I‚Äôm glad I never had to, but I‚Äôm grateful someone did…
Kids today have no memory of the draft. I do. I missed being eligible for Vietnam by two years, but I had friends whose older brothers served there… and brought back horror stories. When we pulled out of Vietnam I must admit that, as a teenage boy, I remember thinking, “I am really glad that I won’t have to go there and to that.”
Of course, millions have “gone there and done that” down through the centuries of our young nation. Millions of young men and women have stepped forward to offer their lives in service to their country. Sometimes the causes were clear. The defeat of Hitler and his minions was a unifying call to arms. Other times, the cause was less clear. Vietnam divided the nation, and the images of returning military personnel being abused in airports was a haunting and shameful moment in our history.
Whether the cause was obvious or debatable, noble or ignoble, young people who had no say in deciding the worthiness answered the call to serve and even die.
However you might feel about a particular war, it might be fairly said that the dominant theme of American military history is this: again and again, America has been willing to offer up her lives and her resources in the defense of others. We can certainly speak of conflicts as being “in America’s interests” but, really, the Atlantic and Pacific are big oceans. We could easily have remained isolated and safe as other nations in other places fought bloodily among themselves. Eventually, those wars might have reached our shores but until then, we could have chosen insularity. Some would argue that we should have… or that we should now. Let the debates continue.
But this Memorial Day we remember, proudly, those Americans who gave their lives for others. Yes, to form and to preserve our union, but also to defend those in far-off lands who had no defense against their brutes and beasts. They weren’t our fights, mostly. But it has always been hard for Americans to watch bullies at work and leave it be.
Standing up for the helpless; it is an honorable instinct. Laying down your life for your friends; it is laudable sacrifice. This Sunday we will celebrate that kind of love in the extreme as we celebrate a God who traveled to foreign soil to fight a war that was not His… but chose to make it so.