'In a field hospital about a mile behind the front lines on Christmas Eve, we went from bed to bed, bringing greetings and trying to encourage the wounded. One young man was so mangled that he lay face down on a canvas and steel contraption. A doctor whispered to me, "I doubt he'll ever walk again." "Mr. Graham, could I see your face?" asked the young man. We've all been praying for you and looking forward to your coming. I won't be able to be at the service." So I lay on the floor beneath him and looked up into his hollow eyes, still stunned with his fate. I prayed with him.
"Sir," said the young man to General Jenkins, who was escorting me, "I fought for you, but I've never seen you. Could I see your face?"
The general got down on all fours, slid under that bed as best he could, and talked with the young man. I saw a tear fall from the soldier onto the general's cheek.'
Iraq? Afghanistan? No, this took place in Korea in 1952. It is an excerpt from the autobiography of Billy Graham, entitled "Just As I Am".
Why am I sharing this short, incredibly graphic passage with you? Simply, and in plain English, because it jarred me. I had to put the book away until the tears stopped. I could not continue to read.
It occurred to me that nothing has really changed, and probably nothing ever will. Civilization, it seems, goes from war to war to war...! Soldiers die fighting for the 'cause'. History continues to repeat itself, and no one ever learns.
"Where have all the soldiers gone...long time passing...Where have all the soldiers gone...long time ago...Where have all the soldiers gone...they've gone to graveyards, everyone...when will they ever learn...when will they ever learn". (Pete Seeger)
Fast forward to March 2007. Our young people are still dying, still being maimed. And in my heart and soul, I must now wrestle with the questions that surfaced regarding Iraq as I read the above passage from Mr. Graham's book. Why do we do this? Is this a morally correct course we are on? Is there a better way? Is our freedom really worth the price our soldiers are paying every day?
I was born in 1938. I was a young child during World War II, but I can still vividly remember seeing the large headlines in the Cleveland Plain Dealer proclaiming "THE WAR IS OVER", or words to that effect. I was sitting at the kitchen table and almost tipped my chair over backwards with excitement. I remember the euphoria of family and neighbors. I can remember a few months later seeing my Uncle Harold, walking towards our house dressed in his sailor's uniform, duffle bag over his shoulder. Coming home. He was my hero, and I was so proud he was my uncle! We were a country united by a common cause.
Had we not had the resolve and the will to do what was necessary back then, we would not have the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today. For those of you too young to remember, you can take that to the bank. We were confronted with evil, we paid a horrible price to defeat it, but defeat it we did. Our country lost 11,000 soldiers the first DAY at Normandy. We lost tens upon tens of thousands more in the Pacific defeating Japan.
This, of course, is my frame of reference when I search for answers to those tough questions. I was born into a war that involved our own very sacred freedom and sovereignty. I was a student during Korea, and just past fighting age during Vietnam. Korea and Vietnam were political wars. They were about the proliferation of communism. Our sovereignty was not at stake. We were fighting to maintain freedom for a people who had not the means to do it for themselves. Was this a right thing to do? Should we have been there, or should we simply have let them be crushed by evil forces? There's a couple questions you can try to answer.
Today, we are fighting evil forces for our very existence, and, unlike our country of the 1940's, we are divided, and it is ugly. As horrible as war can be, as terrible as the consequences are for our young soldiers, can you imagine a future without freedom? Can you imagine leaving a legacy of evil, oppression and death for our children, and their children? Will there even be a 'next generation'? Are you willing to take the risk of 'just walking away'? Of surrender? This is truly gut-wrenching stuff!
I am afraid I do not have the answers. I wish I did. I will close with a quote that I have used many times before, but it always seems apropos:
"True peace is not the absence of war; it is the absence of evil". I truly believe that somewhere in this quote lie the answers. We must try to find them, if we can.