What is ‘Real’ Sacrifice? [v124]

JUNE 2009

Memorial Day means many things to many people. For most in America, it means a day to sleep in, a day off work/school, and the ‘unofficial’ beginning of summer. Most of us take advantage of this three-day ‘weekend’ to do some barbecuing, visit with friends and family, ‘open’ the pool, watch a “Little League” tournament, or go on a picnic. Memorial Day has become synonymous with relaxation and indulgence.

This, of course, is not the true ‘intent’ of this day—it is an observance to honor the men and women in our Armed Forces who have SACRIFICED their lives in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear (and mostly take for granted).

It’s so sad that the ‘true’ meaning of this holiday has been forgotten. Most people forget to stop and recognize those who have come before us and fought so bravely to ensure that we can be here to enjoy our day off and enjoy our cookouts. The fact that our country is still free after 233 years, proves that their blood, sweat, and tears were not shed in vein.

This should also be a time to re-evaluate our own contributions to our country. Continually we are reminded that this is to be a holiday to honor those brave men and women who have fought in order to preserve our liberties, but does this mean that because of their ‘work’ we are void of any obligations ourselves? It seems to me that vigilance has been replaced with apathy, making it more fitting for us to ‘apologize’ to those who have given their lives in defense of our freedom and the liberties we enjoy.

The “Memorial” in Memorial Day has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we do not observe the day as it should be, a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends, and those ‘faceless’ soldiers who have given their lives for us.

General John Logan, on 5 May 1868, made a point that we all should “gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime…let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

Memorials are important. They keep us from forgetting to be grateful. They give us pause to remember that everything truly valuable to us comes at great cost.

So, in a few days, might I implore you to pause from the normal ‘routine’ of your life to STOP—to REMEMBER the cost of your freedom. Notice the unfurled flags, parades and pageantry as reminders of the lives sacrificed that we all might live in relative peace and security. Notice that every white cross planted in those ‘sacred places’ should remind us of the horrendous cost of freedom. We honor these brave warriors by not forgetting them.

It is also a day for the nation to mourn—to show our collective national pride—and to illustrate our appreciation for this almost unbearable sacrifice.

Our freedom, our democracy, our prosperity has come with a ‘price’—one that was paid by veterans…paid by prisoners of war…paid by the missing in action…but most of all, paid by those who fell in battle.

Yet, throughout our nation’s history, America’s military has guaranteed the freedom and liberty we enjoy, by serving with honor, courage, and distinction—both at home and abroad—in peace and in war.

What is it that inspires and enables ‘ordinary’ citizens to rise to the challenge of battle, to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service to their country?

The answer to that question is as simple and, at the same time, as complex, as the soul of America itself. We fight because we believe, not that war is good, but that it is sometimes necessary. Our soldiers fight and die, not for the glory of war, but for the prize of freedom. And, in our nation’s brief history, more than 41 million men and women have served in the Armed Forces of this country, with over a million having died in defending it. Let us pause to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can remain free in this country—as well as many other countries around the globe.

American veterans have fought for freedom for Americans as well as citizens throughout the world. They have helped to make the values of the freedoms of speech, assembly, democracy, religion, voting rights, press, and equal access—the most basic of human rights—felt and nurtured on every continent in our world. Freedom is not free and the lack of freedom is even more expensive!

General Douglas MacArthur’s words at his farewell address at West Point aptly describes the American soldier on the front line today: “I regard the American man-at-arms as one of the world’s noblest figures—not only as one of the world’s finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. I do not know the dignity of his birth, but I do know the glory of his death. He died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in his heart, and on his lips, the hope that we would go on to victory.”

Since the dawn of our nation’s founding, every generation has endured a time of ‘character testing’. From the first ‘skirmish’ at Lexington, to San Juan Hill, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the more recent ‘war’ against terrorism in the Middle East, this nation has been through the types of trials and conflicts that, as Thomas Paine said, “try men’s souls.”

A few years ago, along with the rest of America, I was incensed and saddened by the allegations that members of our military tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners who were in their custody. It’s unimaginable—or it would be if they hadn’t compounded their evil with sickening photographs.

The world—particularly the Arab world—needs to see that American democracy defends ALL human rights and decency, and demands justice even when we must punish our own. In this case, punishment needs to be swift, not only because of the severity of the crimes, but also because we must vindicate the reputation of America’s military. Let’s not allow our men and women in uniform to be tarnished by a FEW bad apples. Our Armed Forces have always been distinguished by a sense of decency and caring.

This is emphasized by SFC Ray Reynolds, a medic serving in Iraq, who, before heading off back to Baghdad after a brief stay in his home in Iowa, said the following:

“They [the Media] have done a very poor job of covering everything that has happened [in Iraq]…just so you can rest at night knowing something is happening in Iraq that is noteworthy, I thought I would pass this on to you. This is the list of things that has happened in Iraq recently:

– Over 400,000 kids have up-to-date immunizations.
– School attendance is up 80% from levels before the war.
– Over 1,500 schools have been renovated and rid of the weapons stored there so education can occur.
– The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off-loaded from ships faster.
– The country had its first 2 Billion barrel export of oil in August.
– Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time ever in Iraq.
– The country now receives 2 times the electrical power it did before the war.
– 100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to 35% before the war.
– Elections are taking place in every major city, and city councils are in place.
– Sewer and water lines are installed in every major city.
– Over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets.
– Over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the country.
– Over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side with US soldiers.
– Over 400,000 people have telephones for the first time ever.
– Students are taught field sanitation and hand washing techniques to prevent the spread of germs.
– An interim constitution has been signed.
– Girls are allowed to attend school.
– Textbooks that don’t mention Saddam are in the schools for the first time in 30 years.

Don’t believe for one second that these people do not want us there. I have met many, many people from Iraq that want us there, and in a bad way. They say they will never see the freedoms we talk about but they hope their children will.”

Ray’s letter is like many others I have read from our service people in Iraq that wholeheartedly support and even expand on his observations—which also ‘squares’ with what has been said about American soldiers throughout history.

Historian Stephen Ambrose well said that, “the sight of armed soldiers has always terrified civilians. Soldiers almost always meant an orgy of looting, pillaging, rape, and even murder.” American soldiers, however, have served as a significant exception to this tragic rule. Ambrose added, “Everywhere in the world, whether in France, Belgium, the Philippines, Germany, or Japan, the sight of a twelve-man squad of GIs brought joy to people’s hearts.” Why? “Because the sight of those American kids meant cigarettes, candy, C-rations, and freedom. They had come, not to conquer or terrorize, but to liberate.”

What made them different was the commitment to and a love for a set of ‘ideals’—the classic ideas of the American Founders—based on a moral proposition. This proposition comes straight from the faded and yellowed document, The Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

History has a way of ‘sanitizing’ even the most horrific of circumstances, but the prosperity we share today in America has been ‘purchased’ with the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands on battlefields here and abroad. Perhaps we all can draw a bit of ‘new’ inspiration from the words of Abraham Lincoln, spoken in a Gettysburg ceremony where so many (over 600,000) brave souls had died in the Civil War. He said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here tot he great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave us the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

One way that our government has tried to help us keep them in our memories is the recent opening of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington as a service and tribute to members of what has been called the “Greatest Generation.” It was this generation of people who made tremendous sacrifices for our country and others. It was not only those veterans who fought in Europe, the Pacific, North Africa and the Mediterranean that made great and noble sacrifices—it was those here at home, the ‘average’ American, who made sacrifices as well. It was the women who worked in the factories, and the families that shared in the rationing of food, gasoline and other critical supplies. It also was the nation at large, and the high moral purpose and idealism that motivated the nation’s call to arms. Certainly there were detractors, but as a generation they are remembered, and rightfully so, for their sacrifice and unified focus on winning a war against tyranny that threatened the entire world. As a nation that lives in a world that is even more dangerous, we would do well to not only pay tribute to that great generation, but to try to ’emulate’ them!

When World War II ended, this generation of Americans that defeated the forces of tyranny neither asked for nor expected a memorial. They came home—they went to work—and they built a nation that remains the world’s most powerful example of democracy and freedom in action. I hope this can ‘touch’ the ones that a still alive, and inspire our generation to a greater patriotism. [ http://www.wwiimemorial.com/  ]

Another way to remember our veterans was recently established by Congress. The White House Commission on Remembrance, honors America’s fallen and recognizes our veterans and those who continue to serve our country. Its purpose is to promote the values of Memorial Day by acts of remembrance throughout the year and to encourage Americans to demonstrate their gratitude by giving back to our Nation.

The Commission is dedicated to educating this and future generations of Americans to remember the sacrifices and costs in human life made to preserve our liberties, and to instill in them an understanding of what it means to be an American.  [ http://www.remember.gov/ ]

There is even another way all of us can keep their memory ‘fresh’ in our minds—on a DAILY basis! Take out a dollar bill and take a look at the back—it is replete with symbolism.

Relating to the ‘protection’ of this country, the Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol of strength and victory. This is because it is not afraid of a storm, and is strong enough and smart enough to soar above it. Secondly, it ‘wears’ no material crown. This symbolizes the breaking away from the King of England. Also notice that the shield is unsupported. This symbolizes indicates self-reliance—that this country can now ‘stand’ on its own. Thirteen red and white stripes appear on the shield, signifying the 13 original states. The red color represents hardiness and valor, and the white represents purity and innocence. These stripes support and unite with the top blue band, which represents Congress—a unifying factor—the coming together as one nation, and signifying vigilance, perseverance and justice. In the Eagle’s beak you will read, “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, Latin for “out of many, one,” conveying the union of the people. Also notice what the Eagle holds in his talons—an olive branch and 13 arrows. These symbolize that this country desires peace, but will never be afraid to fight to preserve it.

Symbols are very importance in our world today—especially to those in this world with a radial belief and an intense hatred for all we ‘stand’ for. The primary targets of the 9/11 terrorist plane attacks were ‘nerve centers’ for our national defense, commerce, and communication. While few Americans would consider either the World Trade Center towers or the Pentagon as national icons on the order of the Washington Monument, foreigners have always considered them in that light—and due to the domination of the New York skyline by the Towers, this was, for them, a strike at the very ‘heart’ of America. The Towers also would have represented such American ideals as strength, achievement, financial stability, and capitalism—even democracy itself.

But even after these horrific tragedies, there was a wonderful ‘spirit’ of unity and oneness that pervaded this land. The vast display of flags, red, white, and blue ribbons, patriotic bumper stickers saying “God Bless America,” “In God We Trust,” and “United We Stand” made it hard to choke back the tears. There was increased charitable giving, increased military enlistment, the giving of blood donations, a reawakened sense unity, a reinvigorated interest in international affairs, and an ‘honest’ care for needs of others.

But today when I ‘look’ around, I wonder whatever happened to that sense of brotherhood—that ‘love’ for God and the adoration for our country that prevailed through those troubled days? I fear that that ‘era’ has been largely forgotten, and we have gone back to living our routine ‘comfortable’ existence— one that portrays a “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

It is ‘sad’ that only when something affects us ‘personally’ do we really understand. Most of us here in America sleep in a comfortable bed; get 3 ‘square’ meals a day; have a full refrigerator; get a hot shower in the morning; live in a warm home in the winter and a cool home in the summer; have the availability of 24-hour stores; the freedom to come and go pretty much as we please; and live in a relatively ‘safe’ environment daily—none of these, of course, does the soldier ‘enjoy’.

In addition to the ‘substandard’ accommodations,  a soldier must be constantly alert for hostile ‘creatures’—not necessarily of the human kind. Throughout Iraq deadly insects like scorpions, spiders, snakes, and sand flies can do just as much ‘damage’ as a bullet. We (me) have NO CONCEPT! Just try to imagine dodging bullets on your way to the ‘grocery’ store!

Putting aside your political ‘persuasion’ and whether or not we ‘should’ be in Iraq, there are over 135,000 soldiers currently battling under the hot desert sun over there. Though our media and politicians regularly quote these numbers rather ‘coldly’, I am keenly aware that behind every single number is a person—and a family too (not to forget the approximately one and a half million soldiers spread from one side of the globe to the other).

In today’s military, 52% of the active-duty enlisted individuals are married and 71% of the officers are married—with 46% percent of all people on active duty having children at home. This could greatly affect our next generation too.

Memorial Day should be a day when all Americans, regardless of ideologies, race, creed, or political persuasion, join together to remember the sacrifices of those who answered their nation’s call. Freedom is among the most costly of possessions, and that price must be paid again in each generation.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill understood this truth very well. “War is an ugly thing,” he observed, “but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by better men than himself.”

The freedom we have here in America exists no where else in the world! (and most of us were given the ‘gift’ of being born into it). That is why millions of people desire to come to this country (even illegally at the risk of death!). Unlike millions of people in Russia, Czechoslovakia, China, and Cuba, our people walk as free people across our broad prairies and along our city streets—unlike the avant-garde Communist writers who languish in concentration camps or lie in unmarked graves. Americans are able to write freely and to dissent vigorously while the whole weight of government, court, and police protects them in their rights and in their persons.

I was never called on to do what soldiers do—and I’ll never know if I might have had their courage. But we all can do a small part to remember our past ‘hero’s’, and encourage our current ones.

As was said previously, Americans are a caring people—but sometimes just don’t think they can really be of any help in situations that are out of their ‘comfort zone’. So, the following are a few links will give you some ideas of how you can ‘easily’ support our troops:


I know that I might have gone on about all this a bit much—I guess I am hoping that you also become passionate about the full meaning of Memorial Day—and let those who serve in the Armed Forces know that you highly esteem and value their willingness to put their lives on the line and make the sacrifices necessary to protect your wonderful nation. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude!

As I think about them, I also remember the One whose selfless ‘sacrifice’ resulted in benefits for people of all nations. Jesus Christ, the sinless One, died on a cross and shed His blood to pay the ‘penalty’ for our sins. In doing so, He guaranteed our ‘freedom’—freedom from the penalty, power, and someday even the presence of sin. Of Jesus it can be said that, never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to one Man. Yes, His was the GREATEST SACRIFICE!

The Bible says that we will only find true ‘liberty’ from the slavery of sin in the person of Jesus Christ. Like the soldiers who fell in the Lexington fields only a few hundred years ago, or in the Iraqi desert just a few days ago, Christ spilled His blood so that, if we build upon what He accomplished for us, we too can find liberty in this life from His death—and in the ‘life’ to come.

The Bible also encourages us to become “soldiers” too. “You therefore endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier” [2 Timothy 2:3-5].

The following ‘poem’ explains what this means better than I can:

I am a soldier in the army of my God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer. The Holy Bible is my code of conduct. Faith, Prayer, and the Word are my weapons of Warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity. I will either retire in this Army or die in this Army; But, I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out.

I am faithful, reliable, capable, and dependable. If my God needs, me, I am there.

I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up, or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me. I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King,

Obeying His orders, praising His name, and building His Kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for, or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around.  I cannot be discouraged enough to  turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.

When Jesus called me into this Army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing, I will still come out even. I will win.

My God will supply all my needs. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ.

Devils cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me! I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me.

For when my Commander calls me from this battlefield, He will promote me to a captain.

I am a soldier, in the Army, I’m marching, claiming victory.

I will not give up. I will not turn around. I am a soldier, marching Heaven bound. Here I stand! Will you stand with me?

1. Active Duty: Serving the Lord faithfully, daily, and on duty 24-7-365?
2. Reserve Status: Serving only when called upon, or twice a year: Christmas and Easter?
3. Guard Status: Backing up the Active Duty group?
4. AWOL! Absent With Out the Lord?

If you have not yet ‘enlisted’ into the ‘army’ of the Lord, let me encourage you to consider doing so today—you will be assured ‘victory’!

[Excerpts from: James Dobson; Chuck Colson; Richard De Haan]


If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

The twinkling of stars
The dead of night
It’s morning in Iraq
And our soldiers must fight.
Ambushed by citizens
They fought so hard to save.
A boy places flowers
On his father’s grave.

The irony of this
Is the war has been won
But taps still play
With the salutes of a gun.
The brave men and women
Who gave all to the end
Were slaughtered by the citizens
They tried to defend.

“What’s the purpose of war?”
Some critics may ask.
They claim the issue of oil
Has set President Bush off task.
But if they’d just open their eyes
And look at the facts
They’d learn of the destruction
Caused by the Baath Party attacks.

The mass graves tell the evil
Of Saddam’s dead regime.
Thank God he was ousted
By the Bush and Blair team.
Yet Bush and Blair are shunned
By a world that’s grown cold
For trying to restore the ideals
That were shaped in God’s mold.

The soldiers are forgotten
As they lie in their grave.
The flag is spit on
To dishonor the brave.
What’s happened to our nation?
Whose calloused heart is ice cold?
This is not what are forefathers
Had wanted us to behold.

Freedom and liberty
Can’t come without cost
I weep for the soldiers
Our country has lost.
They knew what would happen
To the land of the free
If they didn’t stand against evil
To protect you and me.

Soldiers are lost
And families must weep
But I thank these brave heroes
For the freedom we keep.
[Stephanie Galiardo]

I met someone today who’s lost
That patriotic fire
That burns so deeply in our breast,
Which all should now acquire.

It made my heart unhappy
To think that one so free
Could be unpatriotic
About our liberty.

No nation in the whole wide world
Can boast so fine a deeds
That we are doing daily,
To fill the world’s needs.

America has won 1st place
As far as I can tell,
In sharing all the treasures,
And things we love so well.

Our nation’s healed the losers
In war torn countries, too,
And helped build up democracy
That no one else would do.

America, America,
I love to hear your name,
Please light your patriotic fires
In all who love your flame,

And warm the hearts that wonder,
And doubt your worthiness,
That all may share your noble cause,
And every nation bless.
[James H. Lee Jr.]

Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear.
[William Shakespeare]

Brave they stand
Giving each other a hand
As their efforts demand
Going forward by air, water, and land.

These are our daughters and sons
Taking aim with their guns
The pressure weighing tons
Being supported by their loved ones.

They never waver
Going forth as a savior
Always in our favor
Knowing none are braver.

They valiantly fight
For what is right
With all their might
Knowing they may never see the night.

Young women and men for all to see
Warriors they may be
They came across the sea
To make all in Iraq free!
[David G. Bancroft]

Some will never know the cost…
The price of life and loved ones lost…
Some live with it everyday…
Many shed their blood to pay…

Let us never them betray…
Let us then a tribute pay…
Not just once or twice a year…
But everyday of every year…

And on the next Memorial Day…
Before you run along to play…
Stop awhile to think and pray…
For those that died along the way…

That paid the price…So you could play!
[Mike Detviler/SemperWise]

Let us never forget what they did nor what they died for…

Let us never forget the grit and determination with which they fought…

Let us never forget, for one moment, that their acts were made out of love for country, love for mankind…

And let us never forget these four words: “Freedom is not free.”

The cost of freedom remains high, but we are willing to pay it. We don’t pay it gladly, but we pay it…with deep reverence and gratitude to those who have sacrificed their lives for America.

We are obligated to these heroes to preserve the prize they won—by our willingness and resolve to protect it.

That won’t be free either. It never has been…it never will be.
[Brigadier General Albert Wilkening]

It is the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us Freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us Freedom of Speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial;
And it is the Soldier—who salutes the flag, who serves the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag—who allows the protester to burn the flag.
[Charles M. Province]

So many thoughts and emotions are evoked,
when seeing young men and women,
standing at attention,
showing their loyalty and pride
in salute to Old Glory
that waves triumphantly above
as they listen intently
to our great country’s anthem…

They are daughters, sons,
sisters, brothers, husbands, wives,
other loved ones and very dear friends…
They come from all walks of life and every state.
Even some do so for citizenship sake.
They are our valiant troops…
each performing their role
to keep the USA free,
and doing what it takes
for others in need.

They do so not for greed or political belief,
but to serve, honor, and protect,
knowing that the ultimate price might be paid,
followed by more tears
when solemn taps are played.
They deserve so much for what they do,
including being remembered as a veteran too…

And just imagine how you might make one feel
with a simple thank you for being there for us,
when seeing the uniform being worn.
[David G. Bancroft]

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
[John 15:13]

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
[Mikey Atkinson]

Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”  [Revelation 21:3-4].


Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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