Some women veterans of World War II who had been denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery are now allowed that honor. Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill permitting female pilots—known as WASPS—the high honor of being buried in what really is sacred ground.
According to Stars and Stripes, members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots have been working to right this wrong since the Army last year reinterpreted a law from the 1970s that banned them from Arlington burials as a way to deal with the increasingly limited space there. These brave Fly Girls were trained pilots who transported combat aircraft from 1942-1944, but were not considered active-duty service members at the time.
Thank goodness that was remedied, and the WASPS have since been given the Congressional Gold Medal and veteran benefits for their service. They stepped into roles outside of the norm for women, and should be recognized for that. This really has nothing to do with the controversy over women in combat roles. I don’t personally believe that’s the proper role for women, but they do have a place if they choose to have one within the military.
I once knew a guy who was a veteran who used to refer to female Marines as “WOMAN Marines”. But he said it with a certain amount of disdain in his voice as if their service was somehow less than his own. I got the impression he didn’t see them as fellow Marines who just happened to be female. It’s like the ignorant boss who looks down on his secretary without getting a clue that she (or he for that matter) makes his job easier (if he or she is good at what they do).
I give that above example just as a way to explain that all veterans—male and female—have given something of themselves to preserve the ideas of the American experiment. They just do it in different ways. Most gave at least some of their time in their youth, their innocence; some lost limbs, sanity or relationships…others gave their lives. Even those who served in situations where they weren’t in danger should have our gratitude so long as they did it with honor.
There’s a sign outside of a veterans’ hospital in the area I grew up in that has this statement: “The price of freedom is visible here.” It can’t be said too often that freedom isn’t free—it always costs someone something. That’s true if we’re talking about the freedom we have within our nation, and the freedom we need within ourselves.
Today is Good Friday. Many Christians remember an even greater sacrifice that was made for all people of all times by the only One who could have made it. It wasn’t to save men from the clutches of an evil dictator or repressive government, but to save people from ourselves and the consequences of the sin we were all born into. Jesus died once for all of us to save us from an eternity apart from Him.
It didn’t take an act of Congress to do it…we just need to believe it.
Since we just celebrated Independence Day last week, I’ll stick with that theme because I think we can always learn more to help us today from the people who came before us (if we’re willing to learn, that is). There was a battle in the Revolution that may not be as well known as the Battle of Bunker Hill or Yorktown, but was a major victory on the path to independence…as well as the last major battle in the northern colonies.
Stony Point was a highly-fortified peninsula on the Hudson River that the British needed to take in order to get to their real goal, West Point, which was 12 miles to the north. On May 28, 1779, they were able to do so without firing a shot under the leadership of Sir Henry Clinton, the Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in North America. After their victory, Clinton ordered the fort to be strengthened even further, and he began calling it “Little Gibraltar”. His goal of taking West Point, the “Key to the Continent” seemed to be in sight.
But, Divine Providence was once again shining on General George Washington. Though Stony Point seemed like a lost cause, one of his generals, Anthony Wayne, told him he thought the Continental Army could re-take it. It took planning, secrecy, the dark of night…and some would say luck. General Wayne chose the recently formed Light Infantry Brigade, consisting of 1,200 of the best soldiers in the Continental Army, for the assault. On July 16, 1779, General Wayne and his men began their siege of Stony Point. During the course of the battle, General Wayne suffered a severe grazing to his forehead from a British musket ball. Covered in blood and rising to his knees, he called to his men, “Forward, my brave fellows, forward!”
In spite of his injury, Wayne pressed on, and every soldier knew exactly what to do because of his careful planning. General Wayne didn’t die that night, and the Continental Army successfully re-took Stony Point from the British. Afterward, General Wayne still found the strength to write to General Washington: “The fort & garrison with [British] Colonel Johnston are ours. Our officers & men behaved like men who are determined to be free.”
They behaved like men determined to be free. Those words should be in every classroom in America. Are Americans today behaving like we’re determined to be free? Unfortunately it seems many are not.
When you hear polls taken that say most of us don’t care that our government is spying on us in order to protect us because “I’ve got nothing to hide”—that’s a dangerous place to be. Whether you do or don’t have something to hide isn’t the point. That’s the mindset of a slave, not a free person.
When you hear news like we had this week that more people are now on food stamps than working in the private sector, you’re beginning to have a nation where more people are riding in the cart than helping to pull it. That’s a recipe for disaster.
When you elect into the highest office in the land—not once, but twice—a person who picks and chooses which laws he will enforce and which parts of the Constitution apply to him (apparently, not much in the Constitution applies to him), you stop being the people that John Adams said we need to be in order for the Constitution to work for us in the first place: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Sometimes, when things are given to you cheaply or for free, you fail to appreciate them, and the value of that thing is less than it might be than if you had to struggle for years to get it. We tend to fight for and cherish that which we hold dear. Such is the case with our American birthright. Oppression and lack of freedom was the way of the world for most people throughout world history…until the United States of America was born.
Let’s hope that we don’t have to suffer through real oppression and loss of more freedom before we fight like people determined to be free.
***NOTE: In a couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a guest commentary from a young woman who is now an American citizen. Her story of her journey to citizenship is inspiring and gives an inside look into the long and expensive process legal immigrants take to become American citizens.
Tomorrow we’ll celebrate the 237th birthday of our great nation—our independence from the oppressive rule of a tyrannical king in England. A certain former Speaker of the House of Representatives that will remain nameless due to the celebration of the day thinks we should be thankful for “healthcare freedom”, in the form of Obamacare of course. Apparently, in her world, the Founders would have loved the massive government takeover of a large segment of our economy.
But for normal, thinking Americans, this is our opportunity to thank God for this place called the United States of America. To thank Him for all He did in raising up the right people at the right points in history that allowed this nation to become the most powerful one on the face of the earth in such a relatively short period of time. To thank Him for people willing to sacrifice all they had to build this nation, and for those who have died and are continuing to die to secure freedom for future generations.
Unfortunately, many, if not most people won’t think about those generations of patriots as they celebrate what’s now only known as “The Fourth”. In between their picnics, parades and fireworks displays, it would be great if all of us would take the time to read the Declaration of Independence—especially those who have children. Do they— do we really understand what it meant when those 56 men put their signatures to that document? As British subjects, they were committing treason. They were setting themselves—and their loved ones—up for certain hardship and possibly death. It’s important that we not forget this and that the youngest among us hear the stories of these people that they are likely being denied in the public schools of today.
What America needs is another “Greatest Generation”. Those under 30 would do well to become like King Josiah in the Old Testament. He was very young when he became the king of Judah and it was during his reign that the Book of the Law had been found after many generations of being “lost to history” so to speak. The people weren’t living according to the laws of God and weren’t behaving as if they were his Chosen People. When King Josiah heard the words of the law for the first time, he became very distraught to the point that he tore his robes because he realized how far they had drifted from God and what His intentions were for their nation. Many people then were probably young, as he was, and didn’t even realize what they were doing.
It’s possible that if enough young people hear the words of the Founding Fathers—and I’d even go as far back as the pre-founding generation (the Pilgrims)***—they might realize and be humbled at what it took to build the nation. They could be the ones to turn things around again. Maybe, like King Josiah hearing the words of The Law, they’ll be moved to tears when they read these words: “…with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
They’ve had their heritage stripped from them, and many aren’t even aware of it. If or when they ever do look up from their ipads, iphones and video games to realize it, they may be pretty upset at the generations before them for keeping them in the dark. For keeping them entertained and un-enlightened.
They need to know that the United States of America is still the last best hope for freedom for people from all over the world, even in our current circumstances, which admittedly aren’t good. It would do us all good to keep in mind the words of people like Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian evangelical minister and author who spent 14years in a Romanian prison for his faith. In 1967, he called America the hope of every enslaved man, and reminded Americans of a truth that may be even truer now: that freedom-loving people all over the world are counting on us not to let the flame of liberty burn out. Wurmbrand said: “I have seen fellow prisoners in communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chains on their legs—praying for America…that the dike will not crumble; that it will remain free.”
With that said, Happy Independence Day!