|Randy Todd in front of a MC-12|
Along with the thrill of being a helicopter pilot, and later being involved in developing plans, I met many patriots and saw the faith of LDS servicemen and women. The first fellow LDS serviceman that was lost while I served was Doug Echler. He was an instructor pilot at Fort Rucker and a member of our ward while I was in flight school. He was transferred to Germany from Fort Rucker. While he was piloting a Chinook helicopter at an airshow in Germany the aircraft experienced a catastrophic failure. The aircraft crashed in front of the crowd. All on board were killed. The crowd included Doug’s wife and children. That was my first realization of how important it was to hold to the rod and live the gospel as a soldier. The reality was that life was precious and could end suddenly. Living the gospel everyday became more important than I had ever realized before.
I had the privilege of being involved with two major humanitarian relief operations. The first was in 1980 when many Cuban refugees came to the United States. The second was in 1999 when President Clinton accepted refugees from the conflict in Kosovo. I was an operations officer for the Kosovo refugee operation at Fort Dix, New Jersey. To this day I remember what a lump it brought to my throat to see a battle hardened paratrooper carrying a child who had lost everything. Perched upon the soldier’s shoulders the child beamed with a security and peace that he had been without for many days. The soldier’s beaming smile reminded me of the force for good that American troops are in the world.
|Charley Todd, center, at his son Randy's commissioning|
But, the veterans that I wish to pay tribute to on this Veterans Day are men that I have known in the wards of College Station who showed me how to apply being a good soldier to being a person of love and faith.
Robert Wilson was a retired Colonel when I retired from the Army and moved to College Station in May of 2000. Everyone called him Colonel. He had the ultimate badge of credibility for a veteran – the Purple Heart which is given to those wounded or killed in combat. He was a fellow helicopter pilot so I felt an immediate affinity to him. He had purchased the Arby’s franchise when he retired and moved to College Station and had provided employment to many, especially to youth.
Colonel Wilson was the Deacon’s Quorum adviser. He combined a Colonel’s bearing with an unbelievable love for the boys. The Deacon’s Quorum President always was prepared for meetings. It was hard to believe that a 12 or 13 year old could take charge so well. The boys were the ones who spoke. Colonel Wilson just made sure they were prepared.
Eventually the injuries suffered in Vietnam and in a training accident robbed Colonel Wilson of his health. However even until the end he would always respond with “blessed by the Lord” when asked how he was doing. The Deacons made a poster/card for him on one occasion that simply said, “Get well, we will hold the fort down here.” They did, because of what he had taught them.
|Charley Todd's youngest son, Charlie|
My home teaching companion is a Vietnam Veteran. He was a United States Marine. He holds that singular badge of honor and credibility, the Purple Heart, just as Robert Wilson did. I am grateful that Michael Beggs goes home teaching and fulfills his Priesthood responsibilities, in spite of the pain.
As a veteran I take great solace and pride that it was a Centurion who was able to recognize that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I love the stories of Moroni and Helaman and of the Mormon Battalion. I thank all those who are serving and who have served. Please pray for our service men and women (and their families) for they are surrounded by physical and spiritual hazards and are always grateful for those who are appreciative for the things they do for us.
— Charley Todd, LTC (Retired)