Stories about my family

Month: March 2020

Depression and duty

RECOLLECTIONS OF CAPTAIN JACK BURR,  ASSISTANT BRIGADE OPERATIONS OFFICER, 1/35 INFANTRY,   01-07/69.

 Depression affects military men and women just as it does in the general population, but more frequently.  My purpose here is to recognize that fact and to show that is OK to talk about it.     

It was not unusual for an infantry officer to receive orders a second or even a third time.  But it was a bit  uncommon to be sent to the same division, same brigade, and ultimately the same battalion. It had been a year since I’d last been here.  A short one.  

After in-processing at 3rd Brigade Headquarters, the Personnel Officer changed my assignment to Brigade Operations. Such changes are common for incoming personnel. Usually Brigade Headquarters would be two echelons from the actual fighting; however, in this environment, front lines did not exit.  Nonethe- less, it was a much safer place to be.  At this echelon we had certain advantages:  hot meals, a regular bed and scheduled work hours.

I was disappointed.  To be an Infantry Company Commander was my desire.  Vacancies were few and were coveted by many captains in the division.  In the meantime I had a job to do.  

To my discredit I did not make friends easily and had much time on my hands. I have always been somewhat of a loner.  While depression is a strange and pervasive phenomenon, I would never admit its influence on me.  But it was there.  I slept in a nice bed, ate well prepared and tasty food but none of this alleviated or mitigated the effects of being depressed.  If fact, these luxuries made things worse because of the amount of time I had on my hands.    

My second tour to Vietnam

In quiet times, my mind would drift to family.  My wife Phyllis, was a strong and a lovely person, but I knew I had left her a heavy burden to make a home by herself, manage finances, care for three children and make decisions by herself.  She never told me that she also struggled with depression as I had until years later. 

But intuitively, I knew, and so in the darkest hours of the night a silent tear would leak from my eye.  I was embarrassed and faulted myself for my own weakness and placing such burdens on her.  I asked for double duty to counter my loneliness and worked even harder to erase my shortcomings.

Double duty seemed to rid me of depression. I had no time for self pity if that was the cause. At times such as that, God seemed so far away.  But He was not! 

The man with a hard heart

Phyllis and I decided in the the early 80’s that we would retire from the Army. Phyllis had been talking for some time that we needed to “get in Church”. Looking back, we can see God’s hand at that pivotal point in our life. He created circumstances that made the decision the only practical one. We moved to West Tulsa in 1981 and joined Bethel Baptist Church.

Everyone in the Burr family was involved in church activities, from teaching, to yard work, to kitchen help. God was doing a mighty work in our lives, blessing each of us.

As was our custom on Wednesday evening, Phyllis’s father and I went of visitation. On this particular visit, Bill choose to take the lead and started the conversation with the older gentleman, who was lying in bed, obviously very ill. He told Bill, the doctor said he didn’t have much longer to live.

When asked where he expected to spend eternity. The man replied, “I’ll be in Hell with all my buddies”. You don’t have to go there, Bill said and started telling the man about Jesus. The man stopped him and said he didn’t want to hear that stuff.

We concluded our visit and started for the door, when Bill turned and started to say something. He changed his mind and we left. It was obvious the man had hardened his heart toward God and sealed his own fate. The bible says “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment”.

A sad story but repeated too often. God’s Grace is available to all, but is effectual only for those who believe.

 

 

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