Subject: Memorializing Our Soldiers: How Their Courage, Righteousness, Love point to Christ
Isaiah 50:7 & John 15:13 “I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Courage is more than bravery. While being brave is an action, courage is an attitude, a decision of the will to stand in the face of danger or extreme difficulty. It is exemplified in Jesus Christ in Isaiah 50:7, a verse predicting His unwavering courage in the face of His future crucifixion by His enemies, to rescue others.
Righteousness means “acting in accordance with what is morally right or justifiable; being free from guilt, sin or shame for the decisions you make.” Christ was sure He lived His life according to what was morally right – to sacrifice His life in order to provide the only acceptable means to have anyone’s sins forgiven.
Love as defined in the Bible is unique. It, like courage, is a decision of the will, with no dependence on feelings. It, like courage and righteousness, is an attitude of conviction, not an emotion or a reaction or a response. Jesus defines the greatest love there can be in John 15:13 – giving your life for your friends.
Here are stories of American soldiers who provide constant inspiration of these Christ-like qualities.
Frederick Douglass on Righteousness: After Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ in 1863, Douglass published an article ‘Why Should a Colored Man Enlist’. His #1 reason? Doing what is right: “You are a man. If you were only a horse or an ox, incapable of deciding whether the rebels are right or wrong, you would have no responsibility, and might like the horse or the ox go on eating your corn or grass, in total indifference… You are however no horse, and no ox, but a man. He who looks upon a conflict between right and wrong, and does not help the right against the wrong, despises and insults his own nature, and invites the contempt of mankind. The North is clearly in the right and the South is flagrantly in the wrong. You should, simply as a matter of right and wrong, give your utmost aid to the North. In presence of such a contest there is no neutrality for any man. The whole duty of a man belongs alike to white and black.”
Howard Wasdin (Seal Team 6) on Love: “’There are no atheists in foxholes.’ How true are those words the moment you are being shot at. Until the bullets fly, you are blissfully unaware of your mortality and the extreme danger of the job you signed up for. No one serves for the money. I will argue that many who serve have a strong sense of love of country and countrymen. ‘Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend.’ For those who have not been in harm’s way, perhaps it is merely a quotation, just words. But, to the veteran it is a never-ending reminder of why we undertake military service.”
Ernie Pile on Love: A journalist who wrote on the lives and sacrifices of American World War II soldiers, he was killed in 1945 by Japanese machine-gun fire. Here’s one of his best, entitled ‘The Death of Captain Waskow’: “Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He was very young, only in his middle 20’s, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.
Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed on the backs of mules. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions. I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight. The soldiers stood there waiting. ‘This one is Captain Waskow,’ one of them said quietly.
Two men unlashed his body from the mule. The men seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.
One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, ‘God damn it.’ That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, ‘God damn it to hell anyway.’ He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left. Another man came; he looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: ‘I’m sorry, old man.’
Then a soldier came, and he too spoke not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said: ‘I sure am sorry, sir.’ The first man reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there. Finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar. Then he rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.”
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.