Respect for Our Nation

Amerian Flag

Debates are going on in America about whether kneeling on an athletic field during the national anthem is a proper expression of constitutional freedom or a sign of disrespect of our nation’s honor and history. I believe the point of a statement of conscience about any manifestation of injustice, real or perceived, would more effectively be made if done so without creating doubt about the protesters’ respect for the country that affords them that opportunity.

Respect for our nation and those who serve in our military was powerfully demonstrated a decade ago in the true story of 25-year-old Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor. On September 29, 2006, Monsoor was killed in enemy-held territory at Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He threw himself on top of a grenade to save the lives of his fellow SEALS.

Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in another incident on May 9, 2006, when he and a fellow SEAL pulled a wounded team member to safety amidst gunfire. In April 2008, he was also awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroic action that took his life.

His funeral, attended (in the words of President George W. Bush by “nearly every SEAL on the West Coast,” was held on October 12, 2006, at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

During Monsoor’s funeral service, as the casket was taken from the hearse to the gravesite, fellow SEALs lined up in two columns to slap and embed the gold Trident (a pin awarded for successful completion of SEAL Qualification Training) from each of their uniforms onto the top of Monsoor’s coffin. By the time the coffin arrived at the grave site, it looked as though it had a gold inlay from all the Tridents pinned to it.

As President George W. Bush said of the event during the April 2008 Medal of Honor ceremony, “The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.”

What a moving demonstration of respect for our nation and those who serve to protect our freedoms! Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

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Pearl Harbor and Hacksaw Ridge

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As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, the decision was made earlier this week to continue with another volume of Perspectives articles. Thank you for the encouragement expressed by so many of you for me to keep writing. It’s not a simple chore, so I do appreciate your appreciation!

This past weekend Terry and I watched two movies at home. Pearl Harbor was produced in 2001 with Ben Affleck as Capt. Rafe McCawley, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who bravely responded to the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson and released in 2016 with Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist who was ostracized by fellow soldiers for refusing to bear arms. In the Battle of Okinawa Doss risked his life, unarmed, to save 75 men.

Both films graphically and gruesomely show horrific realities of war. One such reality, in real life and also in cinematic portrayal, is the traumatic injury and death inflicted upon young men. Many are still teenagers anxious to serve their country yet unprepared for the powerful persistence of the enemy.

In that context, a quote originally attributed to Greek historian Herodotus was repeated by a soldier in Hacksaw Ridge: “In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”

Though I am a son who has buried his father, I have not borne the pain of burying a son or a daughter or a grandchild. I have great empathy for parents or grandparents who have, including some of you.

As a Christian I’ve often marveled at God the Father’s experience of seeing his son buried. The song writer says it well:

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure… that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.

Behold the man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Flags Lowered

This past Tuesday would have been my father’s 100th birthday. Martin served in the U.S. Navy in San Diego in World War II. He was not assigned to combat duty and returned to his family at the end of the war with life and limb. Not all who defended our country were blessed in that way.

Sometime ago I read the following poem, author unknown:

I watched the flag pass by one day. It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it, and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform, so young, so tall, so proud.
With hair cut square and eyes alert, he’d stand out in a crowd.

I thought how many men like him had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil, how many mothers’ tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down? How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves? No, freedom isn’t free!

I heard the sound of Taps one night, when everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play and felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times that Taps had meant ‘Amen.’
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children, of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands with interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea;
Of unmarked graves in Arlington. No, freedom isn’t free!

God bless the women and men who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom and safety. Because of their sacrifices we can celebrate the 4th of July in peace and security, always remembering that freedom isn’t free!