“A Hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell
All Gave Some
In the many fierce wars to preserve our freedom, many have given limbs. Others sight, still others hearing and some sanity. Some lost their family to predators while they served in faraway places.
Some Gave All.
In my now misty memory, I recall the first impression I had of a hero as being Nathan Hale the 21 year old patriot whose words prior to his hanging set my heart on fire for America and our dream of freedom. He served in the Continental Army, was captured and was hanged on the morning of September 22, 1776 at around 11:00AM, having been refused the comfort of clergy, and also his request for a Bible was denied. His last words shall always ring in our ears and drive deeply into our hearts, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Each generation must war again as we stand against the forces, the evil that desires to enslave all free people, the evil that would strip away freedom of expression, thought and worship. A current evil that would mutilate our women and girls, that would emasculate our men, that would behead the religious and murder all who would stand faithful to Christ.
In visions of my youth I see Gertrude Walker, walking to the barn to gather eggs. She was well along in years, wearing a print dress and the ever present apron of a farm woman. Along the way, going or coming, she would pause by the old ramshackle corn crib. If close, you could see her lips moving in a prayer. Often a tear would glisten in the morning sunlight. After a few minutes, her hand would lift a corner of the apron, wipe the tear away, and whisper, “I will see you in the morning, Harley.” Gertrude meant the coming morning when we will gather down by the riverside and study war no more.
Harley’s body was shipped home from New Guinea, Harley, having given the supreme sacrifice two days prior to VJ day. Gertie, as she was called by those dearest and best to her, never got over being a Gold Star Mother. The corn crib became a place, a memorial in which the wooden shipping crate that had held Harley’s body was stored. The farm, the house, the barn and the corn crib are gone, settled into the dust, as is Harley’s body.
Today, several hundred thousand mothers pass by their equivalent “corn cribs” and pay homage to the mementoes of their son, husband, even daughter, as one who gave all. It is certain that another tear glistens in the morning sun. And they, in all humility join the ache in Gertie’s heart for the longed for day when we gather down by the riverside, beat our swords into plowshares and study war no more.
One memory haunts me of a young, bright and patriotic son of a good American family in the town where I first pastored. Recently graduated from High School, one of the county boys, Bobby, stopped by my office to talk with me about enlisting. The Viet Nam war was raging. I listened to him talk about standing up for our great country. I was moved by his deep sincerity. His family pastor assured me of Bobby’s profession a few years prior. I prayed with him and he offered the prayer of a warrior. Soon after he was sworn in, and marched off to do battle in defense of his country. His remains very soon returned to our town. His mother, a well-known worker at a local communication company held together pretty well, the town and county joined with her in the sorrow that overwhelms. Over all the years past, I have held men and women who wear our nation’s uniform in the highest esteem. Sometimes I wish the politicos who play games with the youth, their courage, their deeply held belief in the exceptionalism of our country, of our warriors, were held to very severe accountability for the lives given freely, though under fraudulent pretense by those who commit the kind of things that we now know about that war in Southeast Asia.
Too often, over the last twenty five years I have pastored here in Terre Haute, a family travels to Dover, Delaware to meet the mortal remains of a son, husband, daughter, even wife as their dearly loved one is welcomed to American soil, and then the long journey to home. Home, where the hearts ache, and the tears flow. A room, in a church or mortuary is lined with pictures of childhood, a chubby diaper clad baby bouncing on Daddy’s knee, or letting the dog lick his/her face, now lying in repose at the front of the room. Often, a young wife, numbed by the horror of the scene, stands around, clutching another generation in her arms, the warrior and her genes, melded into a child, the child wondering out loud, “why won’t daddy wake up?” Such heart rending questions are the stuff of war.
My son pastors in Avon, IN. His first involvement with a fallen warrior was several years into his ministry. Jon and the soldier’s late mother were in school at the same period. Army Cpl Zachary Nordmyer 21 years old had grown to maturity in our area. He gave it all in Iraq on February 23, 2009, his body ripped with several rounds of enemy fire. The General who made the arrangements according to protocol told Jon how Zach was a true hero in that several of his group were saved due to his bravery. He literally went down still fighting.
I recall the memorial service as though it were yesterday. Over twenty five hundred people attended the service. The Indiana Patriot Guard, veteran motorcyclists aided by several other veteran groups, escorted the remains from the church to the cemetery. Throngs of men and women, along with school children, lined the streets for miles. The Mayor of Indianapolis, Greg Ballard, fighting a tear, said, “Larry, your son did a fine job honoring Zachary’s memory.”
On this Memorial Day, the year of our Lord 2015, we must cling to the truth of the valor of our military men and women. Citizens of the United States of America who boldly leave all that is dear, to protect the ones they love, to risk the possibility of their children growing to age, with but a memento of them, the ones who gave it all.
May we boldly state the truth of Jesus Christ, that we will, with Him, one day meet our loved ones on the distant shore of the Celestial City and on the beach of the River of Life, lay down our arms, hug one another, and study war no more.
To all and each of you wearing or having worn the American Colors, I, we, salute and honor you. Until then, the courage of Jesus Christ be with you.
Copyright (C) 2015 Larry Lilly