God’s greatest gift, that of life and the individual freedom attendant to life, is finding itself under relentless attack the world over. Attack by overt madmen who, with blood thirst in their words, proclaim their disdain for human life and liberty … and attack by covert ‘do-gooders’ in leadership positions here in America who see themselves as mini-gods, destined to wield unbridled power and influence over others.
America represents the last best hope to stem that destructive, ungodly tide. And yet the majority of those in leadership positions in America count themselves among a god-like ‘ruling elite’ who profess a belief in human freedom and dignity and yet incessantly work to extinguish both.
You Americans who have answered the call to war in both Iraq and Afghanistan are the hope of the free world. You are the hope of mankind. And yet, despite your commitment to freedom and the preservation of the American vision as our Founders authored it, you are not only facing down tyrannical madmen to whom brutality and violence are a way of life and a means to an end -- you are also battling much of the leadership in your own country, whose hidden agenda includes handcuffing you from doing that which you feel called to do, while simultaneously acquiring more power for themselves so as to extinguish freedoms here at home that you are fighting so courageously to offer to a people half a world away.
Many have called the war on Islamic fascism ‘the war of all wars’, in the belief that, if the spread of radical Islam is not contained, Western Civilization will cease to exist, and humankind will find itself living under such intolerable conditions that unprecedented turmoil and bloodshed will become a way of life until humanity is eradicated from the face of the earth forever.
And yet you, who are courageous enough to volunteer to be a warrior who will not sit by and allow mankind to succumb to such an abominable end, find yourselves increasingly betrayed by those whose charge it is to provide you with all of the tools and support that you need in order to succeed in this pivotal, watershed confrontation.
And succeed you will – despite the actions of many of our leaders, rather than because of them.
Joshua Chamberlain, a union colonel, later promoted to major general, at the battle of Gettysburg, remarked, twenty-five years later, during the dedication of a Gettysburg monument:
In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ,-to give life's best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.
Although most Americans will never see those ‘great fields’ on which you and your fellow Americans who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are ‘suffering great things’ for us, and for freedom-loving people the world over, you need to know that your great ‘reward of service’ will indeed be to live far out and on in the lives of others.
You need to know that there are those in Washington who revere your courage, support your valor, and share your faithfulness to the cause of human liberty.
You need to know that informed Americans consider you to be heroes of the likes of those who preceded you into battle during the Revolution, and all other succeeding wars in which America has been involved. You are cut from the same fabric. You are woven by the same invisible, all-knowing hands.
Although he spoke his words of dedication more than a century ago, Joshua Chamberlain knew you. He fought alongside you. He watched some of you offer the supreme sacrifice. And he watched others return home changed men, bearing the indelible scars of battle, but possessing the elusive peace of mind that comes from having given their best to secure and preserve God’s most precious gift.
Whatever your beliefs, I hope you are certain that our days on earth are numbered, and that there will be a final judgment in which earthly lies, distortions, and self-serving motives will prove irrelevant. Those whose visions and goals are self-aggrandizing, at the expense of human life and liberty, will stand before a judge who knows the blackness of their hearts. And those who see their own self-interest as secondary to the preservation of others’ lives and liberties will find themselves forever held in His grateful embrace.
I thank you for your service. And for the invisible thread that weaves down through the centuries, connecting you with those of vision and valor who brought us to where we are today. May we not let you down.