I spent Friday with my wife in DC, and during our one-day tour, we spent some quality time at the World War II monument set up by President George W. Bush in 2004. It’s a beautiful and somber memorial dedicated to the memory of those who fought bravely against vicious Japanese soldiers, those who marched through the trenches and rain-soaked battlefields of Europe, those who endured unspeakable atrocities at the hands of evil people in prison camps and for all who served and for all those who paid the ultimate price in The Great War.
War is always terrible. I don’t mean that war is always wrong, but the realities of war are gruesome. Wives lose husbands, children lose their mothers, parents see their children die as the ravages of war devastate people without partiality.
Yet, through the devastation and loss, extraordinary stories of heroes arise. People who almost always deny their own heroism — people who say, “I just did what any of my comrades would have done.” In fact, many of their comrades fell attempting the same acts of courage and bravery. In the U.S. War display in the Smithsonian American History Museum, we heard stories that make you ask yourself, “Would I do that for my country?”
Like the nurses who moved through enemy lines to tend to wounded soldiers, or the pilots who pushed their jets to the limits, even choosing to finish a task as fuel ran out and their only option was a crash-landing. Or the story about an 18-year-old soldier who crashed the shores of Normandy, clutching a gun and a picture of his girl, knowing he was about to face an enemy that would strike down many. Over 4,000 allied soldiers died that day, including 2,500 Americans. (Today, by contrast, around 5,000 U.S. soldiers have died in the Middle East conflict. So half that numbered died on Normandy in just six hours!)
I recently read a book about a young man who grew up in a war-torn European country, who, at age 10, helped resist Nazi occupation. When Allied forces broke in and fought back the Germans, he and his family help bury the dead soldiers who had fallen on their farm. In many instances, they removed dog tags from fallen warriors and, without the aid of the internet, and barely with the help of the phone, were able to track down addresses for those soldiers so that family could be contacted and the fate of these heroes could be known.
Today we remember the fallen. Today we pray for those who are still serving our country in fields around the world. Today we thank the veterans of past wars and service, those who fought, those who protected, and those who were readied, even if — thankfully — they were never called to face the grimness of war. Today we ache for those wives and children, for those boyfriends and parents, for those in-laws and cousins, for those schools, roommates, communities and churches that don’t know the fate of a loved one. Today we ask God to free the imprisoned solider and to break down the wickedness in the world that enslaves innocent people and destroys freedom. Today we set aside our political preferences and agendas, and we gratefully acknowledge the bravery of the fine men and women who make up our armed forces.
Today we pray for The Day that will bring ultimate peace to this world, the day Jesus returns and establishing a perfect Kingdom rooted in perfect peace. We pray for the joyous moment to come, when wars will cease, and lives will no longer be senselessly lost at the hands of violent and evil men. We pray for God to bring true justice that punishes evil, and true righteousness that rewards the faithful. On that day, humanity will finally rest from being at war since the days of creation.
Until then, may God bless those who fight wickedness in this world, who stand to oppose injustice and who are the line in the sand against those who enslave women and children, imprison the innocent and destroy, steal and plunder the poor. May God protect, empower and give wisdom to those brave men and women, and may we always be thankful for the service and sacrifice of each of them.
Today we remember that freedom isn’t free.