This is a re-do. I submitted basically the same piece for Memorial Day.
When I was young, I cut my teeth on WWII movies where war was glorified. John Wayne in The Green Berets made me zealous for militarism.
On 11/11/11 I remember — again — the day I learned that war was not the glorified world of the movies. The very first funeral I ever attended was for a son of Apache, Oklahoma. PFC James McClure was killed on May 2, 1967, the day before my 11th birthday. He was 19.
Once again I reflect. I recall the message I delivered to an over-flow crowd of mourners in the early spring of 2008. The governor of Oklahoma sat on the front row, along with a young widow and her toddler son, Gage. As I stood before the men and women gathered at that funeral, I found myself confronted with the very real issues of honor, duty, courage, and sacrifice that Veterans Day represents.
The following is the text from that day’s message.
STAFF SGT. CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL HAKE
Born: August 17, 1981 – Abilene, TX
Died: March 24, 2008 – Baghdad, Iraq
You don’t have to been a sociologist or political science major to comprehend this truth – there is violence and hate, injustice and sorrow in the world today; terrible, terrible things are going on. Why? Why do bad things happen?
God is well aware of evil in His creation. But I want to assure you today of this, He weeps with us. God is not distant and far away from our pain. God knows this is wicked and hateful place.
Then where is He? His answer: I am there. Look to that dark Friday, on the cross of Calvary, you see Him there.
Still, bad things happen. Where is God? He knows the ugliness that humans do to one another – Jesus confronted religious zealots who were agents of hate and brutality. Bin Laden and Hussein don’t have a lot on King Herod and Pontius Pilot. The Middle East is violent, and unfortunately so are too many streets and schools and homes around the world.
Staff Sgt Chris Hake found himself in the Middle East. He was a volunteer. I think of that region where so much Bible history took place and where conflict has raged for thousands of years. How I marvel that Chris was in Iraq… and do you know what he would tell you? — That he was “just doing his job.” Duty called. Duty asked Staff Sgt Chris Hake to stand with his men. Chris answered, “Yes Sir!”
Honor. Strength. Courage. Duty – These are the standards of the good soldier.
I am in awe as I think of God, through Jesus Christ in that area of the world – how He stepped into the darkness and was murdered. There, on the cross is Jesus, absorbing the pain; I am in awe as I comprehend that it is the sins of eternity impaling Jesus to that cross. Where is God? He is there confronting sin of hate, violence and destruction. Where is God? He is on the cross; he is crucified for the redemption of sin, and yes, even for those murderers.
Why must we look to the cross? That is where every pain and every sorrow points. Evil appears to have triumphed, but only for a moment because on that cross sin consumes God—and alas the miracle—God consumes sin.
Where is God? He is resurrected!!! He strikes the world with the Lighting of his new life and the Thunder of eternal life echoes in our hearts even today! This is Staff Sgt. Chris Hake’s victory!
Why did he have to die? We have fellow Americans protesting the war and calling this death a complete waste. Even now some contend that this is for nothing; this death is without cause. Let me say this: I hate war! You hate war. Most assuredly the Prince of Peace hates this war. But I love mercy. I hate conflict, but I love freedom, and I love hope; I love the ideals of our flag – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There ARE things worth fighting for, and certainly oppressed and exploited people are worth it. We are familiar with this maxim, “Evil men prosper when good men do nothing.”
Because good men like Chris Hake accept their duty, 97% of Iraqi children under five are immunized against polio. 700,000 pregnant women have received vaccinations; thanks to soldiers like Sgt. Hake. School supplies have been safely delivered to more than 2 million secondary students. Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls are getting an education. Medicine, building materials and food are distributed. Sewage treatment systems have averted millions of gallons of raw sewage from being dumped into the Tigris
I do not know the political answer to this thing called war. I don’t know when all the death, pain and suffering will end forever.
But I do know this. Evil exists. I do know that madmen and tyrants oppress. I do know that terrorists’ blood lust is not satisfied. And I do know that when duty called, when his men needed him… when there was a job that no one else wanted, Staff Sgt Chris Hake was a good man, helping the cause of freedom in a place where evil men care not.
Why did this son have to die? It’s the voice of the mother we hear. Why did my son have to die in Iraq, or Kuwait or Afghanistan? Why did my son have to die in Vietnam or Korea … or Iwo Jima? The mother asks, why did my son die at Gettysburg or that frozen field at Valley Forge?
A long time ago a mother asked, Father… why did my son have to die on a cross outside Jerusalem? The answer is the same: So that others might have life and liberty; so that happiness and peace could be redeemed from darkness.
To his son Staff Sgt. Christ Hake left this message:
“If anything were to happen to me, I want Gage to be able to know that his father died so that he [Gage] could live in peace. I know Jesus did the same for me.”