Life is not a ride, it’s a journey.  A ride is simply being carried along to wherever the vehicle happens to be going, while a journey has an ultimate destination, which requires some navigation and effort to complete.  Unless we purpose in our heart to be someone, or to do something, we are likely to live life like a pinball; propelled by gravity and bouncing from one obstacle to another.  Anything worthwhile in life will require some investment on our part.  Those who are unwilling to make such an investment will generally be pushed along by the winds of circumstance to some uncertain end.

  1. Not everyone who agrees with you is for you, and not everyone who disagrees with you is against you. In this era of political correctness openly disagreeing with someone is often viewed as being “intolerant” of their beliefs (i.e. a hater).  But there are times when caring for a person dictates that we confront and contradict them.  Conversely, there are those who are perfectly willing to allow you to drive headlong into disaster, as long as it serves their own selfish agenda.

  1. Misery not only loves company, it wants to settle down and have children too.  I’ve noticed that miserable people not only seek out other miserable people to bond with, but that they’ll often unconsciously sabotage anything that has the potential to pull them from their misery.  There are few emotions that are as debilitating and self-sustaining as self-pity.  Generally, the only way to remain free of such feelings is through a dogged determination not to live that way.  As long as we are willing to blame other people, and circumstances, for our condition, we will remain powerless to change it.

  1. What other people believe about you isn’t as important as what you believe about yourself. Only the things which we genuinely believe have the ability to impact how we live.  Therefore, the only words (positive or negative) that have the power to move us are those which we accept as truth.  If a man concludes that he is a failure, no amount of praise or encouragement can bring him to victory; and if a man concludes that he is an over-comer, no amount of criticism can hold him back.  While we are generally powerless to keep others from speaking about us, we possess the ultimate responsibility for what we are willing to accept as truth.

  1. Planting apple seeds won’t get you an orange tree. Just as dependable as the law of gravity is the concept that we will reap (i.e. harvest) what we sow (i.e. plant).  Though this phrase is immediately recognizable to most people, there are few who actually live as though it were true.  Our human nature will often cause us to be unforgiving with other people, while expecting generosity in return; to be deceptive about our motivations, while expecting others to deal with us honestly; and to be selfish about our desires, while expecting others to be considerate of us.  We must always remain conscious of the fact that the cup we use to dispense blessing is the cup that we will eventually drink our blessings from.

  1. For everything there is a season and it’s important not to despise the season that you’re in.  If you live long enough you notice that there is a sort of pattern that life follows and that things come and go in seasons.  While we have a natural tendency to like some seasons better than others, I’ve found that every season comes with both challenges and blessings.  If we focus on the challenges of the season we’re in, we’ll often miss the blessings, and spend our time pining away for the season to change.  Conversely, if we focus on the blessings of each season, it makes the challenges easier to endure, and brings a sense of variety to the journey.

  1. It’s doubtful that anyone is really “out to get you”. Generally, a person has to be of significant consequence before someone is willing to invest the time and energy it takes to conspire against them.  I would suggest that we are more often damaged because people aren’t considerate of our position than we are because people have made a conscious effort to hurt us.  Though this knowledge doesn’t necessarily dampen the pain, it should aid in our endeavor to forgive.

  1. When you keep your own score, you always feel as though you’re losing. The problem with keeping score is that we naturally tend to under-appreciate our blessings, and to have an exaggerated sense of our hardships.  Because of that, people who keep score in life generally feel as though they’re never quite being given their due.  Ultimately, it’s better to just give our best in any given situation and to let someone else maintain the scorecard.

  1. The path of least resistance is rarely a road worth taking.  Often what causes something to be valuable is that it cannot be easily attained.  It follows then that the most valuable things in life normally require some perseverance to apprehend.  While everyone may sincerely want these kinds of things for their life (e.g. a healthy body, a strong marriage, a successful career…), few are willing to endure the process it takes to secure them.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture that increasingly values convenience above quality, and in which many of our children have grown up with an expectation of the instant gratification of their desires. Many a parent has worked hard to ensure that their kids get a great education, so that these children won’t have to struggle like they did.  But this ignores the fact that it is in the midst of the struggle that we tend to develop our character and work ethic; and that without this development we are generally ill equipped to handle adversity.  I’ve found that you can teach someone with character and work ethic just about anything, but without those qualities, an education becomes of little value.  I’ve also come to believe that giving my children everything that I didn’t have when I grew up will likely handicap them for life.

  1. There are few jobs easier than being a critic and few that are more taxing than being a builder. I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times in my life when I’ve been like the guy who sits in the back of the classroom, ridiculing the person who’s teaching the class.  Playing the role of critic, while someone sincerely tries to have a positive influence on the people around them.  While I might try to rationalize that their efforts were less than perfect, or maybe even in vain, life has taught me how little that criticism helps anyone.  It takes a tremendous amount of effort and patience to bring unity where there has only been division, or to stir a group to battle, when they’ve only known defeat, or to restore a sense of hope to a place of desolation…  The builder must make a concerted effort to create, while the critic can bring destruction with little effort.  As a witness to, and a participant in, both of these processes, I’ve committed myself to spending the rest of my days being engaged in the building up and not the tearing down.

  1. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.  Experience teaches us that the road to victory is generally paved with some amount of defeat; and that how we respond to those defeats will generally determine whether or not we ever come to the place of victory.   While victory tends to be the goal of every player, I’ve found that what we remember is how they played the game.  It is not necessarily the player with the highest winning percentage that captures our imagination, it is the player who played unselfishly, or with integrity, or who overcame the biggest odds…  Even for those who taste great victory, it is always in a moment that quickly passes into a lifetime of other moments.  At the moment we pass from this life, it won’t be that moment of glory that matters most; it will be how we lived all the other moments that ultimately defines us.

      –

  1. It’s hard to be Clint Eastwood if you’re really Mr. Rogers. As I was growing up my conception of what a man was came largely from my father, who was a big fan of men like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.   Throughout my adolescence there were other icons (e.g. John Travolta – Saturday Night Fever, Sly Stallone – Rambo, Don Johnson – Miami Vice…) who seemed to collectively shape the culture’s conception of manhood, and who I unconsciously graded myself against.  Since I was nothing like these men I assumed that I just wasn’t much of a man, and in subtle ways I let their image affect how I walked, talked, dressed…  But as I got older I began to notice that there weren’t many things less attractive than someone trying to be something that they’re not (e.g. a middle aged woman dressed like teenager; a suburban white kid acting as though he grew up in the ghetto; a man with a bad toupee, acting as though it is his natural hair…).  I eventually came to peace with the understanding that regardless of the fact that I bear little or no resemblance to the trendy cultural images of manhood, the best thing I could do was to be myself.  That catharsis has  allowed me to do things like wear the clothes that I feel comfortable in; to act silly in public, just to make my kids laugh; to say “I love you too honey” when I hang up the phone in front of someone; to cry at sad movies…, all without feeling self-conscious.  I highly recommend it.

  1. Love grows over time. We live in a society that seems affixed on the idea of trading in and up, on an almost constant basis (e.g. cellphones, computers, cars, houses…); and that basic philosophy carries into our relationships as well.  Most of our cultural allusions toward love seem centered on initial attraction and the titillation of something new; but that is ultimately the shallow end of the relationship pool.  It isn’t until you’ve experienced a love that lasts for years that you come to understand the depth and profound fulfillment that accompanies it.  This same aesthetic applies to friendships as well (i.e. I wouldn’t trade a few old friends for 500 “friends” on Facebook).

  1. No person or thing can “make you happy”.  People can support us, love us, inspire us, and even enhance the quality of our life.  But unless we determine within ourselves to find the joy, the beauty and the hope within our given circumstance, we will never be “happy”. The idea that it is someone else’s role to bring happiness into our life places tremendous pressure on our relationships, often causing them to fail (e.g. they just don’t make me happy anymore…).  Similarly, material things do not have the ability to bring satisfaction to our souls.  I’ve noticed that people, who can be grateful for what they have today, will generally be that way regardless of what they have.  And that people, who crave something more, will normally continue to crave regardless of what they get.

  1. The best things in life cannot be held in our hands or necessarily even be seen. A young person’s dreams are often rooted in tangible gains, like a mate, income, a career, a family, a home…  But as a person attains those kinds of things, values seem to shift from the tangible to the transcendent.  At the end of a long life, it is things like friendship, faith, love and hope that are ultimately treasured.

  1. Look out for that curve dead ahead. Growing up can often be a disappointing process.  When you’re 10, you imagine that becoming a “teenager” will change everything.  But a few days after your 13th birthday, you realize that things are pretty much the same.  Then you start dreaming about turning 16, and getting your license, which is cool; but again, you quickly recognize that it doesn’t make as much difference as you thought.  Even 18 is that way.  Yeah, you’re legally an adult now, yet you still have to turn in your homework and get up for school the next day.  But finishing High School is different.  Though you may not sense it immediately, the rules change dramatically.  Up to this point, there was a system specifically designed to carry you along.  There was a whole panel of adults (e.g. parents, grandparents, pastors, youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, counselors…) assigned to provide guidance, boundaries, bedtimes, wake-ups, rides, resources, and incentives to stay on the right track.  There were organized activities intended specifically for you, like sports teams, school plays, dances, and 4H club.  And there was an education system built to pretty much ensure your success.  As long as you cooperated (i.e. showed up with a decent attitude) with these processes, you were almost guaranteed to make it through.  But now, that all changes.  Adulthood is very much a give and take proposition.  Generally, you get out of it what you put into it.  Even staying in school changes.  Colleges and Universities are businesses.  You pay to take their classes.  If you don’t show up, the teacher isn’t going to come looking for you.  If you don’t turn in your work, they will not scold you, or even ask about it.  If you fail the class, they will happily allow you to pay them to take the course over again next semester.  The workplace, and relationships, and almost every other facet of life works similarly.  If you want to have a great marriage, a successful career, or even to live in an exceptional community, you need to invest yourself (i.e. time, energy, passion…) in it.  Simply showing up, empty handed, will no longer get it done.  Ultimately, life was never meant to be a spectator sport – so I’d highly recommend that you dive in.

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Clearly, I meant to post this yesterday.  But, as is so often the case, things got away from me.

 

Over the years I’ve written a few tributes to my father, but I don’t recall ever doing so for my mom.  I’m sure this has to do with the fact that my dad contracted a terminal illness (and passed away) at a relatively young age.  But honor shouldn’t be reserved for the dead, and kind words ought not be saved for eulogies.  So on the occasion of Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fitting to share a few thoughts about my mother.

 

My parents had four children, three stair step boys, and then, more than a decade removed, a daughter.  I was the bottom rung of the first wave, and easily my parents most challenging kid.  My oldest brother was one of those precocious children, who talked as though he was 35 years old by the time he was six.  Our middle brother was quiet, but did well in school, and excelled at every sport he ever played (My grandmother actually referred to him as her “Golden Boy”).  And then, I came along.  Blind as a bat, emotionally unstable, and full of imagination; I was literally walking into walls by the time I reached school age.  Between struggles in the classroom, skirmishes on the playground, and little brother meltdowns, I was a kid who required a lot of parenting.  And because of my father’s demanding Air Force career, the lion’s share of that fell to my mom.  I have no doubt that it was at times exasperating, and exhausting to deal with me.  Lord knows, that was the way it felt to be me.  But my mother was never one to shrink back from a challenge, and she wouldn’t let me do so either.  As much as I wanted to accept the rather overwhelming evidence that I was simply an inferior model, she was having none of it.  She made it her mission to ensure that all of her kids would be ready to face to the world, and little by little, I began to pull out of my tailspin.

 

Unfortunately, just about the time I grew strong enough to stand on my own two feet, I began to drift into things that my parents had strictly forbidden.  My weak sense of identity caused me to look for the place that I fit in, and resulted in me trying a little bit of everything.  In those years, I made many disappointing and hurtful choices, but my parents stuck with me.  My mom’s persistent belief, and her prayers of protection, were without a doubt a key to surviving that season.  Though I broke her heart many times, she refused to give up on me.

 

It took some years, but the seeds that were planted throughout my life finally took root, and things began to turn.  God finally convinced me that my mother had been right all along, and that I wasn’t some sort of defective piece of machinery.  In His grace, God allowed me to become a father, where I gained a new appreciation for the kind of love it takes to raise a kid like me.  As I look back, I can’t help but think that God gave me to a mother that He knew would be strong enough to fight the battles, and persistent enough to go the distance.  Indeed, my mother is an extraordinary person, whose love for me has made all the difference.  If not for her, I would not have become the man that I am today.

 

As I look back, I thank God for the love that she and my father shared, which showed us that marriage was meant to last a lifetime.  I thank God that she refused to raise boys who sit around in the underwear, watch cartoons and don’t know the first thing about taking care of themselves (or anyone else).  And I thank God that after years of dealing with my disarray, He rewarded my parents with their best kid, my sister.

 

Happy Mother’s Day mom!

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Back in October, my oldest son broke his arm while playing high school football; and what I thought would be a relatively quick run to the emergency room turned into days of hospitalization and multiple surgeries.  Late on that first evening, while under the influence of some pretty strong pain medication, he said, “I wish this had never happened”.  And as he drifted off to sleep, I thought about how often life presents us with situations that we wish had never happened.  Sickness, injury, car trouble, divorce, unexpected bills, loss of a loved one, bad grades, getting laid off, missing the game winning shot, identity theft, unplanned pregnancy, a traffic ticket, betrayal, addiction…  It seems that the fabric of our days has many such threads woven into it. 

 

In light of that fact, I began to wonder how well we’ve prepared our kids to face that kind of adversity.  Unwittingly, and in the name of protecting them, we can run out in front of our kids, removing every obstacle from their path, and at times, even going back to clean up their messes behind them.  We rationalize that we’re trying to give them every advantage, and get them off to a good start.  But too often they emerge from childhood totally unprepared to cope with the inherent struggles of adult life.  While the instinct to protect our children, and to do for them, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it must be balanced with the need to prepare them to go out and make a life of their own.  Too many people of my generation are raising their grandkids, and/or paying their adult children’s bills; and often times that is simply the fruit of seeds that we unintentionally planted along the way.

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As the Thanksgiving holiday approached my heart was burdened to consider those who have no family to gather with; but as we emerged from the weekend, I was even more saddened by the number of those who have no appreciation for the families that they have.

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My 16 year old son is involved in the Corps of Cadets program at his high school, which is like a Junior ROTC program.  And he was picked to give a speech at the school’s annual Veteran’s Day assembly.  These are the words he’s chosen to say.

 

Veteran’s Day Speech

By Patrick Corbin

 

I’d personally like to welcome everyone to today’s Veterans Day program.  It’s a huge honor for me to represent our school, and the Corps. of Cadets, on this special occasion.  We are especially grateful for today’s honored guests, the men and women of our armed forces.  It is through their valor, and sacrifice, that we are able to gather here today.

 

I come from a family with a tradition of service to their country.  My Grandfather (Tom) was on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years.  His brother (Jim) was on active duty in the U.S. Marines for over 27 years.  Both were Vietnam War veterans.  Then my father and his brother joined the U.S. Navy together after high school.  My Dad spent 8 years on submarines, 4 years with the Seabees, and was a Persian Gulf War veteran.  My Uncle Kevin served for 6 years, and was on the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise.  My cousin Ben was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and my cousin Nick was a Guardsman who served in Iraq.  I am proud to be a part of a family who believes in sacrificing for the good of others.  I think that we all should serve our families, our neighbors, and our country.  We have been blessed because all of our family members have returned home, but I think that we should give special honor to all of the families whose loved ones didn’t make it back.  We often make the rich and famous out to be heroes, but these veterans are the real heroes.  One day, I hope I can be a part of this family tradition by serving my country.

 

Today, I’ve been asked to give a brief history on the origins of Veteran’s Day.  The recognition of this day dates back to the end of World War I, when the “armistice” was signed on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month (i.e. November 11th, 1918).  A year later, the President declared a moment of silence on November 11th, in remembrance of this event, and it went on to become an annual tradition.  In 1938, congress declared “Armistice Day” to be a legal holiday.  This tradition continued until after World War II, when a man named Raymond Weeks suggested that the day should honor all veterans, and not just those from the First World War.  In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, and “Armistice Day” officially became “Veteran’s Day”.

 

Though I am grateful for this day of special recognition, I believe that it is important to understand that for many veterans the struggle goes on every day.  There are those who’ve suffered physical wounds that left their bodies broken, and there are those who’ve suffered wounds to their hearts and minds, that left their souls and spirits broken.  For them, the battle continues.  Sadly, even those without significant disabilities often struggle to find jobs, or to collect the benefits that they’ve earned.  This should not be so.  While I will gratefully join in with today’s celebration, we need to show our appreciation for Veterans by championing their causes throughout the year.  We need to demand more of our elected officials when it comes to protecting the rights of our service members.

 

As I told you previously, my grandfather and his brother were Vietnam War veterans, and I was sickened to hear stories of how those men and women were treated when they returned from the war.  Because of the politics at that time, people treated these veterans like villains.  Some were even spit on, and called, “Baby Killers”.  That is inexcusable!  No matter the war, no matter the reasons for it, no matter how popular it is at home, our soldiers should never be treated this way again.  These people willingly put their lives on the line for others, and will always be worthy of our gratitude and honor.

 

My Sergeant told me that Veteran’s Day is like Christmas for our armed forces; and that while they don’t receive presents, they do receive the gift of love and appreciation from their country.  My hope and prayer is that our veterans would experience that gift wherever they go today.  And my challenge to my fellow students, and those within our community, is to find a way to be a part of it.  I just did.  Thank you.

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