Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! ~~ Patrick Henry March 23, 1775
Freedom has a price.
This morning I am reading my Bible without any fear of my front door being kicked in and my being arrested. Somewhere in this world, there is someone who knows that fear. I live in the wealthiest nation on the earth. I preach on Sunday and Wednesday nights without hesitation. I have the right to vote; speak with governmental officials; write a daily devotion; while somewhere in this world, there is someone who can only wonder about what it might be like to live as I do everyday.
Patrick Henry has always been one of my favorite heroes. I remember in third grade, I found his biography on the library shelf. It was a simple book for third graders but he represented in my mind what I wanted to be like. Henry was radical and motivating. As a self-taught lawyer and great orator, Henry challenged people to push the envelope, to refuse to conform, and to fight for freedom at all costs. It is not surprising that he pushed hard for the Bill of Rights, which today guarantees so many of the freedoms we enjoy.
I remember sitting on our front porch steps when the men in uniform showed up at the neighbor’s house. As they walked up the side walk, I wanted to run inside and get my mother but I didn’t want to miss anything. In my third grade mind, I had no idea of their significance, I only knew how tough and crisp and clean they looked. I saw Mrs. Johnson come to the door, her face as white as the sheet on my bed. She slowly pushed open the screen door and the soldiers removed their hats. I didn’t understand what it meant when Mrs. Johnson fell on her knees. And how Mr. Johnson tried to hold her up but could barely stand himself. Shortly afterwards, the men in uniform left and the Johnson’s just stood in the doorway staring as the car drove away.
My dad told me later their son, Jimmy, had been killed in Vietnam. Suddenly, Patrick Henry’s words made sense to me.
I could see Jimmy in the yard throwing the football with his friends. He was the coolest guy I knew and while I wanted to talk to him, I never did because I was just a kid in the neighborhood and he was Jimmy Johnson. When he left for Vietnam, I didn’t even know where he was going. I don’t even remember the day he left or how worried his mom and dad were day after day because I was enjoying life as a little boy in a safe neighborhood.
Now that I am a parent, I realize the pain Mrs. Johnson felt, and as a husband, I understand the strength and courage it took for Mr. Johnson to hold his wife up when he probably preferred to fall to the ground himself. But at the age of 8, I simply took it all for granted.
Today is Veteran’s Day. All across this nation we are taking time to thank the men and women who serve and have served in the armed forces. It is also a time to reflect on just how fortunate and blessed we are to live in the United States of America. Thousands of men and women have stood in the gap for the freedoms we enjoy every day. Behind those men and women, are Moms and Dads, Grandparents, siblings, and children, who worried and prayed for their safety.
To all of you who have served and are serving, there are not enough words to say thank you or to express my gratitude. Every day you echo the words of Patrick Henry. Your sacrifice is real.
Thank you for all that you do and have done for our country.