I had not planned to write an essay on this holiday, but I just read a story that touched me so deeply I felt prompted to share it with you. U.S. Marine Sgt. William Stacey was killed earlier this year in Afghanistan. The 23-year-old wrote a letter to his family explaining why he was fighting, to be read in the event of his death. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, read the letter during a Memorial Day service today in Kabul.
Sgt. Stacey wrote: “There will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home to come to his. He will have the gift of freedom which I have enjoyed for so long myself, and if my life brings the safety of a child who will one day change the world, then I know that it was worth it all.”
Today we remember 1.3 million men and women who died so we could live. Each of them left the security of their homes to defend ours. They paid the ultimate price for their nation and for each of us. It’s been said that the reason you’ve not received a bill for the freedom you enjoy today is that its price has already been paid. Today we remember those who paid that price and pray for those they left behind.
As we remember their sacrifice, let us also remember the One who gave everything for our eternal life. Paul told the Romans, “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
On March 15, 1985, Wayne Alderson appeared on The Today Show. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of his crossing into Germany, the first American soldier to do so during World War II. He has a permanent crease on his head from a wound he received on that day.
Asked about his most significant memory of the event, Alderson told about a red-headed friend who saved his life. Alderson had come face to face with a German soldier. He shot the German, but not before he had thrown a grenade at Alderson which exploded and sent him face-down and wounded into the mud. Nearby, a German machine gun began firing in his direction. Alderson knew that if the grenade wound did not kill him, the machine gun would.
But his friend turned him over so he could breathe and threw his own body over him. He died protecting him from certain death. With tears welling up in his eyes, Alderson said, “I can never forget the person who sacrificed his life to save me. I owe everything to him. I can never forget . . . I owe everything.”
What do you owe the One who saved you?