Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Wrong Bridge

Elder Henry B. Eyring once told the true story of Jack Steel, a friend of his at Stanford University. During World War II, Jack received the second highest decoration a soldier can receive: the Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded it because of gallant actions performed while defending his fellow soldiers in battle. Steel's platoon had been assigned to capture an important bridge. As they walked down a long slope, they could see that the bridge was heavily defended. When the enemy on the bridge spotted Jack's platoon they immediately opened fire. A machine gunner trained his gun on the men highest on the hill and began working his way down, with devastating effects. The men of the platoon were rapidly being killed or wounded.

In that moment, Jack Steel saw that the men who began running back up the hill were also being hit. It soon became clear, that if he wanted to live, he would have to charge straight at the bridge. Therefore, grabbing his Browning automatic rifle, he ran toward the bridge, screaming and firing from the hip. The defenders on the bridge were so surprised by his actions that they immediately deserted the bridge, leaving Jack to capture it single-handedly. His bold attack not only captured the bridge but also saved the rest of his platoon farther up the hill. Elder Eyring concluded the story with this note:

Now, the reason you need to hear the story is that it turned out to be the wrong bridge. That is what you need to know. The colonel who sent them had given the wrong instruction and it was a useless bridge—it didn't go anywhere. All the people defending it were dealing with the wrong bridge (“We Need a Miracle,” an address to CES Area Directors, 6 April, 1981).

Effort and gallantry aside, they had attacked the wrong target! Someone had made a serious mistake in their directives. The bridge they really needed to capture was still out there and still needed to be taken.

[The above 4 paragraphs are quoted from a Meridian Magazine article this week.]

In my life, how many wrong bridges have I either attacked or defended? How much time and effort have I expended on useless stuff? How many important bridges have I failed to either attack or defend?

Discernment. It's what this life is all about, I guess.


Davola said...

This reminds me of Montey Python's Holy Grail. The Bridge of Death. What is your favorite color?

Rebecca said...

This reminded me of my patriarchal blessing where it says to not be concerned about the unimportant. I guess that's like choosing the right bridge.

Funny note: I was processing paperwork yesterday for an employee named Rainey Bridges... He lives in Orem... :)

Anonymous said...

I think I am the queen of defending useless bridges. I am worried they somehow will matter at some point. You are right, it is a matter of discernment. I have almost left bridges that were vital! That's the scary part.

Zaphod said...

I am reminded of King Pyrrhus of Epirus who did battle against the Romans at Heraclea at 280 BC and again at Asculum in 279 BC. After Asculum, one of the soldiers congratulated the king on his defeat of the Roman army, notwithstanding the fact that he had lost more than half of his forces and the Romans received a large contingent of reinforcements. Pyrrhus wryly replied "One more victory like that one and I will be utterly undone". Hence, a "pyrrhic victory".

DebbieLou said...

I liked that analogy. I also loved those photos.