Thursday, April 15, 2004

Witmer Memorial Service


Here is a link to WISN-12 that has the story of the service including photos and excerpts of remarks from family members, youth pastor and governor of Wisconsin.

About a month ago, one of the young people at my church who is in the Marines got his orders to be deployed in Iraq. On the Sunday before he shipped out, the pastor asked all veterans in the congregation to come forward and pray with him and his family. A number of them were gray-haired men slowed by the passage of time but they came forward eagerly to pray for and shake the hand of the young man. In some cases, they were separated by 60 years of culture and life experience but they shared a common faith and a willingness to serve. It was a powerful moment.

As I think of Michelle Witmer's story and for that matter all the brave young men and women who have sacrificed their lives in our armed forces, I can't help but think of Reagan's Point du Hoc speech which was part of the 40 year anniversary commoration of D-Day. Excerpts:
We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began.
..........
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

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