Heroes Among Us
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On Veterans Day, I often consider the privilege I had many years ago, spending the day with WWII hero, Louis Zamperini. Our 700 Club crew traveled to his home in California, where I interviewed him regarding his book, Devil at my Heels. His wartime struggle for survival would later receive greater attention in Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, Unbroken, and Angelina Jolie’s film of the same title. Zamperini endured trauma that is nearly unbelievable. His military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He survived weeks in a life raft surrounded by sharks and remained alive in part by catching albatross. Then was captured by the Japanese and sent to camps where he was tortured and nearly starved. Prior to the Allied victory, he received especially brutal treatment from a Japanese Officer nicknamed, “The Bird.”
Upon his return to the United States, Louis coped with the war raging in his soul by leaning on alcohol to medicate himself. An evening spent at a Billy Graham crusade changed his life, as he accepted Christ into his restless heart, stopped using booze, and even forgave his captors. He later traveled to Japan to do so in person. Americans have come to celebrate the grit, survival, and tender heart of Zamperini, yet the day he and I spent together he said he was, “no hero.” A grateful nation disagrees and counts his death a few years ago as a loss for this country.
We are surrounded by heroes like this every day—our veterans. True, they may not have fallen from a crashing plane into the vast ocean below. Or been sent to POW camps to be tortured. However, those in uniform have sacrificed in a way the civilian world can never appreciate or understand. Consider a father hugging his wife and children on the morning of a six-month deployment. Or a young woman heading overseas for a second tour, once again missing Christmas with her family. The band of brothers in tight quarters on a submarine, with limited contact to the outside world, and not seeing the sun for weeks. Or those on the battlefront heading to potential death, as they take the fight for freedom to a vulnerable part of the world in need of their courage and skill. Or the one who returns home with life-changing injuries, praying an amputation will not be necessary. Our veterans. So many will never be known by an adoring public. People won’t be aware of the difficulty returning service men and women have trying to sleep through the night, being kept awake by nightmares, or the wounds suffered in battle. Our veterans, our heroes.
Do you know a military family? Can you consider a way to honor and show gratitude for the sacrifice they make each day? If you’re like me, you often see veterans wearing a baseball cap stating the war they served in, and what branch of the Armed Forces they’re a part of. I have never regretted thanking these folks and showing them honor, for putting others before themselves. A Scripture passage I value is 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV):
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
So many veterans have been living examples of this high calling—courageously standing for others with strength and love. It largely goes unrecognized. Giving honor to our veterans is important and simple. Remember, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27). Receiving honor from a grateful American is not too much to ask.
Scripture is quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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