On this Veteran's Day, a word from my favorite veteran, my husband, Joshua Cook.
This is an address he delivered at our local high school yesterday.
The Unfinished Fight (by Joshua Cook)
Veterans Day is a day that our nation takes time to honor those men and women who made the sacrifice to serve our nation’s armed forces. For many veterans it is a day mixed with sorrow and joy. Sorrow, because they know personally the cost of freedom, the cost of standing up to evil and not backing down. Perhaps they have lost their friends or family members. Perhaps they have lost a spouse to divorce because of the hardship that deployments bring. Perhaps they still wake up with a start in the dead of the night. Fighting evil has its costs, and our veterans know the cost all to well. And yet, there is joy on this day as well. Joy that a nation has not yet forgotten. Joy that there is still enough honor and respect left in the world to commend those who have fought for freedom, who have placed their neighbor’s good before their own.
Jesus said: “Greater love hath no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Of course we know that God’s only begotten Son had even greater love – he laid down his life even for his enemies, so that all who believe in him might have eternal life. Students of Trinity Lutheran High School, you have been given the privilege of this education first by Christ, who has made you his own, and second by those people in your lives, parents, grandparents, teachers, and veterans too, who believe that it is our responsibility and privilege to stand up against evil and to serve our neighbor in love.
Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” On this Veteran’s Day, it is most fitting that we honor and commemorate our nation’s good men and women. But this Veteran’s Day will mean nothing in the years to come, if you and your generation choose to do nothing. Veteran’s Day should also stand as a day for all men and women to consider their God-given talents, and to ask themselves honestly: “What can I do to help?” “What is my part in standing up to evil?”
Now, I’m not saying that every one of you needs to become a service member. Evil is found in many places – not just the battlefield. Nor am I suggesting that you wage a personal vigilante war against evil—wars are fought shoulder to shoulder. No, what I am saying is that as Christians, and as Americans we need to join together in our effort to stop evil dead in its tracks. First, this is a spiritual battle. The apostle Paul warns us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We also know that Christ Jesus conquered mankind’s greatest enemies–sin, death, and Satan himself-by his death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. Here at Trinity you are being equipped to share Christ Jesus and the Gospel message of the forgiveness of sins as his free gift – that is single most important thing for you to do. And yet, this is not only a spiritual battle that our world faces. Evil is tangible, it has physical manifestations. This is where Christians and non-Christians must join together in the fight. This takes the form of soldiers on the front lines in the war against terrorism; doctors and nurses fighting Ebola, and cancer, and other diseases; Police, fireman, and EMTs protecting our neighborhoods; teachers providing education; parents providing stable and safe homes; and students, equipping themselves to be the next generation who will step into the breach.
I am not saying that this fight will be easy. It will not. Some will be asked to lay down their lives, even as those whom we honor on this day did. But there is honor in this fight. Some will try to tell you that the fight is “all for nothing”—but they are wrong. Their defeatism is evidence of their lack of hope. But we are not those who are without hope, for we are remade by Christ’s forgiveness. “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God, and So We Are.” This love is not only upon us, it is within us. It is what makes it possible to serve our neighbor in love, and to lay down our lives for our friends. Christ allows us to participate in his victory over evil–it is no small task–but it is an honorable one.
In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a portion of Lincoln’s well-known Gettysburg Address, which in my mind is the single-greatest tribute and call to action that has ever been offered in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Thanking God today for those who stand between us and evil, who sacrifice more than we can imagine to protect our freedom.