No Retreat, No Regrets

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

November 7, 2009 was a Saturday. It was a clear, crisp fall day, with temperatures rising to almost 50 degrees. A few days earlier a madman had gunned down his fellow soldiers on an Army base in Texas, killing 13 and wounding over 30 others, and on November 7th, President Obama praised the heroism of those who intervened to stop the deadly attack and care for the wounded during his weekly radio address. In the face of sudden violence, they didn’t retreat, but in fact faced towards it.

Meanwhile in Manhattan on November 7, hundreds of US Navy officers and sailors and also families of 9/11 victims attended the commissioning of the USS New York. The bow of the ship, being melded of 7.5 tons of melted steel salvaged from the World Trade Center, and the ship’s crest, including images of the Twin Towers and featuring the colors of the city departments that responded to the attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died, served as symbols of the resolve and bravery in the face of tragedy. Among the many heroes of 9/11 were the 343 firefighters, (including a Chaplain and 2 paramedics) of the New York City Fire Department, 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, and 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department, as well as 8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services. Rather than retreat, these brave men and women responded. Ultimately there would be no retreat for them as they paid the ultimate price of their service with their very lives.

November 7th was exactly 1 month short of Pearl Harbor Day, the annual day of remembrance honoring those who died on what President Roosevelt would the next day, addressing an emergency joint session of Congress, call “a date which will live in infamy”. Under heavy strafing fire from a surprise attack by 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers, 2,403 Americans were killed in the 90 minutes of the attack. Of the 402 American aircraft in Hawaii, 8 were able to get airborne during the attack, and six were credited with downing at least 1 Japanese aircraft during the attack. For these 8 brave Army Air Force pilots, there was no retreat, only courageously taking off into a fierce battle in which they were outnumbered almost 44:1. There was no retreat, but for their fellow warriors a steady response to the attack for the next 4 years, until 1945.

I would never want to minimize the tragedies and violence to which I’ve just referred. Nothing I’ve ever experienced can ever even remotely compare with those events. Yet as I stood in the open field of the neighborhood park, having just emerged from the woods on a leisurely walk with my wife, I experienced my own whirlwind combination of pain, terror, tragedy, and loss in my heart and life. I would later look back upon this day as my own personal Pearl Harbor or 9/11 attack. Life as I knew it was over, and my family would be forever changed. My only decision at that point, and in the long days, weeks, months, and years ahead would be my response: Would I retreat? Would I look back with regrets? These are the same two questions which everyone must answer when divorce darkens their door. I decided that day to never retreat, and by God’s grace I am thankful that though I have made many mistakes, I have no regrets.

How about you? Have you ever run from a fight? Do you avoid conflict? Do you work hard to keep the peace and do whatever you can to make everybody happy? Do you have unhealthy, unproductive ways of dealing with, or avoiding conflict? Do you handle things in ways that you regret later?

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