As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
- Ephesians 4:1-6
If you are former military, or maybe active duty, you may know the title phrase, the epithet for a medical profile. If someone had a medical issue, or could fake a medical issue, and they wanted to get out of work, they went on sick call and complained to the doctor. If they grunted at just the right time as the doctor poked (some well-trained in doing so), they got a “profile” from the doctor.
The soldier would come up to me and announce that his profile called for him to never leave on temporary duty (TDY) or he could not lift more than one pound. It is odd that the doctor specified one pound in that almost every tool that an engineer could lift weighed more than a pound, but a twelve-ounce beer can, filled, only weighed a pound. Funny how that worked out like that.
With bad backs becoming an epidemic, there were few workers left to get the work done. So, we referred to these people who obviously should be academy award actors as “Sick, Lame, or Lazy.”
I was never deterred by medical profiles. I did not violate them, but I believed in living by the letter of what the doctor wrote down. In my opinion, it was not a free license to collect a paycheck and do nothing.
While a platoon leader, we were assigned the project of renovating a gymnasium that had been built in the 30s. We ripped out concrete walls and built facilities under the bleachers for both men and women. We built a weight room between the two bathroom / shower room facilities. Part of the project was knocking out outside walls of the showers and replacing them with glass block. You could not make windows with glass block, four courses high, all in one day. The weight of the glass would squeeze the mortar unevenly. So, there was a gap each day. The local military would sneak through the opening to play basketball and steal construction supplies for unknown reasons. We needed to place a guard.
I had a soldier, carpenter by MOS, who was on a bad back profile. He could only lift one pound. I told my staff sergeant to place him in the building at night as our solo armed guard. The sergeant protested that he would violate the profile. I told him to arm the young man with a stick that was one whittling shave less than one pound. For the next three days, this soldier guarded the gymnasium at night and was driven back to the barracks in the daytime to sleep. After three days, the soldier went back to the doctor and begged to lift the profile, admitting that he had lied. That was okay, our mason (a carpenter who learned the necessary masonry skills) finished the windows that day and we could then lock the building.
About a year later, I had moved on to the Facilities Engineer office. The commander of the local infirmary walked into my office one day and announced that the infirmary was shutting down and they would be moving to the dispensary a few miles away. They needed me to convert the dispensary into an infirmary that met all the codes. Oh, and they had no budget for doing it, nor did they have any design drawings. They had spent all their budget in renovations for the infirmary, thus the need to close it.
With hat in hand, I went to the Engineering Brigade headquarters, the commander of which was my boss over the Facilities. I was scheduled to be promoted to captain, but my promotion date was in the future. Thus, I was a lowly 1Lt(P). I walked into a bullpen at the Brigade Operations office. Without saying anything, I viewed their big board. There were five battalions, each with four line companies, and each line company with three construction platoons. For the next year, one or two platoons had a week off here or there. The brigade had never been that overworked in ten years.
I heard someone acknowledge my presence, “Oh, no, Sir, the Colonel’s whiz kid just walked in.” Until then, I didn’t know that I had a nickname or that a room full of Lt. Colonels and Majors called me by the nickname. The LTC, the brigade G3, walked in and said, “If you are looking for availability of a single squad of men to do a project for our mutual boss, you can forget it, Lieutenant. Try your magic somewhere else.”
I replied, “What about those who are on profile, the sick, lame, and lazy?”
He erupted, “I should have you court marshalled for just thinking of violating medical profiles.”
I replied, “Sir, I never said anything about ‘violating’ a profile. We have two of the five battalions right here in town. There must be a couple of squads worth of people who are restricted to the kaserne in order to attend group therapy sessions, obtain drug or alcohol treatments, and other such things as that. They are not prevented from working. They just can’t go on TDY and a lot of the platoons on your board are going a long ways from home.”
The LTC would not be deterred. “Lieutenant, I will not hear another word of this. It borders on behavior unbecoming of a commissioned officer, and the colonel will hear of your suggestion. I guarantee it.”
I was not impressed. I asked the LTC if he had a wife and family in family housing. I had never met him, but I heard he had several children. He said that he did. I then said, “Sir, if I do not get the men that I need for this project, you will be driving your children to the Heidelberg military hospital and waiting in a long line every time any of your children gets the sniffles. The infirmary next door to this office is closing and the dispensary is not up to code to handle wives and children.” I snapped to attention, did the best About Face that I could do and marched from his office. A couple of the majors in the room snickered. It was about a quarter mile out the side gate from the G3 office to my office. My secretary was smiling and holding the phone when I walked in. “An LTC from brigade is on the phone for you, Sir.” The LTC did as he threatened to do, and the colonel backed up my “prophecy” of having to go 45 minutes up the autobahn to the nearest doctor if the work wasn’t done. The LTC did not have the people yet, but he would investigate.
A few weeks later, after I figured out what was meant by bringing the building up to code, no engineering drawings at all, just flying by the seat of our pants, I had a list of little tasks for every kind of construction specialty. Carpentry to build wheelchair ramps and put lead lining in a room that would become the x-ray room. Painting all surfaces to avoid lead paint. Resurfacing the floors. Several electrical upgrades. A plaster room for making plaster casts for broken bones with a lot of plumbing involved. Additional restrooms. And some other things. I was thinking this was going to be something that the “whiz kid,” who pulled rabbits out of the hat, might have a first failure. I thought that any one needed skill could be missing when I was only getting sick, lame, and lazy guys. I had no control over who I got. And I might have to personally supervise because what sergeant would be on a no-travel medical profile? I was already working long hours.
A few weeks later, I got a call from the doctor at the dispensary that there were a bunch of construction guys in the waiting room wanting to talk to me. It took me about twenty minutes driving the few miles.
I recognized the SFC (sergeant first class – a platoon sergeant). I had been the investigating officer on a Line of Duty investigation involving him. He had been drunk and ordered two five-ton dump trucks to drive several hundred miles down the autobahn with no oil in the crankcases due to documented oil leaks. The engines of the trucks were destroyed, and other trucks had to be dispatched as the trucks were hauling soldiers back to the barracks. I suggested leniency so that the SFC could enter alcohol abuse treatment, and not be required to repay the military for the truck engines. Beyond my investigation, I had no control over the final outcome.
The sergeant called his men to attention. Half were from one battalion and half from the other, about 30 in all, more than I expected. The sergeant took the time to have each group raise their hands. One group was the drug addict squad. One group was the alcohol abuse squad. And the other group was of miscellaneous profiles that could still work. The doctor that signed off on all their profiles was leaning against the wall. I had his approval. I then turned back to the sergeant and he had tears in his eyes. He asked, “Sir, can I shake your hand? Each of these men and especially me, we owe you a great debt. Because of our mistakes, we had been cast aside as if we were worthless, and you gave us our dignity back.”
With just the basic idea of what they needed to do, they got creative. The wheelchair ramp became this elaborate loading dock where an ambulance could offload or load for a trip to the hospital, designed at the right height for the available ambulances as well as a ramp for wheelchairs down to ground level, and the guys that built it were finish carpenters. It looked like a cabinet maker had worked out every detail with swinging safety gates. And the work was done in record time using spare construction materials that my guys at Facilities Engineering happened to find laying around. The men couldn’t miss any of their therapy sessions, so they worked extra hard to do the job right.
I had thought of just writing about these interesting men who I pray became good men in civilian life, but the idea of sick, lame, and lazy came up in Sunday school. We were studying the book of Acts and how the apostles were strong in their faith, healing the sick, and withstanding imprisonment as the religious leaders in Jerusalem wanted the Way to go away.
Someone asked why we seemed to have an inability to call upon that same power within us as believers. Why did we cower before opposition that was nothing as bad as imprisonment and the threat of crucifixion?
There was silence for a while, and then I had to explain that I had written a title of a post and had no idea how to tie it into a Christian lesson. I thanked them for inspiring the post.
Why do we cower? We are sick, lame, and lazy. We are apathetic. The power is within us, but we seek the easy way out; we seek our comfort. As a result, we settle for limitations that prevent us from doing as God wishes us to do.
But if we can transform from the sick, lame, and lazy and become empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can be redeemed. God may have already redeemed us in salvation, but we can be redeemed by finding our worth in God’s kingdom, the perfect plan that God has for our lives. All it takes is seizing the opportunity when it is offered.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.