Several years ago Ruthie and I were in Europe; France actually.
We ended up with part of a day free so we rented a car and drove (on the wrong side of the road) out to an area of the world that had been a familiar part of our vocabulary a few years earlier. World War II was full-throttle in our teen years, and then came the invasion of Allied Forces in the south of France in an area the world came to know simply as Normandy.
We located the US military cemetery and spent an hour walking among the grave stones. It was a brutal setting. Here was the grave of an 18-year old, one who was twenty, another who was nineteen. It was heart-rending. Forty-five sets of brothers lie side by side in this place.
We tried to envision the agony of the families from which they came. Some 9,400 American service members are buried at Normandy; 4,400 of them died during the first few hours of this epic battle. You cannot walk these quiet grounds and not be moved.
There is a small chapel near the center of the 172-acre site. One of the exterior walls is a large concrete mural depicting the fighting. We were in a small group who stood quietly attempting to absorb the significance of what we were seeing. I couldn’t help but notice the man next to me, an older gentleman, crying. Wanting to bring him some solace, I put my hand on his shoulder, and said, “This is a pretty sobering place, isn’t it?”
He waited a moment before he responded. Then he turned and pointed to the shoreline behind us. “Right there,” he said, with tears cascading down his weathered cheeks, “is where my buddies and I came ashore. It was hell. Out of my whole unit, I am one of the few who didn’t get shipped home in a body bag.” Neither of us could speak.
Only two people ever died to secure your freedom and mine: Jesus Christ and the American GI. We celebrate every day the death of that Man on Mount Calvary. He fought the good fight and the freedom He won is not just for now, but for ever.
But I want to a make sure we never forget the others. All gave some; some gave all. Some would have us forget. In some classrooms, the story is being re-interpreted. We must not allow that to happen. We were eating in a restaurant with friends not long ago, next to a military couple. As we finished and walked toward the door, our friend spoke to the cashier. After a brief discussion we got in our car and drove off.
I asked the man, “What was that about?” He said, “I just paid for that military couple’s meal anonymously. We like to do that when we can.” There are many ways to say Thank you. That’s just one. Remember to pray regularly for our military, especially those in harm’s way. We owe them nothing less.