On May 7, 1968, a battle was raging in the jungles of Vietnam. My daddy, a mere twenty years old, was on the ground, listening to frantic reports that many were wounded and dying. Being an airplane mechanic, he wasn’t involved in the actual fighting of this battle but was instead working to solve a problem. Because all perimeter and landing lights had been shot out, the Medevacs bringing in the injured couldn’t see where to land.
Daddy was smart and dove into action. He lit canisters of aviation fuel and placed them in strategic places, allowing the Medevacs to land and get help for the wounded men, saving untold lives.
I know this, because my daddy, Gerald McNeil Hayes, received the Bronze Star for his meritorious service on that fateful night. Not only did he share this story with me, but I have his Bronze Star hanging on the wall of my home.
There are other stories he told from his time in Vietnam, but the stories he couldn’t tell are the ones that haunted him most. Daddy suffered from post-traumatic stress, evidenced by nightmares, sleeplessness, and flashbacks. He medicated himself with alcohol, distanced himself from his family, and eventually took his life.
There are countless other men and women with similar stories, heroes who gave their lives either in battle on the field or the battle in their minds to the cause of freedom. And, honestly, it really doesn’t matter whether it was for our freedom or someone else’s freedom, because as Americans, that’s just what we do. We fight for freedom. Always have.
And yet, most of us take that freedom for granted.
We live as if we deserve all that we have because we earned it. How quickly we forget that someone else paid the price for us to have what we have. Freedom isn’t free.
Holidays are hard for me, but none are harder than Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans’ Day. They’re hard because I’m proud of my daddy, and it hurts when others don’t acknowledge that the flag, the pledge, and the liberty they represent are something worth fighting for.
No, I don’t worship the flag. I honor it. I don’t worship this nation or its heroes. I honor them. I don’t worship our leaders. But I honor them, even when I disagree with them.
Because that’s what we do as Americans. We realize how blessed we are to live in America. We stand together as family, with faith, and with respect for the nation that so many have fought and died for. We honor those whose sacrifice made us free, even if we don’t agree with the choices of past leaders or the mistakes of our nation’s past.
There’s another who has fought and died for us to buy our freedom, and He is the only One worthy of our worship. Jesus Christ is our greatest hero because He fought for our freedom from sin and death, even though we weren’t perfect and made a lot of mistakes. He fought death, hell, and the grave and won our victory. Don’t forget that someone else paid the price for the freedom you enjoy.
“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered me by setting me free” (Psalm 118:5, NIV 84).
We can live in light of that victory by our sacrifice of worship, prayer, obedience, and service. Or we can ignore Christ’s sacrifice and live on our own terms, much like those who burn the flag or refuse to stand.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
So today as you celebrate our national liberty, remember that freedom isn’t free. Remember those who gave their lives so you could have what you have–the freedom to worship, to speak, and to write, the freedom to work and earn a living, the freedom to live your life and make choices. Many people in the world don’t have those freedoms.
And most of all, remember that the ultimate freedom is the freedom from the bondage of sin. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you to have that liberty. Don’t take it for granted.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Will you join me in praying for revival, unity, and an outpouring of God’s Spirit in our land?
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
May the true Spirit of freedom permeate our land in Jesus’ name.