Who Cares When a Soldier Dies?
By Barbara Henderson
Jerry was downtown several years ago. He had gone to an automotive parts house after a specialty item that could only be found in a few locations. He noticed there was a big crowd down town, especially for a work day. Most of the people were older people, but not all of them. He went into the store to get the item he needed. When he came back out the streets were temporarily closed and the people were lined up on the sidewalk as though waiting for a parade.
He asked an old solider what was going on. The man had a tear in his eye as he explained that the body of a soldier from WWII had been found and was finally coming home. Jerry is naturally a very respectful man, but he was especially touched by the emotion of the old soldier. He looked around the crowd. Aged men were crying everywhere.
Then a small cavalcade of cars came by with the hearse carrying the body. As it went by Jerry said he felt the blackness of death pass by. Jerry did what everyone else was doing. He cried.
The last time he felt a presence of death and sorrow like that was at the funeral of his grandmother. She had been sick a long time and she was happy to go to heaven. After all, in heaven she would find her husband and son Gerald who had been killed carrying wounded to safety on Omaha Beach on D-day. Jerry made it through his grandmother’s funeral with sorrow, but also with thanksgiving that his grandmother was at peace with God.
When the funeral ended, we turned to walk away. Then, there staring us in the face, was the tombstone of Tech/Sgt Gerald Henderson, KIA June 6, 1944. The sorrow of his death hit us both and then we cried. After all those years, that particular grave site still radiated an intense sorrow.
Of course we never met Gerald. Jerry never met the soldier who was brought home that day down town. It seems that soldiers killed in foreign lands fighting for freedom seem to carry an additional sorrow with them. They died fighting for freedom.
Today, there are people around the world and it seems especially here in the United States, who have no respect for these soldiers. They want the war stopped in the name of peace. They cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. They are like spoiled children trying to make the world conform to their image of peace. When a soldier dies, they pass not a moment in contemplation on exactly why the soldier was there fighting in the first place. I am sure the soldier wanted to live, but duty was greater than personal desire. Soldiers in the USA today are not compelled to serve. They choose to serve.
On the other hand, when a well known person dies, the world as a whole goes into mourning. If you don’t fall into hysteria over the death of what passes for a celebrity, then you are considered abnormal. Do any of you remember when Princess Diana died? It was a tragic end to a beautiful lady who was loved by many people. However, I didn’t know her. I was sad for her family, sad for the sorrows in her life, and hopeful that she might have been a believer in Jesus Christ, but my heart was NOT broken. My heart had already been broken by the death of my sister. The news media pushed Diana’s death in the faces of the public until I began to wonder if my lack of intense grief meant my heart was hardened.
Recently Michael Jackson died. It was sad. When death comes to a family, there are no words to describe the darkness that just overwhelms them. However, the rest of the world cannot grieve as though grieving for a family member. The news media’s attempts to force the public to grieve by their intense and prolonged coverage of celebrity deaths is unconsciencenable.
The news media should be covering the deaths and sacrifices of soldiers in a way that acknowledges their sacrifice in a positive way, and gives thanks for the freedoms their deaths work to secure for the rest of us. The tragedy of war is not lessened by honoring those who fought and are fighting the wars. Jerry’s uncle Gerald was killed 65 years ago, and he is still missed. How much more the soldiers who have been killed more recently? For Gerald, most of those who actually knew him are with him now in heaven. He has nieces and nephews who would have liked to have known him and who are thankful for his sacrifice. They understand that it was his sacrifice and the sacrifice of thousands of others like him that preserved the nation of freedom in which we grew up.
The idea of most peace-niks is to simply stop war. Unfortunately, in the sinful world in which we live, the only alternative to self defense is a totalitarian regime. They forget that Iraq had a history of just making people who opposed leadership just ‘disappear’ never to be heard from again. Afghanistan has a history of viciousness that is indescribable. Rudyard Kippling said, ‘When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.’
Currently, soldiers are fighting in places like Afghanistan to prevent their way of life from coming to consume our way of life. I am thankful for the sacrifices of these soldiers. Even if they pass through their stay in such a place without a scratch, they will have mental scars they will carry the rest of their lives. To the day he died, my dad had nightmares about his time spent in the Pacific Theater of WWII. In addition to the mental images that he carried with him the rest of his life, dad actually had malaria flare up during his last years, causing him extreme suffering. However, dad saw first hand the Japanese culture of viciousness inflicted on non Japanese by the Japanese soldiers. Dad never doubted that it was worth the efforts of soldiers to stop the Japanese from achieving their goals.
To Michael Jackson’s family, I extend my sympathy, and especially to his children. News coverage of well known singer’s death is certainly appropriate.
However, it would be even more appropriate to cover the deaths of soldiers who die fighting for their country. Their heroism should be saluted. It should be mentioned on the news every night. It should not be used as a tool to protest the war. Appropriate coverage could be just to tell a little about the life of the soldier and his or her family. Tell something about why he or she was fighting. Tell the world this man loved his country and the way of life available here. He thought it was worth preserving even at the cost of his own life. Tell the world another soldier wanted to build a better world with freedom for all. She wanted others to have the opportunity to grow up in a free society like she did. Tell the world that this Christian was a missionary minded man. He wanted the people living under the rule of an evil tyrant to have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ so they could make an informed decision regarding their own eternal destination.
I think at least in part, the reason that celebrity deaths are mourned far beyond what is normal for the general public is that celebrities are seen as almost god like. The public sees a particular talent or beauty as above what is possible for an average person. When someone like that dies, the fans feel as though their personal little god has died. Perhaps in mourning the death of a celebrity, the adoring crowds are mourning their own mortality.
The best way for us to show our appreciation for the sacrifices of those fighting to preserve freedom is to live our lives in a way that makes use of freedom.
Do obey the laws of the land that do not conflict with the laws of God.
Do not take on any boundaries or limitations in your life that are not required of you by God and the legal system.
Don’t let social, political, or peer pressure run you life. If you let the opinion of others run your life, you are not free, and you are probably miserable.
Your freedom was bought at a very high price.
Don’t squander it trying to fit in with the rest of the world.