In Honor of Memorial Day

Today, we’re taking a break in our usual programing to remember the men and women who have bravely fought and died for our country. If you see a soldier today, please stop and thank him for his service.                                                  

 The Greatest Soldier of All
by Patty Smith Hall

     He was a simple man. Sprigs of snowy white hair peeked out from under a dirty ball cap, framing a wrinkled face that had weathered a lifetime of storms. Wearing worn blue jeans and a button-up shirt that had seen better days, he was probably someone’s daddy or granddaddy, stopping by the magazine aisle for the newest puzzle book. But right now, he stared at what I held in my hands. A photo essay of Pearl Harbor.
     Being a child in the 1960s, the surprise attack that drew the United States into World War II was just a history lesson to me. But in this man’s eyes, I saw memories of a time and place so real, I could have reached out and touched them.
     “Nice book, isn’t it?” I asked.
     The muscles in his throat moved, and for the briefest of moments, I felt ashamed for disturbing him. Then he spoke. “I was there,” the quickly added. “Not for the attack, but later.”
     He’d been a boy of eleven or twelve when the Japanese bombed Hawaii, but he remembered the days afterward. The call to arms. The boys of Paulding county marching off to war. The star that hung in the windows of those who didn’t make it home.
    The attack affecting him. Nine years later, he joined the Marines. He shyly glanced at me. “I’d been raised in church and was saved when I was a young boy, but the service changed me. I slid away from the Lord. That was before I went to Pearl Harbor.”
     His orders came in. After a brief layover in Hawaii, he would report to duty in Korea where a new conflict brewed. Scared about what laid ahead, he decided to go see Battleship Row, particularly the entombed Arizona. Standing where so many had died, he watched as the infamous drops of oil rose to the surface. So many lives for the sake of freedom.
     “Then the Lord spoke to me in His still small voice,” the man said. “He reminded me that one day, the oil would run dry and people would forget what happened here, but His Son shed drops of blood for my freedom that will last for all eternity.”
     The man gave his life back to the Lord that day, certain that whatever happened in Korea, his everlasting freedom was secure. He tipped his hat and scuffled away.
     A lump formed in my throat as I  gazed at the book through unshed tears. So many lives lost in the cause for freedom . One battle fought for our eternal deliverance. The nameless man had changed my textbook view of Pearl Harbor. Never again would it be just another documentary on the History Channel,  but a constant reminder to give thanks for the men and women who serve our country every day. And to give wholehearted praise to the loving Warrior who stormed the gates of Hell to ensure my liberty from death’s sting.
     For Christ truly is the greatest soldier of all.