Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Feast of John Myrick Daniels
Today is the feast day of John Myrick Daniels who was killed on this day in 1965 in Alabama when he took the shotgun blast intended for 16-year-old Ruby Sales.
I find it odd and infuriating that there is no mention in Lesser Feasts and Fasts that Daniels was valedictorian of his class at the Virginia Military Academy in 1961. Odd because the brief biography says, "From high school in Keene [NH] to graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with the meaning of life and death and vocation." I would imagine he might have dealt with those issues while at a military academy as well. Yes, yes, I know the preposition "to" is inclusive, but there's no way to know about VMI unless (like I did) you google JMD and find his cadet picture and bio from VMI itself. This infuriates me because it suggests a squeamishness on the part of the church to be associated with the military in any way.
I may be reading more into this than there is, but I think it would be helpful for Lesser Feasts and Fasts to note Daniels spent four formative years at VMI.
I can't help but think that one reason Daniels was able to push Miss Sales out of the way of the blast and take it upon himself was because of his military training. Among other things, Daniels might show us how military training can be used for peaceful purposes.
My goodness, I'm sounding more conservative every day, aren't I? But Daniels himself supports my hypothesis in his VMI valedictory speech. He says, "Perhaps it is true that in some colleges one may study for four years without ever allowing the environment to intrude upon his consciousness. For better or worse, this is not the case at V.M.I." In Daniels' case, this clearly was for the better, combining the skills and discipline he had gained with clear thought and an engaged Christian ethic. He had obviously learned more than just how to follow orders and go with the status quo.
At the end of his speech he says, "My colleagues and friends, I wish you the joy of a purposeful life. I wish you new worlds and the vision to see them. I wish you the decency and the nobility of which you are capable. These will come, with the maturity which it is now our job to acquire on far-flung fields. The only thing that we can do at this time - is to 'greet the unseen with a cheer.' GOODBYE." And Amen.