Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
- Psalm 70:1
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- John 15:13
When I was on active duty in the US Army, I had the pleasure of working on the civilian side of things in an assigned position due to necessity, if you will. During that period of time, I was promoted to Captain. I was still technically assigned to my old combat engineering battalion (heavy) – formerly Construction Engineers.
I say that in that while I had been promoted to a captain, some of the 2nd Lieutenants back at the battalion were promoted to 1st Lieutenants, and one in particular was made the headquarters company commander. I supposedly was assigned to his “command.”
My last year in Europe, we had two cars. We had bought a Volvo station wagon while in Europe, and we still had our little Toyota Corolla. On the day in question, my wife had the Toyota, but she had not planned on going anywhere.
But a problem developed in that our older son had developed a fever that morning. My wife got a neighbor to take care of our newborn and she drove our son to the infirmary.
Why she took the back streets, I still cannot imagine. Erzberger Strasse was immediately next to our building, and a quick drive to the PX and Commissary area, a quick right and you were right there at the entrance to the kaserne where the infirmary was.
But no, she went a parallel path through family housing that took her behind the church and then closer to the entrance for the infirmary, but with stop signs and a slower speed limit, and a lot of curves.
Well, the speed limit was 25 MPH, 40kph. But for about 150ft., or 45m, the speed limit dropped to 15 MPH, or 25kph. That was due to the back of the church being close to the back of the high school, but the high school was not in session.
As luck would have it, she ignored the lowered speed limit. She was going about 20 MPH, or about 32kph. She was pulled over by the Military Police. She was given a ticket. She had never been given a ticket before, and she never got a ticket afterward. She was not very happy as she had a sick child in the back seat, but she did ask what she had to do next. The MP said that her husband, me, would get a call.
I thought of this incident the other day when I went to a dinner party with a guy who was an MP in the Air Force during Vietnam, but I did not think of the story until the next day.
At the party, the old MP was shocked when I told him that the colonel would lecture us monthly that for us commissioned officers, we could be court martialed by saying a derogatory word against the president. But I wonder if he also knew that a wife of an officer who received a traffic ticket was not punished, but her husband was.
When she told me of the traffic ticket, she said I would get a call. I figured that someone would come by my office to tell me what the fine would be.
No, my old friend, who was now the headquarters company commander had his first sergeant call me. I had to report to his office officially. They gave no reason for this order, but they said I had to come immediately.
I thought it was probably some problem with my personal profile sheet. You usually had to review that every so often. When I arrived at the first sergeant’s office, he shouted, “He’s here, Sir!” Then, the first sergeant said that I must go into the company commander’s office and report as if it were to a senior officer. This was awkward with a captain reporting to a first lieutenant, but strange things happen.
I nodded. I went in and made a crisp salute and said something about reporting as ordered.
The lieutenant did not look up. He said, “First Sergeant, note in the record that the Article 15 procedure has started.”
I was still at attention, but I wanted to ask a bunch of questions at this point. An Article 15 is an article of the UCMJ, Uniform Code of Military Justice. I had been a permanent acting company commander the previous year, in that our commander liked to hide and let me run the company (literally, I finally found out that he was hiding in the vehicle maintenance facility, in a closet with the door locked all day long. He had me run the company so that if things went well, he got the credit, and if things went poorly, it was all my fault.) I had sat as judge and jury for Article 15s. I knew it was non-judicial punishment. Minor infractions of the law, limited punishment. But I had a perfectly clean record. You pretty much couldn’t be a captain in the Army without having a clean record.
The First Sergeant read the charges. Basically, my wife was caught speeding. At this point, the commander was supposed to ask me if I had reason to claim leniency or give reasons why I had no other choice in the matter than to go outside the law.
Instead, the Lieutenant explained that our son was sick, noted by the MP. He noted that the distance of school zone speed was too short to make adequate adjustment. He noted that school was not in session. He gave me my entire defense. I only nodded in agreement.
He then looked up to my eye level. He then said, “Sir, all of us junior officers in the battalion look up to you as some kind of engineering hero. After all, if our lights go out or we have a plumbing leak, it’s your men that fix it. You repair the road where this speeding ticket was written. You repainted the exterior of our family housing building last year. And I have a standard scheduled racquetball game each week on the courts you had built with money you obtained. Life has been better after you went to the Facilities Engineer (FE), but, Sir, this is harder on me than you know. Can you at least wipe the smile off your face?!”
At that point, I nearly burst out laughing. I put a frown on my face and asked how much the fine for my wife’s speeding ticket would be.
He said this was serious in that it would normally go on my permanent personnel jacket as me violating a law while under a status of forces agreement in a foreign country.
I then swallowed hard even though I had decided to not make the military a career.
Then he said, “Under the circumstances, this traffic violation is marginal. I will let you go with a warning.”
Then they said that I could stand at ease and all three of us had a good laugh.
But I wonder if the MP knew that my wife getting a speeding ticket, under questionable circumstances, could affect my military career, as I was responsible for her actions.
When I told my wife that it was just a warning, she tried to show me that the ticket was real. Then I had to explain that I had, for a couple of minutes, been read charges under Article 15 proceedings for her traffic ticket, she took it a lot more seriously. She knew what that meant in that she was formerly a medic in the Air Force.
It is rare in this world where one person lays down their life for another, or in this case, lays down their career, but Jesus did that for us. He sacrificed His life so that we might be saved. A minor traffic ticket does not compare, and I really had no idea that my wife’s actions could have that direct of an effect on my career.
But Jesus knew all too well what He was doing, and He did so out of love for us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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