Tears. I couldn’t swipe them away fast enough. We stood in the Chicago airport, watching as recent Naval recruits said goodbye to their families.
“We only had four days before they’re shipping you out,” one mom sobbed into her young son’s shoulder.
A roar of cheers and applause rang through the airport for these. . .children. No more than nineteen or twenty years old, they were still very much children. Their mothers understood as they kissed their babies goodbye; this was truly the last kiss of their childhood. Soon they would see the world differently.
We are a fattened country. Our tables overflow with entitlement, over abundance, and greed. Yet in the midst of our over indulgence, there are those who take the gift of freedom serious. Though we have many who serve our nation well into mid-life, there are still the young who stand for the freedoms that so many have died. There are still those youthful ones who “get” what it means. Who understand the price, and yet, are willing to forge ahead.
Our nation was built under the hand print of God. Our laws lent themselves to “the love one another” guideline, and even when no one else in the world would come to the aid of those in need, America did. . .America does.
The flight to Atlanta was quiet and when I glanced across the aisle at three of the recruits, I noticed how they fidgeted. When we deplaned, the three hugged, butted knuckles, and separated. Each taking on a new life, serving this country. Folks watching the three say their goodbyes, swiped a tear or smiled. These children, turned soldiers, proudly and without hesitation, began a new role in the service of their country. Protector.
As we waited for our final leg home I was taken back by yet another soldier. Still barely over twenty, his brow held deepened lines and his eyes spoke his weariness. He slid his backpack off his shoulder at my feet, nodded, and smiled. “Excuse me. Did I bump you?” His voice quivered.
“Heavens no. You’re fine,” I said.
I lifted my hand and took his arm. He flinched. “Thank you, son.” His face drew blank. “Thank you for taking care of me and my family. I can never repay you for your service.”
A smile broadened his face. “I’m finished ma’am. Two tours in Afghanistan. I’m goin’ home.”
My hand slid to his back and I gently rubbed his shoulder, then pulled him close for a hug. “Like I said, I can never repay you.”
The prophet Nahum ministered during one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history. It was his job to foretell the demise of Nineveh. He was able to describe God’s revival of His nation. See the scarlet uniforms of the valiant troops. It was both a proud moment for him and yet, heartbreaking. Israel would rise again. But the people of Nineveh, who for a time, heeded Jonah’s warnings, soon slipped back into their old ways. Nahum knew they could have prevented what was to come.
Can we still prevent what is to come? Is there a way we can make enough of a difference in this world to protect the protectors? Freedom has its price, you know.
A voice boomed over the intercom. “Now boarding families with small children and military.” The soldier grabbed his pack. As he walked away, he turned and saluted with two fingers. “Stars, Stripes, and freedom forever ma’am.”
A tear slipped down my cheek as I thought of the stripes that were taken on my behalf. An innocent life, freely given to save me. A volunteer named Jesus – protector of my soul. And as the young soldier boarded the plane to home, I felt like he was my own son. Proud of this man I did not know – protector of my freedom.
As you celebrate the freedom held within the boarders of this country, don’t forget those who, over the years, have died that you might live. And then, remember the sacrifice of Christ and proudly say, “Stars and stripes forever.” That’s the gift you’ve been given.
Photo courtesy of www.morguefile.com & pfflyer
Cindy Sproles is the founder of Christian Devotions Ministries. She has contributed to several newspapers on the eastern seaboard, as well as PML Programs, Common Ground Herald, Tri-County News and CBN.com. Her devotions and articles are published weekly in several newspapers across the country. She is the Executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us, and Acquisitions Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the director of Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp Conference and is the coauthor of He Said, She Said: A Devotional Guide to Cultivating a Life of Passion, and the author of New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy is a gifted communicator and teacher who speaks frequently for ladies’ conferences, special events, and writers conferences across the country. You can visit her at www.cindysproles.com.