July 15, 2016
By Spencer Kympton
OUT OF MANY, ONE – designed by Muriel Stockdale, constructed in 2011 by the diverse community of Charlotte’s Place in memory of 9/11
Last week was very painful for me. I understand that it may have been for you too.
It was painful for me because it began with great hope – but ended with such sadness. The hope came from hearing the many stories of renewal and restoration and relationship-building at The Mission Continues’ week-long deployment to Detroit for Operation Motown Muster. It was a tough week, but the impact was real. We had great successes, and we made mistakes. We found joy, and we experienced hardships. But through it all, we were reminded that when we work together – with our neighbors and fellow citizens – our best days may still be ahead.
This hope turned quickly to despair when the tragic events of last week brought the hard truth of life in America back into full view: we remain a country divided.
My heart hurts over the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. My heart hurts over the shooting deaths of the five law enforcement officers in Dallas: Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol, Sgt. Michael Smith, Officer Brent Thompson, and Officer Patrick Zamarripa. I mourn for all of their families, and for all of their communities. My soul aches over the fact that racial divisions and inequalities and injustice and fear are winning, while real people are losing. While real people are dying. No one in this country – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age, profession, or any other way we choose to identify ourselves – should fear for their lives. And yet, many do.
You may be feeling this same hurt, frustration, and concern. As a people, we should be better than this. I’m emboldened to move through despair and focus on action. The one action that we can all focus on is continuing to strengthen the great work that our veterans and our community members are doing in communities.
It’s work that helps to heal fractures, restore trust, stitch relationships, and build a better future – for all. Now is the time for all of us – veteran and non-veteran alike – to Report for Duty again, especially in communities that are in greatest need. Roll up your sleeves. Turn off your smartphone. Engage in your local effort to rebuild, renew, and restore community to the community. Most importantly, let’s remember to connect and take care of one another and allow love and mutual respect define our interactions.
Our best days can still be ahead. We’ll reach them by extending a hand, locking arms, and building the path to those days – together.
Spencer Kympton is a United States Army veteran and the president of The Mission Continues.