Great warriors of our nation’s past set the tone for the freedoms we enjoy in 2019.
So, how do you define “freedom?” Is it the right to do what you want to do, or is it the ability to do what you should do?
I began to ponder this question as I started to prepare for the activities during this special week of our nation’s birthday of freedom. As I was sifting through the various decorations and military items for our Fourth of July celebration service, I came across a folder with a stack of old papers in it. As I opened it, I was surprised by a special item that reminded me of an old, faithful warrior for the Lord and our country. His name was Rev. David Groves. Growing up in the early years of the 1900s, he served as an infantry man in World War II and was a part of the Army unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Up until his final day last year, when he was called to his new and eternal mission of service before the Heavenly father, this saint of the Savior lived each day fully and faithfully to invest in the lives of others and remind us of the costly history of our country.
I sat back in the chair of my office, filled with military mementoes, coins, plaques, and other “Atta’ Boy” certificates we tend to collect, and became fixated on the words of a morning prayer Groves wrote decades ago. His words struck me with the immense complexity of our current world, yet with the simplicity of a prayerful request of old. As a morning prayer remembering WWII, he wrote:
“Oh, Divine Commander, we come with bowed heads and grateful hearts and with tenderhearted memories of history. We have sought to be your people but somehow, we have not measured up. We have sought to do your will but somehow, we have been distracted. We have developed the greatest arsenal of weapons in history but somehow, have forgotten the ethic you would have us develop. We have with our weapons captured most of the world and have keep none, save our own sacred soil.
Oh, Divine Commander, we come now this hour to remember so near to us, not let us forget the French trenches, the Belgium traps, and the frightful German enemies. Ne’er let us forget the sacrificial Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion. Oh, ne’er let us forget the suffering from the gas and wounds through which they have lived these decades.
Oh, Divine Commander, assist us so we may use you as our Guide. Assist our hearts that we may be compassionate. Assist our building structures that we may erect monuments worthy of their duty to Country. And assist us that we may become Your nation, undivided, dedicated, and indeed Your people. Amen.”
There are those that read history and there are those that teach history. Yet there are few that are a part of history and thereby have the perspective we need for the future. Rev. Groves and millions like him that have and are serving our nation make up the very foundation of the definition of “freedom.” They are willing to “freely give” so we can “freely live.” In a time where so many think they have a right to serve themselves, it is encouraging to know there are still warriors that are willing to give their “today” so that we may have a better tomorrow. That sounds a lot like the greatest warrior I know, but I will leave that for a future column.
Until that time, may God bless America — the land of the free because of the brave.
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call at Sydney Baptist Church.