The second time I went to Guantanamo Bay a bunch of us did pistol quals on the base training range. It was not a highly sophisticated event. We walked to the range from another training evolution. The range master showed us a five gallon bucket full of WWII era .45’s that really looked like they saw action in that war. He briefed us up on range rules, gave us a clip and set us in a lane. I shot well. My biggest set back came when the last round kicked out. The slide came back, grabbed the web of my hand, which I held too high, and gashed me good. Blood dripping down my fingers, I cleared my weapon and placed it back in the bucket. Someone retrieved our targets. Several guys shot really well; good enough to qualify for the Navy’s pistol marksman ribbon. I missed qualifying for the ribbon by one shot. One shot. It may not seem like much, having a ribbon or medal to wear on your uniform, but when you are a lowly Ensign and it seems like everyone has at least one ribbon on their chest…well you want that ribbon. Back on the ship the guys who qualified reported their result to the admin office for recording in their service records. One of the sailors there saw me and said, “How about you, Mr. Jones?” Another sailor spoke up for me, “He missed it by nothing. Mr. Jones deserves to qualify, shooting with those junky pistols is next to impossible.” The first sailor looked at me. “Look Mr. Jones, I’ll just write down the qualifying score. Its no big deal. Seems like everyone agrees you are a good enough shot to earn the ribbon. That’s what’s important.” I thought about it. I actually did more than think about it. I nodded my assent and walked out of the office. No big deal. By the time I got to my stateroom it felt like a big deal though. It felt really heavy. I thought of how good a ribbon would look above my bare khaki shirt pocket. Then I thought about how every time I looked at that ribbon for the rest of my life it would remind me that I was a cheater and a liar. It would remind me I never earned it. I made my way back to Admin and asked the sailor to take the qual sheet out of my record. I never shot for the pistol qual again in my Navy career, and so I never wore that ribbon.
I’m glad I don’t have a Navy medal I did not earn. I’m glad rejected the urge to accept something for free that I did not pay the price to get. But there is a reward I accept that I did not pay the price to receive. I do accept the record of Jesus that I could not earn. This is like going into the Admin office without even the qualification to wear the pistol ribbon and finding that my service record says I can wear the Medal of Honor. I’ve done nothing worthy of this honor; I haven’t even met the lowest standard for the lowest award, yet here it is in my record. I can accept it. I do accept it. He wanted us to have it. It was his intent to go out and earn it for us. It is the most loving and respectful thing I can do to receive his honor in his name.