Similarly, for years, when I stood on the side of the road and cheered as the annual Veteran’s Day parade passed by, I saw old men. The blue garrison caps of the VFW sitting atop bald heads or white hair. The buttons on their white short-sleeved shirts barely holding back the bellies they covered. I saw the patches on their shirts, coats, and hats that revealed the war they served in and the unit they were a part of during their service. They were always “old” to me. I have always been a patriotic person. Someone who loves this country and, in spite of all its missteps, still believes it is the greatest nation humankind has ever produced.
However, in 1998, I went to see the film Saving Private Ryan. I strongly suggest you watch it. It was life changing for me. I’ll tell you why. The first twenty-plus minutes recreate the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. It is so realistic. It is jarring. For someone who has never seen combat, I was shocked at the reality of it. Sure, I have seen my share of war movies, but this was different. It was so real. It was as if the cameraman was actually there recording the events live.
The horror of war was what first jumped off the screen at me. What followed was a stunning realization that these “men” storming the beach were so young. Did you know the average age of a World War II soldier was twenty-six. Do you know a 26-year old? Perhaps you have a son or nephew who is twenty-six. In Vietnam, it was different. The average age of a soldier in the Vietnam War was nineteen! Nineteen! Look at the nineteen year olds in your life. Can you picture them crawling through the jungles of North Vietnam? I don’t know why, but for some reason, Saving Private Ryan hit me between the eyes. Those men marching down Main Street were once 20 years old, and what we, as a country, asked them to do is beyond description. But they did it. For me. For you. For the idea that is America. So that we could remain free to speak, to worship, to elect our own leaders, to pursue our American dream. It brought me to tears. Much like the realistic depictions of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ, my eyes were suddenly fully opened to service of young men and women who willingly choose to defend me, you, all Americans. Regardless of race or religion, politics, or economic status. No, not all of them stormed beaches or trudged through rice paddies. Most of them did not see combat at all. However, every single one of them would have long before I would have. I cannot tell you how much that means to me. That someone was willing to possibly die so that I could live – free.
Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Nearly, 20 million men and women have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Each one of them would have laid down their life, if need be, to defend this nation and the cause of freedom around the world. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. On Armed Forces Day (celebrated on the third Saturday in May), we honor those currently serving in the U.S. military. Today, November 11, is the day we have set aside to formally recognize those who have served. Why today? The major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. Originally called Armistice Day, at the urging of major U.S. veteran organizations, it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
We should honor those who have served and are serving every day, but I pray that today, if you see someone with a baseball cap or jacket covered in patches, you would thank them for their service. They deserve it. On Monday, I personally thanked two veterans and they appreciated it. Words cannot express the depth of my appreciation to all of those who have served, but it is the least I can do. Thank you for your service.
Remember to email your praises and petitions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.