Patriot: A Memorial Day Reflection

As we sit drinking our morning coffee this Memorial day, we are thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and reflect on the fact that people gave and still give their lives for those freedoms. We consider to be Patriots the people who fought and who still fight for the freedoms we enjoy.

Although we are too young to have first-hand experience with World War II, we know what it was about and the cost involved. One of the most devastating battles was during the invasion of Normandy, which is in the north of France. Our troops entered from the sea using amphibious watercraft. The area was a Nazi stronghold, and we were attempting to break that stronghold. Wave after wave of our soldiers hit the beaches under unimaginable gunfire from the Germans. The Germans were defeated, and France was liberated, but at a horrific cost. This single event in history is what we commemorate on D-Day in June. One of our grandfathers was part of this invasion where he was injured badly, suffering multiple gunshot wounds. One of our cousin’s grandfathers is buried in Margraten, Holland even though he was killed in action in Germany. He was temporarily interred in Germany, but we did not leave any of our soldiers buried there.

We have several family members who fought in World War II. They never really spoke of their time in service—only on a very rare occasion. Among those who served was a great uncle. I knew of his service as a marine and that he had been shot up pretty badly in the war. I heard him speak of it only once. He was probably around 80 years old at the time. We were sitting in the courtyard of a mall while waiting on his wife who was buying some shoes. He kept rubbing his hand as if it hurt. I asked him if his hand was bothering him. He said he guessed it was the weather. It was hurting a little more than usual. He said, “That one, and the one in my back, too. A little reminder from the Japanese.” I asked him, “Did you get shot in the hand?” He merely replied, “Yes,” holding up his hand. The spotlight from above us in the courtyard seemed to reveal the scars prominently. I had seen them before, but I didn’t know what they were from until that moment. After a while, he said, “It was bad over there.” After a few moments longer, in a shaky voice, he said, “We had to stop that scourge.” He emphasized the word “had”, letting me know that it was a necessity for mankind to defeat the Axis regimes and the ideology and terror that they propagated. Those were the only words that I had ever heard him speak of the war. He was a kindly man, and after the war, became a preacher and worked in the metal trades.

I would describe him and the multitude like him as a Patriot. Not only are/were these soldiers patriots for the United States, they were patriots for humanity. The problem now is how the media and other sources are trying to manipulate the public perception of the word “Patriot”. While we view patriotism as a good quality, worthy of being honored, it is often cast in a negative and derogatory light by those who mock the sacrifices made by so many, while enjoying the freedoms that those sacrifices purchased.

This weekend, a friend shared an article on our timeline. This article featured a deranged Caucasian male in his thirties or forties. He was dressed in T-shirt and shorts. Under the shorts were long leggings. He baseball cap was on backward. An American flag was wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, and he was shouting and giving a “Heil Hitler” salute. The article stated, “America, this is what a terrorist looks like.” This article was released Memorial Day weekend.

The writers of the article wanted the readers to get the idea that this was Patriotism, and that patriotism is tantamount to terrorism. After all, this deranged individual was dressed in a flag while giving the Heil Hitler salute. The writers chose to feature this man because he had recently stabbed and killed two people in a scuffle on a train in which he was harassing two women who were “thought to possibly be” Muslim. He had killed two men who had intervened on the women’s behalf. The writers of the article used a collage of old pictures of this deranged individual to manipulate the readers’ thoughts. Ironically, the writers of the article did not feature the two men who gave their lives to protect the two women from this man; they chose instead to feature the individual who committed the crime. In our minds, he is no Patriot. He is exactly the kind of person that my uncle and grandfather and actual patriots would have fought. From this article, we know nothing of the two men he stabbed. But, they are more patriots (patriots for humanity) than he is. There is nothing patriotic about this individual. I can adorn myself in a bear-skin rug, but that doesn’t make me a bear.

While we have grown to expect this type of biased story lines from media outlets, this type of thinking has infected other arenas of our culture, creating confusion and a slanted view of patriotism. None of these affected arenas are more troubling to us than the religious arena. We have heard multiple members of the clergy over the last several years speak against patriotism, military defense, and even self-defense, driving into parishioners’ brains that it is sinful to do so—creating guilt complexes if they even dare think about it. These comments are not from whacky online preachers but sadly are coming from pastors and pulpits right here in the heart of Texas. As we are writing this, we can’t help but see the irony involved between preachers speaking against patriotism and my great uncle who fought for freedom and who became a preacher. Even after almost sixty years of reflection since his wartime experiences, he still understood the need for what he had done. He never said, “We shouldn’t have been there.”

Today, the tragic misconception of patriotism incubated on college campuses and theological seminaries has hatched and is spreading throughout our country. Our great uncle and grandfather weren’t fighting for oil, land, money or some misguided ideal when they were shot. They were fighting for humanity. And, without men like them, we would not live in the world we live in today. We wouldn’t have the freedoms that we do, in our media, on our college campuses, and in our churches, even if those freedoms are used to mock and to debase the sacrifices of those who fought and died to achieve them.