Light in the Dark
by Hal Ernest
December 29, Tuesday – 18:1–20, 18:21–50, 2 Samuel 23:13–17b, 2 John 1–13 , John 2:1–11
(ESV Daily Office Readings Online)
The following introduction was one I recited in a Christmastime service in 1955 at the First Presbyterian Church:
The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. Yea verily those who dwell in the Valley of the Shadow of Death onto them hath this light shined (Is 9:2)…For unto them a child is born. Unto them a Son is given. And they will call his name Wonderful, Counselor, The Almighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. The completion of this justice and judgment will be on the throne of David and on his people. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will proclaim this (Is 9:6-7)…And they will beat their swords in plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks (Is 2:4).
Hal was a commander of a U.S. Army Missile Company in Nuremberg, Germany. As a career office, he was being relocated to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas where he would work to get a Master’s Degree in the major of his choice. Twelve days prior to his departure with his wife and little girl, he was told that his orders had been changed. He and his wife were going to Saudi Arabia to engage in Operation Desert Storm: the engagement to retake Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.
Hal and his company of 200 men took off in the worst snowstorm in the history of Nuremberg. They flew across the Atlantic Ocean and refueled in Italy. They then flew into the night and landed in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. It was Midnight on Christmas Eve. Hal looked up to the sky. He said every star that had ever been in the Heavens was shining above him. He fell to his knees and prayer. He said he felt, he knew that God was in those heavens.
The main job of the Army’s Patriot missiles was to shoot down the Iraqi Scud missiles that were very erratic and you couldn’t launch yours until the last seconds so as to get a bead on them. Meanwhile in Nuremberg, Hal’s wife, Becky, a graduate of UT Nursing School, had already served in a hospital in Honolulu while they were stationed at Schofield Barracks. So she enlisted in the U.S. Army Hospital in Nuremberg to await wounded US Army soldiers. She was told to expect Saddam Hussein would use deadly nerve gas, so many of our wounded would be horribly afflicted. Of course, that added to all of Becky’s worries.
Back on the desert, between action, Hal saw some strange sights – one day it was an Albino Camel. Many days there were tribes of wandering Nomads who had no clue that there was a war going on, but had to be frisked anyway just to make sure they were not Iraqi soldiers in disguise. One day Hal was told to get his rifle with two other soldiers, board a giant helicopter and fly into Kuwait where Saddam Hussein had set fire to all the oil fields, causing horribly devastating, penetrating-to-the-lungs gases that could be fatal. Hal’s task with his compatriots was to pick up a bunch of Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered. The copter landed in the sand. Hal said, “Dad they were all sitting in a bunch, cross-legged, with their hands tight behind their heads. They were barefooted. Dad, they were all your age. I flipped on the safety on my rifle so I wouldn’t accidently shoot any of them.”
Desert Storm was not a long war. Hal returned to his wife and child, got a Master’s Degree at Texas Tech, and retired from the Military in 2004 with the rank of Major. Shortly after retirement, the department of Defense hired him and six other men, Vietnam vets, to work out of Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. Hal’s job is to go across the Southeast, portions of the Southwest and East to talk to the young officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines about their Ordnance programs, which was Hal’s field. Into today’s volatile world his job is more important then ever.
Hal and his wife, Becky and daughter Kallie (who grew up all over the world are deep Christians. God is always first. As all of us know, you go through life some memories never go away. With Hal, it that Christmas Eve in the desert, looking to “Every star that had ever been in the Heavens,” in his prayers He knew Jesus Christ was there.