The painting is my wife’s. It hangs in our family room. The nest symbolizes our home and the four blue eggs are the four wonderful children God blessed us with. She enjoyed painting it and all of us enjoy seeing it in our home. Each time I see the painting I have this warm feeling of gratitude to the Lord for our family. Which brings me to my point tonight.
“Why did you do it? Why did you go?” Those were my questions to a group of WWII vets who had landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. They had described for me the impossible task, their fears and the horrors they saw that day. But their answers had to do with their families.
One man who had piloted a LST, the boats that ferried the soldiers across the channel, described in vivid details what he remembered and felt. “I loved my family and I loved my country. Somebody had to do it, Pastor.” Tears were flowing. I embraced him and thanked him from the bottom of my heart.
I had to remind myself these were very young men at the time, while I drove back from Savannah, Georgia. A week earlier I had walked the beaches of Normandy and led prayer services in the Ardennes, Bastogne, Mons and Normandy. The beautiful country side had healed from the scars of the war. Monuments, tank barriers, and cemeteries dot the landscape. Memories from movies and history books I had read of two World Wars would keep coming back to me. Would my children ever have to go to war? Would they serve with the same bravery and sacrifice? Driving alone across the French countryside, I felt a mixture of sadness and patriotism at the same time. Freedom is never free.
I remember sitting in our living room in Georgia during the first Gulf War. I knelt in front of a wing back chair and prayed, thinking one day, one of my sons might have to go to war. That was the last thing anyone would want for their children or anyone’s child. I remembered that day clearly when our oldest son left for Iraq. Everyday we were praying for his and his buddies safety. When he finally came home we were elated, grateful and proud of him.
Tuesday, I listened to four of our veterans share about their service to our country. Two Marines and two Soldiers, all older now but real heroes. Leroy shared about his experience in Viet Nam. He told us how when he got to San Francisco there were opportunities to flee the country, go underground so he would not have to go fight in an unpopular war. “I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that.” So he went, like so many others, not knowing if he would come home.
At that time the pictures of protestors burning our flag and insulting soldiers coming home came across the television nightly. I was twelve. My Dad and I would sit together and his anger was palatable. I shared it and still do.
Many years later, I would invite a former Navy Seal badly disfigured and scarred who would speak in our high schools and at night to the veterans of Viet Nam. These men were scarred and disfigured emotionally as they stumbled to a makeshift altar in city auditoriums and civic centers. One of my dear friends, a state representative knelt with one poorly dressed veteran in his fatigues and led him to the peace he had never known in Christ. I was so proud of what God was doing in the lives of these men. Even now I’m crying remembering all of these men and God’s amazing love for them.
I realized that my son shares something in common with these four men. Faith in God, love of their families and the self-respect from having served with valor and honor. Thank-you son and to all the parents and men and women who have served our God and our country.
Thanks to all of our Veterans for sacrificing for all of our families. I pray that many more happy homes will be built to God’s glory because of your service.
Peace and Joy!