Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A tribute to Dan, a man with friends in high places

He’s the reason I spent the night in a tent for only the second time in my life.

The first time was in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was fabulous, but I am not a camping girl.

However, he needed more chaperones for my son’s Boy Scout Troop trip to Camp Rainey Mountain, so my husband and I volunteered.

I remember staring at the tiny canvas structure held up by a couple of poles and wondering how both Jerry and I would fit in it. It was open on the ends. I didn’t know it would be open. Somehow, we squeezed our big bodies under the canvas. Let me add that no one had thought to mention that the women’s bathroom was a half mile down a rutted dirt road.

To get there I’d need a flashlight, because that would be my only light if you’re not counting the moon.

And there were bears. Big ones.

I’ll just have to hold it till morning, I thought trying to console myself.

He’s also the reason I found myself chaperoning a scouting trip to Lookout Mountain. We were to ride the incline railway up the mountain. Not a fan of incline railways, especially ones at an over seventy-two percent grade.

Just don’t look down, I told myself while riding the railway, and don’t think about that big mechanism at the top breaking and sending us plummeting down the side of this peak. (You can understand why it’s not that big of a stretch for me to write fiction).

I pushed past my fear and did it, because he asked me.

Fact is, whenever my son’s Scoutmaster, Dan Bowdoin, asked me to do something, I pretty much did it, because I felt as if I owed him.

And I do.

We all do.

In the late sixties, when I was sitting with my boyfriend chewing my fingernails watching television and waiting to see if his draft number came up, Dan had already earned a Purple Heart for being wounded in Vietnam. He served two tours and was awarded three bronze stars among many other military honors for his heroic actions. That’s when he may have been exposed to the now infamous defoliant, Agent Orange, which has contributed to so many vets’ health issues.

He went on to serve three tours in the Pentagon assigned to the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Major Bowdoin retired from military service, and earned a master’s degree in public health and spent the next chapter of his life in food services administration at a large state university.

He also volunteered in many capacities in his church, military associations, and Scouting. As my son’s scoutmaster, he wouldn’t give up until that boy, Aaron, earned his rank of Eagle Scout.
Dan Bowdoin on right, my son, Aaron, his other scoutmaster Mr. Dickerson on right

When the home stretch came for the Eagle, Aaron had to hike twenty miles for one of his requirements. Dan Bowdoin with his bad knees and all, walked for all the hours it took to finish that hike. He couldn’t keep up with my son, but to show his support he just kept moving along, even with his knee pain, until the goal was reached. Soon after, he had a knee replacement. Sorry, Dan.

Dan was always the same―steady, and consistent.

And there was a reason for that. He had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ during his time in Vietnam and never wavered from that commitment.

As his former pastor so eloquently said at his service, “Dan was more interested in leaving a legacy than leaving a memory.” That’s why he was renowned for lifelong perseverance  in his intentional efforts to share the gospel with others.

I didn’t even know Dan had been sick when my husband called and told me he’d read his obituary that morning.

Really? No, it couldn’t be.

But it was.

As I sat at the service proudly wearing my Eagle Scout Mom pin to honor Dan, I observed the pew full of Purple Heart recipients, many high ranking military officials, and a host of other community and church friends including one former United States Congressman.

Dan had friends in high places.

However, He most wanted to please his friend in the highest place named Jesus.

The pastor concluded by saying there are not many people of whom it can be said on their passing that they helped enlarge the population of heaven, but it could be said of Dan.

What a legacy!

The pastor went on to suggest that our goal should be to have the same thing said about us on our passing.

A great challenge, but if we have that friend in high places like Dan, it’s absolutely possible.

I am going to miss Dan, as I know many others will, and my prayers go out to his family.

If I ever spend the night in a tent or ride an incline railway again, I’ll think about him. However, if I don't manage to get around to those things, I can honor him most by doing what he did, and tell others about Jesus. He’d like that best, anyway.

I love that one of Dan's favorite scriptures has always been one of mine, too: "Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them" (Psalm 126:6). I'd say right about now, Dan's laughing that belly laugh of his, arms  loaded with a harvest.


Julie Garmon said...

Holy goosebumps. This is beautiful. What a man, Bev. And what a kind thing you did just now.


JRS said...
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JRS said...

You have captured the essence of Dan and his commitment to excellence. Especially in his commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Beverly Varnado said...
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Beverly Varnado said...

Thank you John. Dan leaves an amazing legacy.

Beverly Varnado said...

Sorry I'm so late replying, Julie. Had a lot of trouble with my iPhone yesterday. Thank you for your sweet words. Dan was an amazing man. I could never do enough for him considering the sacrifice he made for all of us. Much love back.

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