When I left there that day I was mad. I usually don’t leave the movies mad, but this time I was seething. It wasn’t the movie; it wasn’t the people sitting next to us. I was emotionally fired up because the movie was a powerful depiction of real men, honorable men, men who were willing to die for me, my kids, my wife, my mom, and they didn’t even have a clue who we would be years later. Few movies have moved me like that one did that day.
The Astrodome was considered the eighth wonder of the world in the early ‘60s. It was a domed stadium in Houston, Texas, and it was quite the marvel. We didn’t live far from it and any time we got to visit was a big day.
The Houston Astros baseball team played there for years and the few times we visited the domed wonder it was to watch them play. I was young, maybe 6 or 7 the last time I remember going with my dad and brother to a game there. I can’t remember who we (The Astros) played and it really does not matter. The part that has stayed with me all these years is before the game when the National anthem began everyone stood, except for me and my older brother. I don’t know why we didn’t, but we didn’t. When the song was over, and my dad sat down, he leaned over and made it crystal clear to my brother and me that if we ever did that again our lives would end. He had something in his eye that day that burned into the deepest part of my little soul.
I have had boys I mentored over the years tell me that one thing I said to them during an outing had stuck with them for years. I have had young men, adults now, tell me that they think about what we did in Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ) and it changed them, molded them, formed a part of their thinking and who they are today.
Mentoring is a powerful responsibility that the men of KOZ choose. It is not just a few hours fishing or hiking. It’s not a Sunday school class or sermon Saturday. The men know what the boys long for in their hearts. Introducing the idea of a Father who loves them unconditionally can be life changing. Breaking off the lies of what being a son means to a fatherless boy can be powerful. Teaching that a father loves, shows up, does what he says, thinks about his son. Showing a boy that a man can be a man and love Jesus is life altering for so many of them.
The movie that day was Saving Private Ryan. I had not seen a movie like that before, so realistic of war, one our soldiers faced for us. I had never really thought about what they went through there. It was highly emotional. I was angry because there are people out there, in our country, who talk down about our soldiers—our American warriors, one of the main reasons we are able to be the most amazing country in the world.
Dad was a marine. I don’t know anything about his service. I have seen pictures and heard a little but not much. What I do know is that he respected our flag, our soldiers, and America. That passion for our country and what it stands for transferred to me. I respect our soldiers, the sacrifices of those who came before and those who serve now. I believe the passion and respect I have for flag and country was in part what my dad instilled in me in that defining moment.
It is in the moments KOZ men teach their KOZ boys life lessons. God, family, country. It is powerful and may be the one thing that a boy anchors his heart to. It may be the time that forms who he becomes as a father, a husband, a believer, a soldier.
Mentoring a boy today may be the influencing moment that leads him tomorrow. Semper Fi KOZ men. God Bless America. Now “let’s roll.”