The great American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, said that, “Duty is not beneficial because it is commanded, but it is commanded because it is beneficial.” I would conjecture that there are not many people who think about duty these days, and even fewer would think about honor. A little while ago I came upon a circumstance and situation that reminded me of how important doing ones duty in life really is. I was reminded of how important it was for me to have done my duty in the past and how the mundane act of doing my duty influenced another to do their duty. It seems to me that if we do our duty once, then twice, and maybe another time, without conscious thought of doing so, that we often inspire others to do the same. A sense of duty, once realized, pursues us forever. It becomes omnipresent. We will see our duty and do it, no matter what that duty may be.
As a former assistant Scout Master with Troop 83 I recall the very important lessons I learned and even taught to young boys on their way to becoming young men. Some of the dutiful things we all learned and taught were sayings like, “Be Prepared.” Another was, “On my honor, I will do my duty to God and my Country, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Pledges like that are not in vogue much anymore. Those ideas like duty and honor are taught in few places these days. But to me they hold a special emphasis and significance in building character in young boys on their way to becoming young men.
I did my “duty” as an assistant scout master. After my Son made the Eagle Scout Rank, and grew older and went on to pursue his music career, I was no longer a part of the monthly Boy Scout meetings. I did however; remain on a significant scout committee called the Eagle Board of Review. The Eagle Board of review is where a panel of adults scout leaders review, test, question, and approve projects for scouts about to become Eagle Scouts. These young men had to demonstrate leadership skills, plan, prepare, and carry out a project that is beneficial to their community. It is a lot of work. They draw on the disciplines, knowledge and skills that they have learned in scouting including the importance of doing ones duty. Being on the Eagle board of review for me was and is something I do out of a sense of duty. It takes time; there are a lot of interviews of young men walking the Eagle trail. I had a sense of wanting to give back to my community.
The point I am trying to make is that when we do our “duty”, no matter what that duty is and where it may place us, others benefit. That is the “beauty of duty”. Duty must be done; the rule applies to all of us. As I said earlier, once you do your duty even in the smallest way, that sense of duty pursues you for ever. It builds your character and helps build the character of those in your circle of influence.
One of my jobs is to do a radio talk show each day from noon to 3 pm. My radio partner and I have been together for thirty plus years. Each day we talk endlessly about the issues of the day, entertain our listeners with our point of view, and we learn things from ordinary people who call in from all walks of life. We received emails from people frequently and they sometimes become most excellent friends and acquaintances. During the Iraq war we had been receiving updates via emails from a young Marine who wrote us from the field. We gave our support to this young man and his fellow Marines, we wrote to them, we encouraged them, we prayed for their safety and for the completion of their mission in hostile territory.
Our young Marine friend finally came home with his unit. We invited him to be on the radio show. He came and brought a fellow Marine who was with him in Iraq.
It was truly an honor to meet these young men who had been in harms way for over a year, doing their duty, providing security for convoys on the hostile and dangerous roads of Iraq. We talked about their experiences, we talked about their mission, we talked about the dangers, and we talked about their willingness to do another tour if they were called upon to do the same. They both, in a matter of fact way, spoke openly about how they were honored to do the job they were trained for as Marines, how they did not think much about the danger and death all around them. What they talked about was their duty. Amazing. Honorable. Moving. Three years earlier these two young men were high school boys, wondering what the future would bring. Now they were full grown Men, talking about doing their duty. I was in awe.
As we ended the radio talk show and were about to leave. One of the young Marines said to me, “I know you probably do not remember me but you were one of the gentleman who was on my Eagle Board of Review when I became an Eagle Scout.” He continued by saying, “I really appreciated the nice things you said to me about my project, about my walk on the Eagle trail, and I appreciated the encouragement you gave me to pursue my dreams and goals.” Phew! As a lump formed in my throat I said something like, “You are welcome, and I am proud that you learned a lot and was encouraged. You are doing your duty, and I appreciate you and I am proud of you.” As I reflected on what he said as he left with his Marine compatriot, I felt a sense of gratitude that I had performed my duty, as simple as it was. I felt grateful that doing my duty influenced a young man in a positive way and instilled in that young man a desire to do his duty and set his own good example for someone else. Duty makes us do things well. Doing our duty well brings us honor and brings honor to those who have led by example and whom we have followed in thought, word, and deed.