We celebrated my birthday in fine style last Monday, with farm fresh rib-eye steaks cooked on the grill, chocolate cake, presents, and a Spiderman birthday balloon. My youngest chose the Spiderman balloon because she knows that he was my favorite comic book hero as a boy. (We also have a running debate about who’s the better Peter Parker in the film versions, Toby McGuire or Andrew Garfield.)
You don’t know Spiderman? I’m shocked. The Amazing Spiderman, aka Peter Parker, is a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student who, when bitten by a genetically modified spider, gains incredible spider-like powers that he eventually uses to fight evil as a superhero. I say eventually, because at first Peter wants to use his powers for self-aggrandizement. It is only when tragedy strikes that he remembers his Uncle Ben’s last exhortation: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Does that sound familiar? It should. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required,” said Jesus.
One of the things I always liked about Peter Paker was that he was not perfect. Even in his Spiderman persona, Peter wrestled with personal flaws that were almost his undoing. But with Uncle Ben’s truth as his guiding star Peter Parker / Spiderman goes on to fight crime and injustice, often sacrificing himself for the sake of others. People he served look up and say, “thank goodness for Spiderman!”
What would you do if you knew there was a Spiderman in your midst? Would you honor him? Try to become his friend? Get his autograph? Snap a photo of the two of you and post it on your facebook page?
Well, you are in luck. Spidermen are all around us. Their uniforms are different, usually green, or khaki, or camouflaged instead of blue and red. They can’t sling webs or crawl up the walls of buildings to confront the bad guys. But they often slung a rifle over a shoulder or climbed up in a cockpit to fly off into combat. No matter what uniform they wore, they lived out the motto that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and exemplified the spirit of love by sacrificing themselves for their friends, and even for their enemies. Some are very old now, rapidly passing from the scene. I am privileged to name a few I’ve known: Lewis Askew, who flew Corsairs from the deck of the Benjamin Franklin in 1944; John Durden, who repaired the tanks in General Patton’s Third Army; Phi McClain who drove a Jeep on booby-trapped roads in France; Mark Walters, who built bridges and runways from Normandy to Berlin; and B. Gray Allison, who flew the B 17 over western Europe with the 8th Air Force. These and so many others who are passing from this earth, and many thousands more coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and dozens of unnamed battlefields in the war against Islamo-facism, are the Spidermen among us. We celebrate them and honor their service this Memorial Day.
Most of them will be in their “Peter Parker” persona this weekend. Even so, be sure to take a moment and thank them. Then look up, whisper a prayer, and thank God for sending them to us.