I can’t imagine what my dad and other veterans went through or what they faced upon coming home. Realistic big-screen depictions and documentaries can leave me feeling emotionally drained and shocked, but our veterans experienced firsthand the trauma, brutality, and immensity of war. Today is Veterans Day, a holiday most of us miss, under-appreciate entirely, or don’t give a passing thought to. In fact, some of us get miffed because our mail wasn’t delivered or wonder why it can’t get moved to a Monday giving us a three-day weekend. However, it is a day for remembering and thanking the veterans who helped maintain liberties all of us routinely take for granted. For example, if you are reading this, it means you have more freedom, education, and resources than most of the population of the planet, both presently and from all of history past. The freedoms we enjoy didn’t come cheaply.
The War in the South Pacific
"The difficult we will do immediately; the impossible we will also do, but it will take a little longer."
General Walter Krueger Mindanao Island, April 1945
These are the words my father heard in the Philippines 66 years ago. He was a long, long way from home. As a Germany-born, Iowa-raised, farm-boy-turned-Army-man overnight, he had landed in the South Pacific a year earlier at age 21 and been immediately thrust into combat. For two months in the fall of 1944, his unit had fought on the island of Leyte, including the pivotal Battle of Breakneck Ridge, suffering heavy casualties. But in addition to enemy fire and sniper attacks, they constantly faced rugged mountainous terrain, tropical disease, nearly impenetrable rain forests and banana groves, sweltering heat and humidity, crocodile-inhabited rivers and swamps, and sleepless nights. While on Leyte, they continued to fight while a typhoon (think hurricane) raged for several days dumping torrential downpours and winds powerful enough to snap trees and creating a storm surge of ocean water up to their knees—five miles inland. From Leyte, they moved onto other islands, including Luzon, which was the site of almost unfathomable loss of life for both Japanese (over 200,000 killed) and Americans (over 8,000 killed). After all that, General Krueger was now calling them to do the impossible: being severely outnumbered and on the low ground, to covertly climb the mountain top and, from behind, take out the enemy who was keeping the Navy from landing troops on the beach. They did it. Eventually, my dad made it back home, got married, found Jesus, raised seven kids, and is still alive and well at 88 years old.
Prayer and Thanksgiving
What are some ways you can observe Veterans Day?
- Thank a veteran.
- While some are getting on in years, others have been home for just a few weeks.
- Pray for a veteran. Veterans and their families pay a high price for war. Pray that Jesus would heal and comfort veterans and their families.
- Pray for the men and women who are overseas right now serving our country. Pray for their protection and security. Some families are still facing the reality of war today.
This would also be a good day to reflect upon what God has done for you, as the price he paid for your freedom also didn’t come cheaply. If you know and love Jesus, it is because he did the impossible for you: he knew and loved you first, paid for your sin on the cross, and reconciled you back to the Father. Impossibly, Jesus rose from the grave, defeating our enemies of Satan, sin, and death. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and transform you, help fight sin, and bring God glory. If you have never received the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, right now would be a great time to accept his gift of salvation, which is truly impossible for you to obtain on your own merit. Phil Smidt is the marriage and family pastor at Mars Hill Ballard, on whose blog this post originally appeared. If you'd like to support those in the military in their faith, you can give to our Military Mission fund, which provides free Bibles, sermons, books, and other resources to deployed servicemen and women.