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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Honorable Soldier

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people--Proverbs 14: 34 NIV

Not to say there's anything wrong with a day of grilling by the lake (a stereotypical Memorial Day weekend, according to sales circulars in my Sunday paper), but Memorial Day always gets me thinking about those who have/are currently serving in the Armed Forces.

When my family and I went to put flowers on my grandfather's grave Monday, I was happy to see that the majority of the graves were heavily decorated. I was also glad to see that most of the war veterans interred there had small American flags posted on their graves, in honor of their service.

After we had spent some time at my grandfather's grave, my family swung by to check on my great-grandparents' graves, as well as one of my great uncles, who died in a hospital in Normandy during World War II. It jogged my memory of a visit to this same cemetery many years ago, when I was still loosing teeth and wearing hot-pink sweaters. My parents were putting flowers on my great-grandparents' graves, and I wandered around a bit, reading interesting headstones nearby. As I remember it, I found two, within a couple of feet of each other, both marked as having died sometime early in WWII. As a small child who was already very obsessed with WWII stories, I remember wondering how they had died, and where they had served. I also remember, more vividly, that neither grave had a single decoration on it.

My sister and I had brought a couple of cheap plastic American flags which we had planned to put on our great uncle's grave (even though others in the family had probably already put a flag or two on it). However, after we saw these, we asked our parents if it would be alright if we put them on these graves, instead. It seemed like the right thing to do, since it looked as if nobody else had remembered them.

Were they good and honorable men? Had they represented their country well? I can't know. I'm certain that many men have died in war and been lionized afterward, even though they might not have deserved the treatment. I don't fool myself into believing that all soldiers are good men, but I must recognize the level of bravery it takes to put your life on the line for the safety of others. This deserves respect.

I suppose that is one reason why WWII stories, more than any other war era, have always peaked my interest. The enemy was clearly defined on the battlefield, lacked any of the chivalry we had known in earlier wars, and, most importantly, lacked any trace of traditional Christianity in it's worldview and actions. It was clearly an evil worth resisting--despite what any historical revisionist might have to say about it.

In contrast, though American culture still had a lot to learn at the time of the war, the majority of soldiers were very young and at least morally conservative, if not devout, praying Christians. Most of the true stories I've heard about that era were tales of people sincerely trying to do what is right and oppose what is wrong. Imperfect though they were, they deserve honor for their honorable conduct.

An Honorable Soldier

What is an honorable soldier to me? Well, in my mind, there are good soldiers, and there are good men. Some men can be good at doing their jobs, but they are not honorable unless they do what is morally right.

It brings dishonor on all soldiers, if not an entire nation, if some soldiers do what is morally objectionable in the fulfillment of their jobs. This includes things like raping, pillaging, or torturing civilians; showing disregard for the feelings and suffering of others; or abusing fellow soldiers or civilians who are complying with the armed forces. I see no need to go further in listing grievances. The news media reminds us, almost daily, of any such abuse that is known. This kind of news seems to be turning a section of the population against the armed forces. This should not be! It just proves the Bible right again:

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people--Proverbs 14: 34 NIV

As Americans, we should remember the sacrifice that has been made in securing our freedoms, and we should teach our children not to take their freedoms for granted. After all, if our children forget what they have, it will be lost, and more wars will have to be fought in order to win it back again. This is the value, in my opinion, of decorating the graves of those who have gone before us. This is more important than a day at the lake or a backyard grilling party.

Over the last few years, I've heard a lot of deprecatory talk about the armed forces, especially in the news and on college campuses. It seems that America is beginning to forget the need for them. I wish that the military was not necessary, but I've never known mankind to settle down and stop trying to hurt or cheat their neighbors. As long as mankind is following their own desires, instead of following God, wars will occur. We should personally encourage and thank those soldiers that we know, who have behaved honorably and have proudly served their country. They need our encouragement and our moral leadership, not rejection and hatred.

You see, I have more connections to the military than just the great uncle who died in the war. I can also include (and this is just a partial list) three other great uncles, my grandfather, two uncles, and one second cousin. Not all of them have served in wars or even overseas, but I felt their service deserves recognition.

I'd love to hear your stories, either about your own military service, or that of your family members, if you'd like to leave a comment on this post.

Have you hugged a soldier today?


Anonymous said...

As the son of a active duty Master Sergeant, I must praise your ability to point out the good things about military service members and how they should be honored. I appreciate the words that you have written and the deeds you have done in order to remind the public that the people in the military serve you and everyone in the United States.

Thank You.

Jonathan Hartzell
Ramstein AFB, Germany.