My Appreciation For Our Fallen Troops
- 2005 29 May
History asks a simple question of those who would live in freedom –- are you willing to die for it?
Freedom is not secured by the richest lifestyle, the coolest car, the newest DVD. It’s secured in the dust and sweat and pain of encounters where freedom takes human form — men and women ready to spill their blood to stop the theft of human dignity, the destruction of human hope.
America has never lacked such courage and bravery. In 1775, Patrick Henry said he’d rather die than sacrifice his liberty. A month later, 70 Americans opposed 800 British troops on the green at Lexington. Six of them died in the first volley. During that same period, however, a big percentage of Americans were loyal to the British Crown.
In the Civil War, 15 generals were killed in the battle of Franklin. These men could have stayed on their observation posts, safely out of the line of fire. Instead, they took positions in front of their troops. Again, at that point in our history, the country was tragically split.
Today, young Americans are in harm’s way in Iraq and around the world, while other well-meaning citizens are blind to the need for such sacrifice.
Has nothing changed? The important business of crushing tyranny has historically been accomplished by the sacrifice of some, while others merely stood and watched, or actively opposed the process. But questions still arise: If history’s scales fall short on the side of weighty self-sacrifice, does justice sink inevitably down on the side of every man for himself? In the current conflict, do the majority of us redouble our efforts to live up to the highest principles of the Republic, or do a greater number of us finally decide that nothing, not even liberty, is worth dying for?
Each of us has to answer these questions in our own heart. Let’s surely not waste time asking Michael Moore to understand why Pat Tillman gave up NFL millions to fight and die in Afghanistan. There will always be freeloaders on freedom’s body. Some CEO may take an extra 100 million dollar bonus from wartime profits. A journalist might win the Pulitzer uncovering the “conspiracy” that kept Sadaam Hussein from being captured earlier.
But the war goes on. And the death-bell tolls. And God does not treat the death of our valiant warriors lightly. “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down his life for his friend.” The weight of their sacrifice outshines the glitz of our shallow culture. They have not died in vain. Nor will God give a repentant America over to the domination of a faithless few.
Older veterans like myself may wish to suit up again and help the youngsters who have a longer life-span to lose. But that makes little difference in a firefight.
Prayer makes the difference. Only God can be there when we can’t. God’s praying people can fill the gap between those who do their duty, and those who find excuses for tyranny. When the best of us are dying, the rest of us can pray.
Each time taps is played over a flag-draped coffin, we can reaffirm our oath to live up to the ideals that birthed our great republic. If we are not called to risk ourselves this time around, we can dedicate ourselves to live out those principles that our fallen heroes have died to protect.
We cannot ignore what they’ve done. Our lives must change, exhibit some of the selfless qualities of their sacrifice. They make us more grateful. They call us to live up to their hopes. They remind us not to squander our lives when liberty has cost so much.
But neither let us be depressed by the spongers. Let us be grateful, and energized, and thank God for those who have given their last living breath to keep freedom secure. And tomorrow, if there is fighting to be done, let us pray that it destroys the forces of injustice and tyranny, that it is decisive and soon finished, and that the land is healed and the people filled with hope.
This article was written for the Presidential Prayer Team. A born-again Christian since 1974, Dean Jones one of Disney's two main stars in the '60s & '70s. He is founder of the Christian Rescue Committee (CRC), an organization that helps provide a way of escape to Jews, Christians, and others persecuted for their faith.