Some just don’t understand why people do it. But we should all be glad they do.
What is the “it” to which I refer? The answer – the willingness on the part of so many men and women to serve our country in the Armed Forces. In a time when there is no forced draft or lottery system for recruiting, when social mores are changing in dramatic ways, and actual wars are being fought, America is blessed to have a quality military. Now, that is not to say that we don’t face some serious challenges ahead, especially in the next couple of years. But every American has much reason for thankfulness.
In honor of Monday’s very special holiday – Memorial Day – I would like to use this space for a few days to say…thank you.
Thank you to men and women who regularly put their lives not only on hold, but on the line – to defend our country and its citizens. Some of us are not even aware of the immense personal commitments and family sacrifices that these servants make on a daily basis. Even worse, there are numbered among us those that don’t seem to care, one way or the other, whether we even have a military.
I am not in either of those two camps. I am aware of the sacrifices that are regularly made by not only the soldiers, but their wives, children, parents and friends. And by God’s grace, I can say that I care – deeply.
I grew up in the Vietnam era. I came very close to being drafted for service, and I still have my “1-A” draft card. During 1971, the Selective Service System took draft numbers 1 to 200, and those whose birthdates came up on those lottery ping-pong balls shipped out almost immediately. My draft number was 203. So, I went to college, like many others who were in the same situation as I, and I never spent time in military service. But I always carried in my heart those who did.
Add to this the fact that I became close to many who were (and still are) in active duty. Men like Chaplain Chuck Williams. A dear friend for many years, Chuck served out his first enlistment as a young man. After getting out, he went to college, worked in business, got married to my then secretary Celia, then entered and graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. After much prayer, he reenlisted in 2005 – this time as a Chaplain. He has served us all, having been deployed to an active Middle East war zone three times, the last deployment ending at the beginning of 2013. In 2012, Chuck posted a few of his thoughts as he came to the end of that time away from his wife Celia, his family and friends…
“As the sole chaplain at this Forward Operating Base in the mountains of Afghanistan it has been a time of great ministry in our chapel services. Our congregation has been exemplary in their devotion and love to the Lord. I will have many fond memories of these dear people of God for the rest of my life. Throughout this past year our congregation was comprised of men and women, Soldiers and civilian, from 14 different nations. 79 services were held with a combined attendance of just over 3,000 people. My dearest hope is that the Lord would take what He has done in the lives of these, His sons and daughters, multiply it, and spread it powerfully in their respective nations and lands, in their families, Churches, communities and villages for His glory.”
Chuck has many fascinating stories to tell from his military times, both in the US and abroad. He has also experienced some devastating times, as he lost members of his company to attacks from enemy forces. Chuck not only ministered to the fellow soldiers, but also to the grieving family members that lost their loved ones. Serving in the military carries some pretty hefty risks and responsibility.
I am proud of you, Chuck. We all are. Thank you for living your life for the glory of the Lord, and for helping to make our nation more secure.
And to all veterans, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks for a job well done. As we prepare to celebrate, and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice this coming Monday, I pray that you all sense the appreciation of a grateful nation.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland