Through almost 223 years of America’s history, boys (and in more recent years girls also) have said goodbye to parents and with heads held high have marched off to serve their country. Many of those years have actually been years of peace and a great number of those brave soldiers have never been required to potentially sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours for the sake of the freedoms we enjoy.
“When in the course of human events” was penned so long ago and the call to colours began to rally across the countryside, boys said, “We will give up all we have so that we might fight for a cause outside of ourselves. We will stand in the gap where others are not willing to do so. We will take up arms and fire at the enemy where necessary when some may condemn us for needlessly taking the life of a fellow human.”
Revolutionary War Dead & Wounded = 50,000
Almost one hundred years later, brothers and fathers fought each other in the battle for the right of states to be free from a government that was quickly becoming more and more oppressive and for a lesser degree the issue of slavery. One of the turning points of that very bloody war was the battle of Gettysburg which lasted for several days. At the end of that war, the stench of death hovered over the air still as President Lincoln stood and proclaimed, “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Civil War Dead & Wounded = 646,392
The next century would see the rise of dictatorial governments desiring to conquer some part if not all of the world and again Americans rose to the challenge issued by their government. They placed their faith in the cause for freedom that was given forth in the papers and over the airwaves via radios and television sets. Hundreds of boys set aside their bats and balls for the weapons of war while hundreds of girls set aside their dolls to serve far from the comforts of a mother’s side.
World War I Dead & Wounded = 320,518
As each war passed and each country was visited, America never asked for one piece of ground in any of the countries ever served in. They never demanded that the citizenry speak English! They never demanded that the US Dollar be the new and only acceptable trading currency. Often, soldiers holding US Dollars were at a disadvantage because of the trading values!
World War II Dead & Wounded = 1,076,245
They stormed ashore at the beaches of Normandy and flew the skies over Nazi Germany knowing many would not come home. They said goodbye to parents and lovers hoping it would not be the last kiss or hug, but knowing it might be! Yet as one staff officer once stated, the only thing America ever ASKED for from each country was a place where she could bury her dead. She ONLY ASKED for a place where she could return with the moms and dads to place flowers on the cold graves of their boys and girls who would never again play with bat and balls or dolls and prams.
Korean War Dead & Wounded = 128,650
The wars took a decided turn when the evil of communism entered the picture. Many felt and still do that we entered wars that we could not win or were not permitted to win. Either way, we found ourselves in a quagmire and through all the muck and mire and grime of blood-splattered fields of war, our troops sought to hold their ground. They stayed the course in the face of adversity and many never returned alive.
Vietnam War Dead & Wounded = 211,454
Afghanistan Dead & Wounded = 3,056 & Counting
Iraq Dead & Wounded = 50,432 & Counting
Many today still do not know why we ventured into the wars we have seen in the last half century. Some claim it is because of oil, while others say it is because of terrorism. Others say it is purely for the cause of freedom around the world while others are not exactly sure why. Still the call comes ringing just as loudly as it has done through 223 years of history and each week men and women march with firm purpose down to recruiting stations across America and say, “I wish to serve my country!”
Today, there are many still wounded from the wars we have fought but they are still dying off. Each day, many more old troops pass off into eternity. We will never know their nightmares unless we have been in a trench, fought off an enemy at close quarters, screamed in agony as shrapnel pierced our body, wept uncontrollably while trying to staunch the blood of our buddy as their life flowed rapidly from them, and even sniffed that letter one more time trying to remember what life was like back home in America – the land of the free and the home of the brave!
“Thank you” is not really enough when I see an old vet with only one leg left wearing his US Navy baseball cap showing the ship he served on in Pearl Harbor.
“Thank you” is not really enough when I see another old vet stooped with age wearing a lot of buttons on his cap reminding nobody but himself of the battles he fought in over in Europe during WWII or Asia during WWII or Korea.
“Thank you” is not really enough when I pass by the Veteran’s Hospital filled with men and women who survived what most Americans will NEVER understand.
“Thank you” is not really enough when I pass by that old US Marine on his Harley Davidson with the right to wear his long hair and sporting his Vietnam Vet patches.
is not really enough when I get on another plane to take a business trip and see a small group of soldiers with packed duffle bags saying solemn goodbyes to their families as they head back over to their 3rd or 4th tour of Iraq or Afghanistan.
is NEVER enough when I drive by the Veteran’s Cemetery, the National Cemetery, the local cemeteries, or see the pictures of American flags dotting very small seemingly insignificant pieces of property where the remains of our boys and girls, and our moms and dads lie buried and who never got to come home to be held by those who loved them!
When I look at the fact that I live in a country where I have the freedom of speech, the freedom to worship God, the freedom to spend time with my family, the freedom to travel where I want to go, the freedom to sleep in my bed, the freedom to work where I want, the freedom to worship where I want, the freedom to live where I want, and many more freedoms —
I realize I AM AN AMERICAN and my “THANK YOU” is all I have to offer to those who gave their tomorrows so that I and my family and my fellow Americans could have our todays!
With a truly grateful heart,
The Desert Pastor