The Locked Shields of the Minivan Centurions

An axiom of military tactics is that as the lethality of weapons increases so does the distance between warriors in battle. Before gunpowder, when the primary weapons were the sword and dagger, men were tightly packed together to achieve mass and mutual protection. In addition to the blades, each man carried a shield that consisted of a heavy shank of wood bolted onto a metal boss that served as a handle. If the battle was fierce enough, the wooden part would need replacing. And it often did.

We picture that kind of soldier in an open arena using the shield to ward off blows in single combat. But that’s gladiator stuff. The real purpose of the warrior’s shield was as part of a wall formed in conjunction with the other soldiers in his unit. When two sides joined in battle, their leaders would call for the formation of opposing shield walls. Each warrior would lock his shield with those of the men to his left and right. It was from behind this Shield Wall that the armies would fight, massing their sword-power together to overcome their enemy. The side whose Shield Wall was first broken was the side that was overcome. Break the wall and you break the man.

The Romans were most skilled at this. Their leaders were Centurions, who commanded eighty men each. It was the Centurion’s job to train his men and deploy them in combat. He picked the high ground to form his Shield Wall, called his men into it and then exhorted them to keep it locked, to fight, survive and win. On the strength of its skilled Centurions, the Roman Army could survive and win against a determined and larger foe because in the heat of battle the Centurions kept their shields locked. Break the wall and you break the man.

And so it was until the advent of gunpowder, which rendered the wooden shield obsolete. Men still massed together to achieve superior firepower, but with only their flesh and bones to act as a shield. While the Civil War found men massing in the open, WWI had them spread into trenches and WWII spread them further into foxholes. Today, infantrymen fight as far apart as they can to protect the unit from the lethality of the enemy’s weapons, but they still mass fire and still retain the emotional bond of the Shield Wall. For while the weapons have changed the warrior heart has not. We still fight together, behind the Shield Wall, or we are overcome. Break the wall and you break the man.

I have had the opportunity to workout at a lot of great parks and schools in F3Nation, but I have to admit to being partial to Freedom Park in Charlotte, because that is where it all started. Not only is it a great workout location, but it serves the community in a thousand different ways. I probably spend an average of 7 hours a week there in one capacity or another. Go there on a Saturday morning in the Spring or Fall and you will see the parking lots stuffed full of minivans and the fields overrun with kids playing soccer and baseball.

There is so much sweet America there it will make your teeth hurt. When the World is running particularly amuck, a day in Freedom is all I need to keep me focused on what we have here, what is worth protecting. The World may be afire, but we have Freedom Brothers. We have Freedom. Is it likewise in every park that is part of F3Nation? I imagine so. That is really why we do this, isn’t it?

One day after soccer I was walking towards the minivan with my daughters when the youngest one asked me why there were never any police officers at Freedom Park. I had never thought about it until that moment, but she was right. Except at the front gate (enforcing the no-left turn rule) I had never seen a police officer or even a #ShoulderTalker patrolling the park. So I answered, “they are probably at other places in Charlotte where they are needed.”

Which prompted her older sister (in her older sister voice) to say, “yeah Sarah, we don’t need them here because we have the daddies.”

Little Sister: “rigggght, we have the daddies  to keep us safe at Freedom. The police are at the parks without the daddies.” At that, I kind of looked away so my daughters wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes, and I noticed that I could see about five other F3 guys within nine-iron distance, coaching soccer or cheering their kids on. And I knew there were another 20 F3 men that I couldn’t see from where I was standing. But they were there. It occurred to me that if the bad guys came to Freedom they might have thought it easy pickings because they would see no police on duty. But they would be mistaken. If Evil comes to Freedom it will have the daddies to contend with, and it will not stand a chance. While we might be outnumbered Brothers, we have locked our shields and will keep them locked in the heat of battle.

Alone, I may go down fighting but I am still easily overcome. But I do not fight alone. I fight behind the Locked Shields of the Minivan Centurions. That Shield Wall will not be broken.

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