On December 10, 2013, thousands of South Africans and dozens of dignitaries assembled from around the world.
Among them was President Obama. They came to honor the memory of Nelson Mandela, antiapartheid activist and former president of South Africa who died on December 5, at the age of 95.
The memorial service, however, was marred by the government’s choice of an interpreter for the deaf. The interpreter was Thamsanqa Jantjie, who stood at a mere arm’s length from President Barak Obama, the South African President, as well as other dignitaries. The world was disturbed to find out who the interpreter was. Mr. Jantjie had served a short prison term for several crimes. Additionally, he was determined mentally incompetent to stand trial for others – one of which included murder.
Americans were angered to find out that such an unstable character was allowed to get so close to the leader of the Free World. But the fiercest outrage came from the deaf community who knew that Jantjie was doing nothing but making meaningless hand gestures. He knew almost nothing about signing for the deaf.
When confronted by the media for his fakery, Jantjie was incensed by the accusations. He asserted that he’d been interpreting for major public events for years and that no one had ever complained about his performance.
He confessed that his fatigue and schizophrenia may have caused him to make a mistake or two. But he claimed to be a “champion” interpreter. In reality, Mr. Jantjie was a complete phony. He had only survived in the profession for so long by going unscreened, untested, and unevaluated by those who hired him.i
Whether we like it or not, our leaders have the difficult task of enforcing the military’s standards upon us, lest the Armed Forces be riddled with incompetent and unfit phonies like Jantjie. Such persons are servicemembers in name only. They squirm their way out of required training, hardship assignments, deployments, and this profession’s many sacrifices.
I myself am not innocent in this matter. As an old man in a young person’s world, PT and foot marches are becoming more and more of a challenge. But if I choose to wear the uniform, I must meet the standards like everyone else. And while I certainly do my share of griping and complaining, I know that if the standards are not enforced, the Army will quickly deteriorate and fail in its critical mission.
Therefore, accept the discipline that our leaders impose. Accept the hardships that simply come with the territory. Our country is counting on us. It’s security and peace hang upon our superior performance as servicemembers. It is our duty before God.
Dear Father in heaven, awaken me from my selfish slumber and show me the seriousness of my work. Touch and strengthen me, and those I serve with, in body, mind and spirit. Empower us, dear God, and make us all more than equal to the challenge. Amen.