Ray W. Burgess, 33

If we live a service-oriented life with a sense of brotherly love, we can survive even “friendly fire.”

Some time ago the guest minister at our church, Dr. James Carter, Director, Division of Church Minister Relations, Louisiana Baptist Convention, chose as his topic, “Surviving Friendly Fire.” As his sermon unfolded, the more intently I listened. As Dr. Carter turned his words toward the church and its members, I realized his subject could be easily revised to fit the Masonic Fraternity. To avoid any suspicion of plagiarism, I called Dr. Carter and received permission to use some of his ideas and research materials.

“Friendly fire” is when those on your side are the ones who are shooting at you. Often people are wounded and killed by “friendly fire.” In the Civil War during the Battle of Chancellorsville, General “Stonewall” Jackson was wounded and subsequently died, when fired upon by a North Carolina regiment, a unit of Confederate skirmishers serving as outguards. In this case “friendly fire” cost the life of a famous general and could have affected the outcome of the battle. Throughout the Civil War, there were many other instances of mistaken identity, whereby “friendly fire” caused casualties among one’s own forces.

Following the euphoria of Desert Storm, the American public was shock- ed to learn how many casualties sustained by the American Army were the result of “friendly fire.” Thirty-five of the 145 killed, and 72 of those wounded were the result of “friendly fire.” Seven M-1 Abrams tanks and 20 Bradley fighting vehicles were lost to “friendly fire.”1

As I pondered these tragic losses, it occurred to me that most of the casualties we suffer, most of the wounds we sustain, most of the hurt we feel, as individuals and as Masons, come from “friendly fire.” Those people you think are on your side-supporting you, strengthening you, helping you-are often the ones who hurt you the most. It pains me when I hear a Brother Mason speak in derogatory terms about another.

Illustrious Ray W. Burgess, 33

Recently, there was a story in the newspaper that the Pentagon had developed so-called anti-fratricidal devices. “Friendly fire” is really a form of fratricidal fire: brother against brother. The Pentagon’s devices are designed to keep one’s own troops from firing on each other. They are electronic beacons which blink out pulses of near-infrared light which can be seen at great distances, thus warning those on the same side not to fire.2

Is it necessary for Masons to wear an anti-fratricidal device to keep Masons from firing at each other? I think not. I believe if we resort to that principle which made us great, to live a service-oriented life with a sense of brotherly love, we can survive “friendly fire.” In such a life, we are accountable for what we say and what we do. We are accountable to ourselves, other people and, especially, to God. Instead of attacking each other, let our light so shine that all people will know we believe in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.

1. Time, August 26, 1991, p. 20
2. Alexandria [Louisiana] Daily Town Talk, September 17, 1991, p. A-3