No Greater Love Than This....
I remember walking on the historic piece of ground called Little Round
Top at Gettysburg, PA. It's where the Union and Confederate armies
fought a life and death struggle to
determine the fate of our country. The stars and stripes eventually
prevailed by holding the extreme flank of the union line against
repeated attack. They did it at a very high cost.
As I looked out over the edge of the hill and down the steep embankment, I could picture the gray armies of General Lee climbing up toward sure death. It was a steep hill. Many died. The serenity of the place belied the ferocity of that day's battle.
On Little Round Top, families erected monuments after the war to honor their sons who died at Gettysburg. One such memorial featured the bronze face of a young first lieutenant who flung his battalion at the confederate armies spilling over the ridge. He knew the gravity of the situation. His battalion was the first to arrive on the scene only to find a horde of enemy troops ready to flank the Union position. If he didn't stop them, the whole defensive line would have caved in, and they would have lost the battle, and most likely, the war.
This lieutenant graduated first in his class at West Point and a bright future awaited him. He sacrificed it all by leading his battalion straight into the enemy lines, losing his life in a hail of bullets, throwing the Confederates off the ridge, and saving the Union in the process. He was only twenty four years old. The haunting eyes from his memorial stared into my very soul, asking me if I would make the extreme sacrifice for a greater cause. I didn't know how to answer at the time. Who can answer such a question with integrity during a time of peace? It was for another day.
I felt a little queasy walking on ground that at one time gushed with the blood and guts of thousands of troops who died defending and attacking this same spot. It felt even sacrilegious to even be there. Hallowed ground has that kind of effect. Courage and honor draped the whole battlefield.
As I wrote the inurnment message for that afternoon's service at Punchbowl, those same feelings washed over me again. It's been over fourteen years since our trip to the Gettysburg battlefield, but the feelings still linger. The vision of row upon row of former warriors at this Pacific cemetery triggered them.
The National Cemetery of the Pacific holds the ashes and bones of soldiers, pilots, and sailors who fought in WW I, WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and even the Spanish American War. Ernie Pyle, the famous WW II war correspondent, died on the battlefield and is buried here. Many other heroes rest in this same sacred place.
There is something beautiful and pure about living and dying for others. It's the ultimate in giving. Yes, we give our money, time, and other material goods, but when you give your life, you're giving your all. Once you die, you cannot make any more money or acquire any more material possessions. You're saying in essence, "I give you my most prized possession, my life."
The men and women who fill the land at Punchbowl made that sacrifice when they joined the military. Yes, some were drafted into the wars against their will, but they still obeyed and fought. They still paid the price. They still served unselfishly.
The person who I helped honor a few days ago served in the Korean War. He lived beyond the conflict, raised a family, worked on Oahu, enjoyed parties, retired from work, and experienced life to its fullness. I have to think that these were the just rewards of a life well spent. Whether he died on the battlefield or later on in life, his willingness to lay it all on the line made him a hero. Heroes dwell here. They sanctify the ground at Punchbowl.
Jesus stated in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." He gave his all for us on the battlefield of Golgotha. It was there that he repulsed the enemy of our souls and secured forgiveness and eternal life for all. He won the war on that day so we could live today. He calls us all to make the same sacrifice for each other. Maybe we might be called to make the ultimate sacrifice, but each time we live unselfishly, we follow His beautiful footsteps. We make the same beautiful sacrifice.
Sacrificing your life and time for others leads to a beautiful life. The Spirit of the Lord spoke to my heart as I looked at all the graves. I said, "Yes"