a hand to shake


larkinThis is Captain Larkin O’Hearn. Two years ago, on a steamy day in June, my dear friends Katie and Michael Schuermann, and my coworker Al and I met him in Texas.
He was headed into the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art rehab center for men and women who have been wounded in war.
He was 26 then.
He’s also a triple amputee.


This man is one of the most humble I’ve ever talked to, uncomfortable with the attention but determined to be a leader despite what he’s endured.

He’s married, goes to church, and made a simple plea: Just treat me like I’m normal.


It sounds cliche to say it, but I believe there’s some truth to all cliches: Visiting with a Captain O’Hearn changes your life.DSC_0311

It changes how you view things.

You suddenly notice that you can skip and push elevator buttons.

You listen more closely every Memorial Day, every Fourth of July, to what the freedom is, what it can be.

You see a person in uniform, and you wonder what he’s suffered for you–mentally, physically, spiritually–even though he doesn’t know you.

DSC_0312You shake someone’s hand a little harder, because you suddenly realize that you have a hand that can shake.

You understand that, “For us, the way that our theology can look at something very, very violent like war, and not try to sugarcoat it and not try to wallow in the mire, not try to create another paradigm to explain but deal with it head-on and call it what it is, that’s the theology of the cross” (Chaplain Mark Nuchols).

You see two LCMS Lutherans, buried side-by-side in a cemetery, and rejoice that one day, on the Resurrection, two of your brothers in Christ will get to rise and stand together to meet their Lord. DSC_0318
And you realize that, while it’s everyone’s dream to meet their heroes–their favorite singer or athlete or politician or poet, one hot, long day in Texas, you were humbled to meet yours.




{You can read more about our trip here and listen to Captain O’Hearn around minute 14.}

One thought on “a hand to shake

  1. Thank you for sharing! I have been in the military 19 years and I just adore meeting these young and old men to thank them. If they didn’t do what they have done then I would not be able to serve either! Isn’t it something to behold? They really are heroes!! Bless you!!

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