Tonight a memory from a trip long ago to Israel surfaced in my thinking while I was walking. I visited new homes that were being constructed for Jews that were being allowed to immigrate from the Soviet Union. My guide was expressing thanks for the influence that America was expending for the release of the Jews. Many of them had suffered greatly and were held captive against their will. Now they were coming to Israel. As those memories surfaced I experienced again the honor and humility to be a citizen of this great country.
As I continued to think, another memory surfaced of a Belgian friend from Leige who asked me to say thanks to Americans who had fought for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. Andre had been brought as a slave from a Slavic country to work for the Nazis in Belgium.
I remembered talking with an old man in Waterloo who hugged my neck and kissed my cheeks while expressing thanks for America. I wept with him.
The more I thought, the more the memories of people and places that I’ve visited poured through my mind. In particular the memorial ceremonies that I’ve conducted in Normandy and the Ardennes. The Ardennes Cemetery’s statue of youth is a vivid reminder of those who perished in the prime of life for the liberty of others.
In Savannah, Georgia not long after my first visit to the beaches of Normandy, I met with soldiers and sailors who were old men now. I asked them why they risked their lives and futures for a far away war. The responses were similar. I fought for my country, I fought for their freedom, I fought for my family. One man in Smyrna, Georgia gave me a pocket knife that was gift to him from General Patton he said. When I asked why he would give me such a gift, he replied, “Because you appreciate what we did.”
In my travels in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, and Europe I have met many who have asked me to say thanks to America. America is a blessed nation, a nation with a sacred trust, a nation that recognizes the inalienable rights of people. Some want to say that America is not exceptional. I agree with Madeleine Albright, “…bunk to those who say America is not an exceptional country.” (The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs)
America is an exceptional country. America does not have an exceptional claim upon God but many of us do believe that God has an exceptional claim upon us and our nation. Just a thought for Veterans Day.
God bless our veterans! God bless America!