This past weekend I participated in a great men’s retreat north of Philadelphia. I’ve only been on the east coast a handful of times so it was great to make new friends with a common bond of Christ. We drew closer to Christ, grew in our walk, and shared stories from our own pilgrimages. With the coming of Memorial Day this weekend I was struck with the power of some stories from older guys who lived through the Viet Nam War. I was born in 1969 so I have no real memory of that tragic chapter in the history of the United States. But these men know quite a bit about that season and still carry scars today. It was in one of our final discussions of the weekend that part of their pain became very clear to me. Like the vets from the Korean War; these Viet Nam survivors were and are forgotten along with so many who died there.
Many of us can still see pictures in our minds of soldiers coming home from WWII to celebrations, parades, and hot babes wanting to kiss them as they debarked from their ships. That was not the case for so many vets from Korea and Viet Nam. Many of the Korean vets were simply ignored. For some who came home from Viet Nam it was worse. They left a jungle on Wednesday and on Friday found themselves back in the US as if nothing had happened. No one cared. Others faced protesters and ridicule for simply going when their country called. For most of them; they were called, they went, and they were forgotten.
As a Christ follower we are challenged to turn the other cheek when personally attacked and love and pray for those who persecute us. On the other hand, the Bible does teach that the role of government is to maintain order and thus recognizes a police force and the military of a country. With that, the Bible is also very clear that we are to “give honor where honor is due” and there are an untold number of vets in America who should be honored for their sacrifice. Jesus called us to lay down our lives for others. So many of these men did that and put themselves into a position of doing that. They should be honored for that. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going off on some tangent of teaching which says a person goes to heaven simply because he or she gave up their lives for others. That’s not a reality. The only way to deal with the sin question is to surrender to the grace of Christ through his death on the cross and resurrection. I’m also not advocating that we hijack a Sunday morning worship gathering and turn it into a patriotic service as some churches do. What I am saying though is that we do have an obligation to honor those who have served in the military just like we should honor those in the police department or any other agency of service where they put their lives on the line for others. Those of us who have not served in war, and especially something like Viet Nam, have no idea the price these men and women paid. What can we do? If nothing else we can thank them. So the challenge for our Americans readers is to go out of your way this Memorial Day weekend to say “thank you” to some vets. Maybe even buy lunch or something even greater for a vet in your life. The principle would also apply to Christ followers all over the world. Whatever the context, let’s give honor where honor is due.