In the Gospel of Luke, soldiers come to John the Baptist to ask, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14) This means that being a follower of Christ does not exclude military service.
Whatever your vocation, there is balance and reconciliation of occupational duties with spiritual alliances. For a soldier, these are in many ways weightier than mine as a teacher or my dad’s as a farmer, but they are there. John the Baptist does not condemn the men for their military employment.
Today, I want to honor my Grandpa Phillips (my Grandpa J.R. also served in the military, but his is a story for Memorial Day).
When I was younger, Grandpa rarely spoke of his life as a soldier in WWII. I would use history and social studies classes as an excuse to interview him, thus “forcing” him to open up about those days. I learned that his MASH unit was honored for their heroism and bravery. Being the man that he is, he kept the article (Philadelphia Evening Post, I believe) in a file cabinet. Most vets would frame it and hang such an honor on the wall, for all to see.
Grandpa did not glamorize the War. He hated it. He did not want to fight; he was drafted and conscripted. He told me that as his unit was sailing out of San Francisco toward the Pacific theater they sailed past a still-occupied Alcatraz Prison, inmates were waiving to the soldiers through their cell windows and Grandpa’s thought was, “Lucky devils.”
Even though he didn’t want to be fighting, he did his job very well. Grandpa served as a male nurse (he always adds the “male”) and a truck driver, among other duties. His unit provided water and medical aid to combat troops, so he was often in perilous situations. He was scheduled to be part of the first wave of a beach invasion, where the Japanese Army was already well fortified in the hills. He confided in me that the soldiers understood their mission was akin to suicide.
Two days before they were to hit the beach and meet an almost-certain death, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb. It’s not much of a stretch to say that without that bomb, I’m probably not here to type this post today.
Today, Grandpa is a respected man living on a quiet street in a small town. His life is not defined by his service to our country, but by his God, his family, and his work. My Grandpa’s level of patriotism is a model for me. In essence: Be thankful for your country, do your duty as a citizen, but remember that this country is not your real home.
One day, we who trust Jesus will live in a place of true Freedom and Peace, and only one Person had to die to secure it for us.
Thank you, Grandpa, for serving well, living well, and pointing your family to Christ.