Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Does One Say "Thanks" For Giving Your Life?

The last Monday in May is observed in the US as Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have died in our nation’s service. Perhaps because we focus on having a three day weekend and therefore we travel or do house projects or host backyard BBQ’s, we don’t often reflect very well on the sacrifice that has been made by over a million American servicemen and women. Their sacrifices enable our freedom.

Friday the Associated Press released a story about a recent awarding of the Medal of Honor to PFC Ross McGinnis of Pennsylvania. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military honor.

In 2006 there was much violence on the Northeastern side of Baghdad, Iraq. On December 4 a patrol was dispatched to the area and Private McGinnis was in the gunner’s hatch of a Humvee when a grenade was tossed by insurgents into the vehicle. McGinnis had been trained in such a situation to yell, “Grenade” and then leap from the vehicle to safety. However, the grenade fell to the floor of the Humvee and lodged in a corner. None of the three soldiers in the Humvee below McGinnis could get out of the vehicle. Rather than jump to his own safety McGinnis jumped to the floor of the Humvee and cradled the grenade next to his body. The explosion was mostly absorbed by his body. McGinnis was instantly killed and his three buddies were wounded but saved.

Staff Sergeant Ian Newland was one of the soldiers saved by McGinnis. He was the most severely wounded of the three surviving soldiers. After several surgeries Newland still has over 50 pieces of metal under his skin that cannot be removed.

USA Today reported that in answer to the question, “Why McGinnis did it?” Newland says, “Because we were his brothers. He loved us.” In a YouTube testimony Newland said, “Not a day goes by, not an hour goes by that I don’t think about McGinnis’ sacrifice. Whenever I smell my daughter’s hair or see my son’s smile or feel the soft touch of my wife I am grateful all over again for the sacrifice of my friend.”

Newland said, “How can you really thank someone who gave his life for you? The way that I’ll thank Ross is to live my life to the fullest. If Ross could give his 19-year-old life, then I will live all my life for however many years I live, in order to live it to the fullest.”

First, I want to say thanks for all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their life for my freedom. Newland’s comments stirred greater joy in me today as I enjoyed just being in the same house with my wife and son.

Second, I must add that the details and sentiments of these news reports are so closely connected to my faith in Jesus Christ. In a similar way, my sin and rebellion against God in effect dropped a bomb of condemnation in the vehicle of my life that was certain death. Jesus called out to me, fell on the bomb and absorbed all the deadly outcomes that were meant for me. I’m eternally saved and as Newland pointed out, the only way to really say thanks is to live my life to the fullest. The main difference is that McGinnis is gone and won’t be seen in this world again. Jesus however, rose from the dead and I “see” Him and do life with Him everyday. His presence and power enable me to live life to the fullest. Thank you Jesus.

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