Welcome to the hectic last week before Christmas. You’re probably so busy that reading a book is the last thing you think you have time to do. That’s why I hope you’ll read the book I’ll discuss today. Its message is so needed this week that it caused me to depart from writing on the day’s news to focus on its incredible story.
Over the weekend I read Donald Stratton’s autobiography, All the Gallant Men, which had been recommended to me by a Daily Article reader. The memoir is remarkably well-written by Stratton and the famous Christian author Ken Gire. Here’s the short version.
Stratton volunteered for the Navy in 1940. He was assigned to the Arizona, the flagship of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The ship was scheduled to return to the West Coast in November 1941 for maintenance. During a training maneuver, however, it was struck by the Oklahoma and stayed in Hawaii for repairs. That’s why the ship was anchored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Of the 2,403 fatalities on the “date that will live in infamy,” 1,177 were on the Arizona; 1,102 of them are still entombed aboard the sunken ship. Stratton was burned over 65 percent of his body. He endured months of hospitalization and therapy; his weight dropped from 170 pounds to 92 pounds.
After a medical discharge, he spent a year at home. Then, incredibly, Stratton reenlisted in the Navy. He was stationed on another ship in the South Pacific, where he served at Okinawa and through the end of the war.
Stratton notes that every American is in the debt of the gallant men and women who died in our nation’s wars so we can live. To emphasize this fact, he quotes a poem that moved me deeply:
Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I must answer
Am I worth dying for?
As I considered the poet’s question, I thought of Jesus’ nativity. The Son of God became one of us that we might be one with him. He did this by taking on our flesh, facing our sins, feeling our pain, bearing our cross. Jesus was born to die.
The poem asks, “Am I worth dying for?” In the context of Christmas, the answer is clear: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
You can do nothing to earn the sacrificial love of Jesus. You can do nothing to repay the debt you owe. But you can express your gratitude this Christmas week by serving your Lord with the same courage as those who served our country at Pearl Harbor. You can refuse the culture’s demand that you keep your faith private. You can live boldly for the One who died for you.
Live boldly for the One who died for you.
The greater the cause, the worthier the sacrifice. Will you join the “gallant men” of God?