On November 21, 1864, President Lincoln wrote to a Mrs. Bixby of Massachusetts, who had lost five sons in the Civil War.
He wrote her, “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.”
Then he added this beautiful prayer: “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
In his classic song, “Proud to be an American,” Lee Greenwood sings, “And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me…” Yet it’s easy enough to forget that man or woman who gave that right to all of us.
Memorial Day is a good time for all Americans to give thanks for our hard-fought freedoms. Think of the bloody footprints in the snow at Valley Forge from our soldiers who endured that savage winter of 1777-1778. They did it for us. Jesus said it best: “No greater love has anyone than that he lay down his life for his friends.” But are we using this freedom well?
In a cemetery in England, there’s a grave that states: “Remember man, as you walk by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you soon will be. Prepare yourself and follow me.”
Somebody scrawled underneath that message the following response: “To follow you I'll not consent, until I know which way you went.”
Which direction is America heading? Political correctness rules the day, even to some extent in the military.
I have to say it’s been disturbing lately to see some of the freedoms being taken away in the military itself. Will a Christian soldier be court-martialed, as recently reported in multiple sources, for sharing his faith in Christ with a fellow soldier? Is there a gigantic magnet in the military removing a soldier’s first amendment rights?
A friend of mine just recently finished training as a reserve-Army chaplain. He emailed me about my concerns. “Chaplains do FAR more than preach and do Bible studies. Our #1 role is to ensure that all soldiers (Army) are guaranteed the free exercise of their 1st Amendment rights. This is [done] by providing counsel to commanders and providing religious opportunities.”
He added, “We aren't hired by the government to do outreach, but we aren't prohibited either (yet). We are not hired to be evangelists. We are allowed to do outreach as long as it doesn't conflict or interfere with the mission of the unit. We are allowed (and encouraged) to FREELY express our particular faith values in our preaching and counseling.”
He also noted, “Soldiers love Chaplains. So much that our recent enemies had bounties on Chaplains for as much as $50K. Soldiers will protect their Chaplains.”
One family that knows the high price of our freedom is Billy and Karen Vaughn, parents of Aaron Vaughn, a Navy Seal whose helicopter was shot down on August 6, 2011, in Afghanistan.
In a “Truth that Transforms” TV interview, Karen Vaughn told our viewers: “Memorial Day last year was probably one of the hardest days that we’ve suffered, probably worse than Christmas and Thanksgiving, Aaron’s birthday, anything, it was the hardest day and I think the reason why … was because it was the first time that we were personally affected by the cost of freedom.”
She added, “We thought that we understood what it cost. I can tell you until you’re personally affected by it, you cannot possibly understand what this freedom costs; and it does make us fight more to try to make people understand what’s being sacrificed on their behalf.”
A recent revelation that is very disturbing about that helicopter being shot down involves political correctness in the initial memorial service for the dead -- the 38 dead, including Aaron and 29 other Americans, and eight Afghanis.
On May 9, 2013, Larry Klayman, president of FreedomWatch, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Billy and Karen Vaughn were among the speakers.
The press conference revealed the disturbing news that the imam our military chose to honor the fallen (in August 2011 in Afghanistan), speaking in Arabic, condemned the American soldiers as “sinners and infidels who are fodder for the hell fire.” Thankfully, it is Jesus that has the final word on those matters. But must our military go down the path of political correctness?
I remember seeing a poignant political cartoon related to Memorial Day. It shows a man firing up his grill and going through his checklist of various items. It went along these lines: “Let’s see. I’ve got the hamburgers, the hot dogs, the buns, am I forgetting anything…?”
Arising out of the grill is the smoke, and in the smoke are the faces of fallen soldiers, men and women, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom.
Freedom is not free, and it’s worth remembering that at Memorial Day, as well as all year round.
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is co-host of Truth that Transforms and a spokesperson for Truth in Action Ministries. He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation and (with D. James Kennedy) What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?
Publication date: May 24, 2013