The following column is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of The Georgia Virtue.
By: Dr. William F. Holland Jr., minister, chaplain, and author of the column series ‘Living on Purpose’. You can read more about the Christian life and see other works by Dr. Holland at billyhollandministries.com.
Every year in early June, we observe the anniversary of the Normandy invasion of World War II commonly called D-day. By the way, the “D” simply stands for whatever day a military assault is planned. For example; D-3 meant three days before a D-Day, while D+7 meant seven days after a D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, America and its allies engaged in one of the most significant military operations of the 20th century. I have personally suffered loss from war and have a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice that men and women give to protect our country. My mother’s youngest brother, Kenny Maye was killed in Korea and I have his dog tag, casket flag, and a rare picture of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950. Sadly, his existence is nearly unknown and I often wonder about the life he could have had. For everyone that has sacrificed for this great nation, thank you for your service.
I live a couple of miles from a National military cemetery and from the highway, you can see many of the over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. I admit I’ve often driven past without hardly thinking about how each of these individuals at one time or another accepted the call of duty. And what is that call? To defend and protect our freedom whatever the cost! These brave soldiers were willing to give their life for their country and I cannot help but wonder how many of us have convictions that strong? The First Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink but with the blood of over 1.1 million Americans that have died in US wars along with even more that have suffered from physical and mental difficulties. The privilege and freedom we have to share what is on our mind are liberties that have come at a great price and we should always remember the cost of this blessing.
As a volunteer chaplain for a Veteran health care facility, I have the opportunity and honor to sit and talk with many fine men and women that have served in our nation’s military. The second world war veterans who are still alive are now in their eighties and nineties and I believe it’s important to not only record and preserve their amazing war stories but to sincerely listen and respect who they are as individuals. One of these residents is a man named Edward Hicks who willingly stepped forward when his country needed him the most. He was only 22 years old and had just married his lovely bride Mary Lou 4 months earlier. He received the call to join the front-line and bravely responded to what would be known around the world as “Operation Overlord.” The American soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong and they refused to allow a world in which wrong prevailed.
Edward and his company were assigned to six miles of beach that was code-named “Omaha” which has been recorded as one of the bloodiest first wave battles of Normandy. Only 600 men survived out of 2600 that came ashore. He recalls when he jumped out of the amphibious vehicle, how the water was up to his neck and icy cold. With being loaded down with full gear that was now water-logged, he said it was very difficult to keep from drowning. As bullets were splashing the water and whizzing past his head, all he knew to do was to stay as low as possible. Using floating bodies as shields, he was numb with fear. As he slowly crawled upon the sand, he immediately began to dig a hole where he could partially avoid the onslaught of constant machine gunfire. Somehow throughout the day and thankfully with the Germans running out of ammunition, the small group managed to slowly make their way inland, and went on to accomplish the mission. Edward received several medals for bravery including a silver star and 4 bronze stars but there is much more to being a hero than human fortitude and earning awards. It is recognizing the depth of spiritual love. The love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross is the type of compassion that inspires individuals to love and protect others as much as they love themselves. John 15:13 reminds us that, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”