Malvern Free Presbyterian Church hosted the memorial service for Colonel Frederick “Rick” Walker on Saturday, August 15, 2020. Colonel Walker served with great distinction for 25 years in the United States Air Force, earning multiple awards. In 1980, Rick was selected as the first commander of J6 Communications for the then-unknown Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a covert counterterrorism unit composed of the U.S. military’s elite special operations forces.
I had the privilege of meeting Rick as he confronted weakness and repeated illness in the latter years of his life. On a home visit, not long after my move to Pennsylvania, I encountered something new in my pastoral ministry. After I had read the Word and prayed, I was about to bid farewell, but before I could rise from my seat, brother Rick was interceding with His Savior on my behalf. It was a tremendous blessing to hear him lay hold on the Lord. And so began a pattern that continued up to his passing. On pastoral visits, I prayed, and he prayed. As he prayed, I had the privilege of looking into his soul as he faced death. In his prayers I heard faith and the theology that was the foundation of that faith.
There were dominant truths recurring in Rick’s prayers. In the midst of sickness and other concerns, Rick prayed in the confident knowledge that God was in control. The Lord knows the end from the beginning, but beyond that we know that the Lord is working out the end for His glory and the good of His people. He is in control of our illnesses and our adversities. The Lord alone has the power to work “all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Rick served his country, knowing the experience of the gospel centurion: “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it” (Matthew 8:9). As a man of God, he understood that he lived under the authority of a higher power.
For some, the thought of God’s sovereign authority brings fear. Can this God be trusted? Is He good? Is He kind? Rick’s prayers were founded on the Word of God and personal experience. In them, I heard conviction that the sovereign God is good, kind, and full of compassion. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). Rick prayed for himself, his family, and others, pleading for the God of all comfort to show kindness and grace in their lives. He knew that the Lord is seated at the right hand of God, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knew to go boldly to the throne to ask for grace to help in time of need.
Serving his country with great honor and dignity, Rick must have possessed great authority with his men. Courage and integrity are the descriptors of this man’s character. Yet for me, the mark of the man was how he lived his last days, by the grace of God. He was a righteous man who was not afraid of evil tidings (Psalm 112:7).
It’s important for Christians to live well, serving Christ and others. It’s more important to die well. In life, Colonel Frederick Walker honored his country, but more particularly, in his death he honored his Lord. He was a true soldier of the cross, and I am thankful for the privilege of seeing his latter years.