When Matthew Thompson graduated from Concordia University Irvine he could have chosen many career paths. But before making his choice, he married his beloved girlfriend Rachel.
He then decided to join the United States Army.
Even though a college graduate, Matt chose to enter as an enlisted man with a desire to serve in the Green Berets. By all accounts it was a rigorous and grueling training period. But he achieved dual goals. Not only was he a member of the elite Green Beret, but he was also a medic.
Ryan Lochte was a natural swimmer. His father was a swimming coach, which would have seemed an ideal situation. Yet Ryan lacked the discipline and was a source of frustration for his father.
That changed for Ryan at the age of fifteen when he got tired of losing. He made the 2004 Olympic team when he was nineteen. During his Olympic career he has so far won twelve medals, six of which are gold.
The sport of swimming can be a lonely and monotonous sport. To attain the heights of Lochte, one must have not only talent but also a mindset that focuses on training. It means giving up many outside activities that people of his age would take for granted. No more staying out late or indulging in empty calories. It was a choice that he willingly made.
As we all know, Lochte and three other Olympic swimmers went out partying, became intoxicated, and caused a disturbance at a Rio gas station. They were afraid to share the truth about their actions for fear of the discipline that was sure to come. So they made up a story about an attempted robbery at gunpoint.
It wasn’t long before the story began to unravel. But Lochte continued to insist on the original version. Sadly some commentators suggested that Lochte didn’t lie. He just misspoke. Or maybe he embellished. Or maybe he stretched the truth.
No. What he did was lie. And those who see it any other way are only enabling Lochte.
Unfortunately Lochte hasn’t quite arrived at the truth yet. He still talks about using the “wrong choice of words.” He has become an embarrassment. And he will continue to sell this garbage of an excuse until perhaps he grows tired of being a loser, looks into a camera, and apologizes to the people of Brazil, his teammates, and to whatever fans he has left. I hope he doesn’t wait long. But with the enabling crowd around him, I won’t hold my breath.
Yet as infuriating this situation has become because it casts a shadow over the accomplishments of our swim team and its members, we don’t in any way want to degrade what Lochte has attained in the pool these many years. He was and is a champion in the pool. And hopefully he can regain this same stature in the world beyond swimming. He has time. I hope he finds the will.
Sadly this past Tuesday Staff Sergeant Matthew Thompson was killed when he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan. His home is now in heaven. His faith continues to comfort his family and especially his wife Rachel.
Most will not remember his name. That is just a fact. But his life was given in service to the people of Afghanistan and to his country.
As a professing Christian, Matt understood forgiveness and the ability to seek it. It is my hope that Ryan Lochte, whose life is still wide open before him, will find the same peace of confronting the truth and seeking forgiveness.
It’s not a coincidence that Matt Thompson was in Afghanistan. It was where he wanted to be.
And it’s not a coincidence that Ryan Lochte still clings to a lie. At this moment it’s right where he wants to be.