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Strength for the Journey

Chapel Call: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Berube

Chapel Call: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Berube

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- As I drove home following State Active Duty for the Boston Marathon Bombing Response I passed the Hopkinton exit on the highway. I thought to myself how that starting point for the Marathon was also the starting point for the leg of life's journey we had all travelled since Patriots' Day. I've spent a lot of time since then thinking about the strengths that got us through that week. I share some of those strengths with you as a reflection on the experience and encouragement to continue tapping into them as we move forward. I invite you to share your experiences with me next time we're together.

I witnessed the strength of a united response. There was a clear sense that we were in this together. From those who jumped in to help in the chaos at the bomb site, to the massive, multi-jurisdictional Public Safety response, to the military response, to the civilians who supported our efforts throughout the week, we were together. There is an incredible strength that comes from knowing we're part of something bigger than ourselves and that we're all focused on the same goal, watching each others' backs.

I witnessed the strength of dedication, persistence, and commitment. From the people I worked with at the Joint Operations Center, to the Joint Force Religious Support Team, to everyone MSgt Campbell and I interacted with in Boston, it was clear that everyone was "all in." There was a palpable sense that each person was fully committed to sticking with the mission, whatever their part, until it was done. The strength of that level of resolve overcame any kind of tiredness or sense of frustration we faced in the moment. It was a strength that fueled us to push to, and through, the finish line.

I witnessed the strength of compassion. I saw a lot of mutual helpfulness during this event, from every level of the response. There were, of course, the initial actions of people who helped treat the wounded and direct those who were disoriented and confused by the attack. Throughout the week, there were also nearly minute-by-minute acts of consideration offered between people - food and drink offered to military and police officers; shelter offered to displaced citizens who needed a place to stay after Monday. We heard of fitness centers offering showers and hotels offering places for those of us on mission to rest if the opportunity for a break came along. Incredible strength can come from knowing someone else really cares about our well-being and is willing to do something tangible about it. It inspires our own compassionate acts for others.

I once worked with a friend who was assisting me in strength training. In our first session he was testing to see where my limits were. As we talked and I lifted progressively heavier weights, I found I was exceeding what I thought I was capable of doing. At one point my friend said to me, "You're stronger than you think." I think that sentiment could also sum up our response as a people to the Marathon attack. Although those who committed this act sought to cause chaos, fear, and division among us, they didn't. What I witnessed was exactly the opposite of that. We met their attempt to wreak havoc with strength and resolve that established order, pulled us together, and brought about a quick resolution.

We have gotten to this point in the journey of life by relying upon the strengths that shone brightly last week. We'll continue the journey as we deepen those and enhance them with other strengths. As we move forward bringing comfort and care, hope and healing, and justice to the people and places where they are needed, I believe we will continue to find we are stronger than we think. And that gives me hope that no matter what we face in the future we will continue to respond together in ways that continue to build us up and keep us moving forward.

If you or someone you know is wrestling with their involvement in last week's events, or feelings related to the Boston Marathon attack, here are some resources for dealing with the aftermath of a critical incident:

http://www.criticalincidentstress.com/cism__for_first_responders___military

http://www.hrwebcafe.com/2013/04/resources_in_the_aftermath_of.html

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/non-medical-counseling?content_id=271165