“The modern world worships heroes of talent, beauty, and power. But this is new, a change from days gone by. Previous generations honored heroes for what they possessed that others could emulate. Heroes were men and women who conquered themselves before conquering their enemies, who held superior strength in the battles of their day because they possessed superior character. Heroes lifted oppression and broke barriers so that others could follow. They were not superheroes with secret weapons. They were ordinary men and women, who let faith and valor drive them to the extraordinary.” -Steven Mansfield from “Then Darkness Fled”
It’s “Memorial Day” weekend, and I’m watching episodes of “Band of Brothers” with my family, as we discuss heroes. Our conversations skim the surface of history’s conflicts as my mind spirals into the caverns of human character found at the valleys of human experience. If you’ve gone there personally, mentally or emotionally…or seen a great movie, you know what I mean.
The reflections run from the men of the 101st Airborne “Easy Company,” to the courageous in Bible stories and Christian history, and finally focus on the brave souls serving in the war on terror (Iraq, Afghanistan, and abroad). Through it all, I am extremely moved by the sacrifice and service of these heroes.
These thoughts brought back a vivid memory from a few years ago. Although it was 2005…it seems like yesterday. As I sat in a raised seat getting a shoe shine at the Louisville airport, a soldier leaving for Iraq captured my attention. After about 5 minutes of hugs and farewells with his mother and wife, he got down on his knees and embraced his daughter. I put down the newspaper I was reading, as this real life hero experienced a heart-wrenching moment that has been lived out 1000’s of times at 100’s of airports.
His name is Jeff Judd, and I believe he’s a Sergeant with the National Guard from Glasgow, Kentucky. After getting through the security check, I approached this man to honor and thank him for his duty and service. I placed a hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes, grasped and squeezed his hand strongly while expressing my gratitude. I pledged to pray for him and believe for a safe return home to his family.
As he walked off, my eyes filled with tears as they would many times through the years when I’ve remembered and prayed for Jeff.
That day was “Memorial Day” for me…it showed me an incredible courage and sacrifice that I don’t think I have. I don’t think I could do what Jeff did…leaving my family and risking my life for a nation of unaware…ungrateful citizens. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of uniform. We should all pause and pray for our troops and their families. Please find a way to honor a veterans, and make a $ financial donation that will benefit the grieving families that survive the soldiers that gave “the last full measure.”
I ended my evening by watching “Enemy at the Gates” with my sons. We discussed the history and political perspectives present in the movie. What a contrast in worldviews between the Battle of Stalingrad and the European conflict of “Band of Brothers”…yet eerily similar in humanity and heroism. The words of the Russian kommersant communicate the essence of the challenge to us all. “Give them hope! There's another way...the way of courage…the way of love of the Motherland. We must publish…tell the magnificent stories that extol sacrifice and bravery. We must make them believe…give them hope…a desire to fight. Yes... we need to make examples…but examples to follow!...What we need...are heroes.” Heroes like Jeff…like all those that provide for us both memorials and days.