Periodically when people who support me as an elected official find out I'm a pastor they become curious why a preacher would serve as an elected official. And vise versa, when people who know me as a pastor learn I also serve as an elected official they wonder why I serve. Well... I guess I should explain.
For me public service is as much a part of who I am as breathing, and it seems odd to me that some would wonder why I do it. Growing up I was surrounded by men who had served their country as soldiers. My uncle had deformed feet because of frostbite during the battle of the bulge. Other uncles served in the military and various wars. My grandfather was a veteran of WWI. My step-father was a career soldier who also fought in the battle of the Bulge as an Armored Infantry First Sergeant. Our neighbor (my first girlfriend's father) had been a marine in the Pacific during World War II, and my pastor when I was a teenager was a WW II vet who served with the Fourth Marines. Almost all of these men continued to serve their neighbors in various capacities after their Military service. They were (and still are) giants to me... I remember you all... and I love you.
A citation signed by the president of the United States hung on our wall commending my mother's service during a disaster. One of my early memories was standing at an intersection in a clown suit with a bucket collecting money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That was one of mom's many projects. I don't think I remember a time growing up when she was not serving as President of this organization or Secretary of that one. She wore many hats... and still does today at 80 years old.
Hardly a day goes by when I don't think of one of them with thanksgiving for their service to our country and influence on my life. Frankly, it never entered my mind that I wouldn't serve. I was taught we all owe something for our freedom. Dad told me repeatedly to make sure I always find a place to serve. So I have always served... not just as an elected official, I've served in disasters, as a police chaplain, and various other volunteer positions through the years. And I will continue to do so elected or not.
Some have wondered if I have the time to serve. Frankly... I don't. But neither did those young men and women who put their lives on hold to fight for my freedom. None of the men who died on the beaches of Normandy, Guadalcanal, or on the hills of Korea, or in the jungles of Vietnam or mountains of Afghanistan had time to die. But they did, and I owe them. It's part of who I am as an American to serve. So I work late and get up early because I must make time to serve.
I've seen people serve for all kinds of reasons. Some serve to build their resume, others to build their business. But I'm thankful there are still many Americans who serve because they believe they owe something to their country and to those who have given all for our freedom. So... I serve because of the way I was raised, because I'm free and I owe a debt for that freedom, and because I must.