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Monday, August 13, 2018

Signs of Our Times

I cut my broadcasting teeth during my time in the military. First assigned to the personnel division, a highly fortuitous (or providential) friendship in the same office alerted me one day that the Air Force was looking for broadcasters. Although I fell short of one requirement, my friend explained that sometimes waivers were offered for the point difference I needed.

He was right. And I got accepted to attend the Defense INFOrmation School (DINFOS) at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the fall of 1973. Six months later, I was an honor grad and headed for my first (and only) duty assignment at Keflavik, Iceland. I became the TV sports guy for American Forces Radio and Television (AFRTS). Thus began my career in broadcasting.

Not long ago, I signed up for a Facebook page with other former members of that military broadcast group. It was from them that I first learned of the passing of one of the legends of this fraternity— Adrian Cronauer. He was, if you'll remember, the inspiration for the film Good Morning, Vietnam, which starred Robin Williams. Cronauer had recently died at the age of 79.

It would take too long to share his legacy. See the film if you need that story. But he shared, in 1989, a few particulars of the movie that were true. "Yes, I did try to make it sound more like a stateside station. Yes, I did have problems with news censorship. Yes, I was in a restaurant shortly before the Viet Cong hit it. And yes, I did start each program by yelling, 'Good Morning, Vietnam!'"

I’m not sure whether he traversed the same hallways as I did at DINFOS. But a lot of talented broadcasters did—and went on to successful careers outside of the military. I’ve made my mark in a way as well.

Around the year 1998, I was making a journey from Pittsburgh to San Diego. I made a stop in Indianapolis to visit what was Fort Ben Harrison. I found the DINFOS building where my life was so changed.

The end of war and the passage of time had shut down the base as a military training post. The barracks area looked like a ghost town. Curiously, the DINFOS sign still hung above the entrance to that building. I so wanted to claim that piece of history, hoping it would not be thrown into some dumpster one day. It belonged in a broadcasting museum as a piece of military history.

This recollection came to mind this week as I wondered about the future of the Global Leadership Summit (GLS). This event, founded by Bill Hybels of the legendary Willow Creek Community Church, had grown to phenomenal heights. Visionaries from corporate America, a former US President, and former British Prime Minister have spoken at this magnificent leadership training event.

As I wrote last week, the Summit convened last week in rather dire circumstances. Its founder and chief advocate, Bill Hybels, has been forced out of both the church and the GLS. Then, just as the Summit was to begin, more negative publicity surfaced both about Hybels and the downsizing problems that resulted at the GLS.

And so I wondered, what will happen? I remember the vibrant, life-filled days during my time at DINFOS. Only to return years later and find a ghost town remaining. A shadow of history.

I’m not predictor. And I certainly hope that there remains a future—a bright future—for the Global Leadership Summit as well as the Willow Creek Church. So much good has emerged over the years from both.

On the other hand, we must never believe that what’s in front of us now is permanent. It is not. Including this very Earth.

The refrain of the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” calls us to a more lasting perspective of life. It says,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. 
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His glory and grace.”

Today, my friend, invest your time in that which will last.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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