Last Friday afternoon, my wife, Nancy, son, Jesse, and I went to a friend’s military retirement ceremony. It was an inspiring event with a surprising number of people, mostly in uniform and including a row of “big-shots,” in attendance. Throughout my life, I have not had much contact with the military, but I am very interested in military culture. What are the commonly shared values, how do the people interact, how do they resolve conflict, etc. So, I was listening carefully to the stories told by and about my retiring friend, Joe, to see what insight I could glean.

I was not expecting what I observed. The prominent theme during the two hour ceremony was the importance of spouses and families. Joe’s immediate supervisor started his speech with, “This ceremony is not for Joe. It is not for the rest of us here to celebrate Joe. It is for Joe’s wife and children.” That theme carried throughout the event. They made a strong and direct effort to express appreciation to Joe’s wife and children who were sitting in the front row. The presenters spoke to them and about them. They even gave them certificates and the official photographer took pictures of them. I’m sure they were embarrassed, but I doubt they will ever forget the honor they received.

I don’t know why the organizers chose to emphasize the importance of family. Possibly it was at Joe’s request. However, I appreciated the corrective of the general public’s attitude about marriage and family. The pendulum in our general culture has swung so far away from the value, blessing, and  sanctity of marriage and family that it is refreshing when events like Joe’s retirement ceremony emphasize this theme and bring about a bit more balance. It is right to honor the unsung heroes who support the more visible heroes!