The Measure of a Man

June 2, 2020

BY Pastor Bob

The Measure of a Man
A tribute to Bill Pitsenbarger
By Pastor Bob Bogan

Yesterday, Memorial Day 2020, I had the privilege and honor of attending the ceremonial placing of wreaths at several cemeteries in the Covington, Ohio area in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. Prayers were offered in thanks for their service and the ultimate sacrifice they made for their country, and after a 21 gun salute, a bugler played Taps. Taps was a song that originated during the Civil War to signal the end of day and fighting, and for these service men and women their days of serving had ended.

One of the places visited was the Miami Memorial Park where the USAF Pararescue Memorial monument stands. The Pararescue mission, whose motto is “That others May Live” is to fly in by helicopter to provide medical attention to the wounded and to transport them to a “safe zone.” One man in particular, Bill Pitsenbarger from Piqua, Ohio lived and died by that motto. He was part of a mission to fly in and pick up wounded soldiers who were caught in an ambush and were being decimated. Their medic was one of the casualties and since the ground troops had no medic and there were many who needed medical attention, Bill volunteered to go down and help. While in the ground he helped save over 60 men and at one point he even waved off the helicopter because they were being shot at. He was shot two times but kept fighting until he was eventually killed by an enemy sniper. For his actions he was awarded the Air Force Cross which was upgraded over 30 years later to the Medal of Honor.

What made Bill Pitsenbarger do something like this? Why would anyone do something like this? Do you think he had a death wish and decided to go out in a big way, or did he do it to impress his girl back home? Do you think he wanted to show everyone that he was a hero? No, I don’t think so. I think he was just selfless enough to put others first before himself. To some people that just comes naturally, even to the point of death; it’s the “right” thing to do. It seems crazy on the surface, to put others first before yourself, but people do it everyday. We make choices on what we believe, how we see life. We’re either givers or takers.

Here are two examples: two people are coming up to a door; a big, burly guy called Big Bob and a teeny tiny old lady named Gertrude. They both get to the door at the same time and reach for the handle. Now Big Bob, seeing he is much larger than teeny tiny Gertrude, has two choices: he can open the door for her, allowing her to go first, or he can, seeing how much bigger he is than teeny tiny Gertrude, simply knock her to the ground and step over her, laughing all the way. 

Another example: Teeny Tiny Gertrude is standing on the curb trying to cross the street, but the traffic is heavy and she’s very afraid to cross. A young mother with her three old daughter named Penelope sees Gertrude and how afraid she is. Now Penelope has two choices: help her cross the street somehow, or push her into traffic.

Now we all know what the right thing to do is in both these examples; you help teeny, tiny Gertrude! But why? Why is it instinctual and right to help Gertrude? After all, isn’t it survival of the fittest? We should step on the little guy to get to the top. It’s all about me, me, ME!

In the first chapter of the book of Romans Paul explains that we know what the right thing to do is in situations because God put it in us. He put in us a sense of right and wrong; a conscience, if you will. So Bill, and not just him but countless others knew what the “right” thing to do was: help others before you help yourself; put others first. It’s instinctual! In case you’re unsure, Paul tells the Philippians the same thing: put others before yourselves.

What is the true measure of a man? Is it to look out for number one, to put yourself first? Is it to only look after yourself and your own needs first, before anyone else? I believe it’s the exact opposite; to look out for another’s needs first. After all, that’s what Bill Pitsenbarger and countless others have done over the centuries; they put other people’s needs before their own. He put the soldier’s needs before his own and paid the ultimate cost: his own life so that others would live.

I believe that’s the true measure of a man.


Pastor Bob