Some movies move us. Last night, our family watched an extraordinary documentary listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest film screening in history. On August 11, 2012, in Milwaukee’s Miller Park Stadium, 28,442 people gathered to see Honor Flight—The Movie. They also came to honor the last of a dying generation—dying at the rate of 1,000 per day.
I had only planned to watch a bit of the film but ended up riveted—smiling, laughing, and crying along with the rest of my family as we watched what a few Wisconsin people with a vision—a mission—joined hearts and wills to accomplish—raising money to fly Wisconsin WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to see their war memorials, to honor their service, to say THANK YOU for defending FREEDOM in our world which we can easily take for granted.
We watched interviews with Wisconsin WWII veterans, now in their late eighties and early nineties. Nick and I recognized Harvey, one of the main men in the film. He spoke at Nick’s high school yesterday, Veteran’s Day.
Harvey has bagged my groceries for years at Port Washington’s Pick & Save, always with a smile on his face. Whenever I ask Harvey how he’s doing, he always responds with an enthusiastic, “TERRIFIC!” Until last night, I did not know Harvey’s story.
“They couldn’t miss,” Harvey said with tears streaming on a face transformed suddenly by memories taking him back to February 19, 1945 when he charged the Iwo Jima beach with Japanese waiting, firing on Harvey and his fellow Marines, killing them in droves. Harvey was 18 years old. He witnessed massive death like he had never known. He witnessed deeper fear than he thought possible. And he witnessed the five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy battlefield hospital corpsman—he watched them raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi, forever memorialized in Joe Rosenthal’s photograph which was used to sculpt the Marine Corp War Memorial in Washington D.C.
As I watched the film, I was struck with the bravery these young men showed as they faced death each day and witnessed heartbreaking hell on earth in their selfless love of our country and the freedom we represent. Just ordinary farm boys, they went to war and watched their friends fall dead. I cried as I watched film footage of war’s devastation, of humanity’s depravity, of horrors nearly too painful to view even with the distance of lens and years. And they were there. They fought. They risked their lives. And many didn’t come home. “They are the heros,” one vet said—the ones who didn’t come home. Not him. Not the ones who fought and lived, but the ones who fought and died for us. Because what’s worth more than a life given for another—for a life given to set another free?
And this is why we cry, isn’t it? We cry because we know we’re under attack from all sides. We know we live in a fragile world with war and disease and broken hearts. And we want more than anything to be free from it all, don’t we?
I watched our 20-year-old’s reaction. He is a WWII buff. And I saw him weep. What was he thinking and feeling, I wondered? Was he feeling gratitude that he was snatched from a country without hope and brought into this land of freedom, into a forever family of love? Or was he feeling overwhelmed by the evil, wishing it weren’t so? Was he putting himself in those soldiers’ boots, seeing himself as a 20-year-old like many of them—just boys fighting and dying—so small in a big world gone mad? Was he wondering if something like WWII could happen again?
I am not naïve enough to think we cannot or will not sink into such hellish ways again. Because we have. And we will. Until someone comes to stop the whole bloody mess we’ve made of humanity.
And He will. But in the meantime, I give thanks to Him who warms cold hearts and causes them to love like He loves—to give unselfishly for the greater good—to sacrifice all. Because that’s what He did. And that’s what some do.
And as I heal from days being downed by severe exhaustion in our own present family struggle with brokenness, I thank God for His blessings, too many to count, too great to even know . . .
Thank you Father for always seeing, for never forgetting. Thank you Father for always providing. And when I’m down and out, ready to raise the white flag of surrender, thank you for raising ME and giving me strength to keep marching forward, living and giving. Thank you for the honor of fighting hell on earth and for the faith to believe in the fight’s sure triumph of right over wrong, of life over death, of love over hate. Thank you Jesus, for being raised on that victory pole and being raised from that grave. And thank you that you have not abandoned us on our battlefields. You never will. You are with us always—strengthening, comforting, suturing, healing ripped-up humanity—transforming us into a monumental memorial who will give you all the honor and glory and praise You alone deserve. It’s not about a nation or a people. It’s about ALL nations and people. For all life is precious and You desire all to know you and follow your ways. Because YOU are TRUE LIFE, given to us.
We had a first today—our first snow—a day for feeling the cold—a day for warming the hands. And I thought about cold and warm and how we all need to have our hearts warmed. Need some heartwarming? Check out the link below. Be blessed.