This Memorial Day we remember the men and women who gave their lives to give us freedom. We need to remember that freedom is not free and there will always be a evil force that keeps us from living our lives the way God intended. I think of my father on this day. He went to Vietnam and came back alive, that wasn’t true for so many of his friends and fellow soldiers. He spend most of 1971 in country, stationed not far from the demarcation line separating north and south. I was born in 1976 so I’m glad he came home in one piece.
“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them,because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” – Deuteronomy 20: 1-4
Fear! Today at church we talked about the story of Jonah and the Whale. It’s more than a bible school story, it’s about a man running away from his fears. God wanted Jonah to face his biggest fear, death, by going to preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah new the violent nature of these people and knew that death was a good possibility.
My father graduated high school in 1968. Not long after he received his draft papers to serve in the United States Army. Instead of waiting to be drafted he ran down and enlisted as soon as he could. My father was a small man and knew if he was drafted they would send him in as a tunnel rat (someone who goes into enemy tunnels first to make sure it’s clear of Viet Cong). My father knew if he could get ahead of the draft he could select his field instead of depending on the luck of the draw. He ended up in communications and I’m sure he never thought he would be in any danger by doing this.
“But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.” Jonah 1:3
I thought about how Jonah decided it would be easier to get on a boat and head to Tarshish instead of facing his fears, smart guy right? My father had the fear of being in the tunnels and being killed so he enlisted instead and went into communications. When my dad was sent over to Vietnam he had no idea what he was in for.
“Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” Jonah 1:4
I interviewed my dad one time and he gave account of the base he was stationed in. It was close to the north and south boarder, the demarcation line. At night time the north would shoot into his camp. You could see rounds coming out of the darkness and hitting the sides of the buildings. From time to time they would bomb the base and he saw men die. I could only imagine his thoughts “but I’m in communications”. What my father feared, death, was at his doorstep every day.
Like Jonah he couldn’t run from the fear, he needed to face it. He served with honor and dignity during a very dark time. He came home with a bronze star and held his head high for the job he did. I love my dad and he is a true hero to me and the rest of my family.
One of my favorite stories my dad tells is the time he hitchhiked from his base to Saigon for R&R. The shock of war had worn off and things became normal after some time. He walked dirt roads and got rides from whomever he could. I imagined him as comfortable as a walk down a dirt road in Indiana were he grew up. Farm land as far as the eye could see and the smell of fresh air. I could only think that the war had made him immune to fear at that point. He had faced his fears and conquered them now it was time to come home.
My dad told me another story about when he came home from Vietnam. He had worn his uniform but a friend of his took his off and put on civilian clothing. My father thought he would come home to open arms but instead they came home to protest and anger. He didn’t get into detail but I know a lot of returning soldiers did not get the respect they deserved. Ever time I see a soldier I think of that and it changes me. It makes me think about how they should be honored in the highest because they are willing to die for me.
“…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
This Memorial Day please remember all the men and women who gave their lives for this country. And remember our savior who died for our sins. Remember the brave men and women who in the days after went out and preached the good new even though they knew they would be persecuted for it. May God watch over our soldiers in harms way even as we speak. Got bless all the families of those on active duty. May God bless this wonderful county and the people who make America Great. Happy Memorial Day.