My son Mark came home from college recently and said, "Dad, let's watch Band of Brothers together." He had purchased the series on DVD so that made it very convenient for us. We watched the first episode about ten day ago. I was hooked from the opening credits. That night when I went to bed, I stayed awake a long time thinking about those young men of Easy Company as they prepared to drop behind enemy lines in Normandy on D-Day. A few days later Mark came again and we watched the second episode--Day of Days--about the exploits of the brave paratroopers who pierced the wall of Fortress Europe. Since then we have watched the next three episodes. Tonight we plan to watch episode six--the first part of the heroic defense of Bastogne.
It all happened a long time ago. On June 6 we mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The old men at the beginning of each episode remind you of how young they were back then--most of them just out of high school. But for them there was no question of doing anything else. Their country needed them, and they answered the call.
Mark is 22 years old, which means he is older than many of the men of Easy Company on D-Day. My mind drifted to Robert Schuler and David Tyler, two young men from my church now serving with the Marines in Iraq. David is on an airbase somewhere, Robert is in Fallujah. Two years ago Robert was a senior at Oak Park-River Forest High School. Although he wasn't a big kid, he played football. Somehow he managed to be a guard on the offensive line. After graduation, he kicked around a little bit, got in a few fights, did the things teenagers do when they are bored and looking for direction. Then he decided to join the Marines. I'm not sure why. I think he just felt the call of duty. His father showed me a letter Robert wrote from Boot Camp. He wanted his parents to know how much he loved them--and how he would read his Bible by flashlight under the covers late at night. After finishing Boot Camp, he had more training, then went somewhere in the Pacific region, then to Iraq a few months ago.
He'a a machine gunner on an armored vehicle. Not long ago the bad guys ambushed his convoy and they had to fight it out for five days. Recently he's done a lot of sentry duty in Fallujah--12 hours on, 12 hours off. He wrote his family that he likes guarding the convoys better. Like the soldiers of Easy Company, he has faced the possibility of his own death. After thinking about it he realized that "God will decide when I go." Then he added, "I found courage."
On this Memorial Day weekend, take a moment to remember the heroes of the past. And then say a prayer for the men and women who serve in dangerous places around the world. Like all the soldiers before them, they faced their fears, they found courage, and they took their positions on the front lines of freedom. While you enjoy the weekend, give thanks for the heroes of today.