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I Was Only Twenty
DON JACQUES was a platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, at Khe Sanh. As a Marine officer he knew how to take care of his men. He was first up in the morning and ...

I Was Only Twenty

In a letter home, he commented:

Tonight I had a 19-year-old come to me for help and advice. He is married to an 18-year-old, and he was having problems. If he knew I was only 20, I wonder if he would have come. I think I helped him.

I was once a twenty-one-year-old lieutenant with the same question. What kind of authority would I have with enlisted men who were not much younger than I and in some cases, much older? I quickly learned that age and appearance have practically nothing to do with the question. Some degree of authority does come with the rank insignia on the collar. However, respect is based almost completely on how well one knows his job and how well he treats the people under him. One of my great life lessons from the Marine Corps was the ageless truth, “You can’t fool the troops.”

Several years ago my church called one of the youngest-ever Episcopal priests to lead our large congregation. The Rev. Rob Sturdy answered this call with great trepidation, knowing that the vast majority of his “flock” would be much older than he. He need not have worried. His collar gave him some authority, but his knowledge and wisdom set him apart as a gifted teacher and man of God.

In chapters 5 through 7 of the book of Matthew, Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry as a young man by delivering what has become known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Those who listened knew that these words came from a man of few years, but were, nevertheless, words that would change the world. Regardless of his age, this was no ordinary man.

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