On the Banks of Lake Wobegon

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Big Boy Jobs, Revisited

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Today, let’s look at a simple story, with nothing unusual about it except, perhaps, “small town boy makes big,” nice stories, always, perhaps cliché, but perhaps underneath the cliché, a truth about life that is worth remembering every once in a while. It’s the story of Hank Goff, and it’s entitled “Concordia’s Hank Goff Turned His Life Around Through the Marines.”

Now, come on, admit it: who worth knowing doesn’t have at least some soft spot in his or her heart for a guy named “Hank Goff”?  Just the name itself is enough to make you want to ask him out for a cup of coffee or a quick brewski.

And he’s from Minnetonka, Minnesota, USA at that! I think that’s just down the way from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average. Must be something in that cool, northern water.

Hank Goff plays American football for Concordia University, Saint Paul, a private Lutheran school in the state’s capitol, and this year he was the recipient of the national Disney Sports Spirit Award for his skill and for his attitude.

And by the way: Hank is 28. He is a Marine veteran. And he is a Marine combat veteran. By his own admission, he has had the emotional scars to prove it.

I can’t read a story like this and not see many young men his age, some of whom I’ve met in their uniforms, some long after they had left them behind, young men (and women) who made a youthful mistake, or two, or fourteen, who wandered a bit, and who finally ended up at a recruiter’s office. There they saw an opportunity for some sense to be made of their world, and they went for it. End of Act I.

Act II was often a memorable one, yet for reasons that none of us would envy experiencing.

And then there they were, in Act III, trying to figure out how to bring that War Story to some close so that another, better story could begin.

It’s perhaps the very ordinariness of Hank’s story that touches me. Granted, he “made it” enough to get a short human-interest piece in the states premier daily newspaper, and he look great in his suit, standing next to his trophy. Yet he speaks of having to get through finals so that he can graduate, and he’s even begun to think about perhaps getting a “big boy” job after her finishes his internship with the team.

Hank was able to remember that he still had what it took to do what needed to be done. And he’s also just a kid from Minnesota, trying to make life work after War, after the suicides of his friends, after his mother’s illness—after a semester of classes. Not a bad way to be “above average.”

Best wishes to you, Hank. Keep up the spirit.

Until tomorrow, be well,


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