No Greater Love

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn;

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them.

“The Ode of Remembrance”, the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen.

All Gave Some, Some Gave All.

Today is about those that gave the all.

Today, our family remembers the life and legacy of SGT. Juan Navarro who was KIA July 7, 2012. We also remember SPC Thomas Yacovella and SSG Joseph Murphy who served with Josh in Afghanistan but passed away in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Today we should pray specifically for Gold Star Families that sent their loved one off to war to their final resting place. We should also pray for every heavy-hearted veteran that wishes he could have saved his friends.

Left to Right: SSG Joseph Murphy, SGT Juan Navarro, SPC Thomas Yacovella

It's important for civilians to know what is going on in the world of veterans that are taking the day to grieve. Nationally and locally, we will see signs of respect for those killed in the line of duty. This week I tried to highlight some of those elements on our Prayers for Josh Wetzel Facebook page. Coins on a grave, "Until Valhalla," the Battlefield Cross, the Missing Comrade Table, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are all explained for those who are fortunate enough to have never seen this kind of loss so closely. These solemn traditions must remind us that freedom comes with a price paid by those who are willing to put themselves in harm's way. Some might call it courage, valor, teamwork, or discipline, but I would like to elaborate on how each boil down to love.

When we are born, we have no idea what our capacity for love is. War has a way of revealing that. It is a true miracle when someone chooses others even when his own life is being called into question. A veteran makes this choice without hesitation, much like Jesus Christ.

This kind of love is rare because so few have the courage to test their capacity. John 15:13 says it beautifully and is often equated with Memorial Day, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." I thank God that it is written this way. I love that the Bible gives us full permission to love our friends this much. However, the loss of the brave men and women that paid it all for this country should be punctuated by another truth about great love: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8.

When I think about my sin, it's hard to believe there is anything I can do to cover it, yet there it is written in God's Word: love can cover a multitude of sins. How could this work? First, we serve a Savior that demonstrated the greatest form of love by going to the cross for the sins of his friends. A love this pure creates real, honest, Christ-like love in our hearts. Can we truly love like Christ in war, wandering, prison, or isolation? According to the gospel, it is love that will cover us and it is love that will anchor us to God. To be anchored to love in a place like war is living Psalm 91:

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

I prayed this prayer over Josh and his unit before, during, and after his injury. I prayed that they would know God's love in the midst of the hell they walked through every day while they were in Afghanistan. I prayed they would receive a peace from God that none of us might ever know simply because we live the American way of life while the military fight for us. As hard as I try, I will never understand what they went through, but that doesn't mean I, as the beneficiary of this sacrifice, don’t have a huge takeaway.

When veterans come back from war, it's hard for them to articulate what they want to do, how they want to be treated, or even what they think about being home. It's not uncommon for a veteran to be so thankful a deployment is over but wishing he could go back, or wanting people to know about the heroic things his friends did while also feeling awkward when people say "thank you for your service." As civilians, the best thing we can do for them and for our future is let it make us understand the price they were asked to pay for love. This is especially true for those that survived the greatest love by watching a friend lay down his life for the men and women he fought with. To know that there are human beings walking among us that were willing to make the same choice for a friend that Christ made for me, should yield better, more united Americans. Not Americans that get along or always agree, but Americans that love greatly despite race, religion, or politics.

It is a privilege to remain.

Do we live differently because we know that so many cannot?

Do we put ourselves last just like they did?

Do we value justice as God does and do we want it for every single citizen?

Do we love better? Because that's the only thing that matters.

If there is no greater love than laying down a life for a friend, then let's also remember that the friend was not chosen ahead of time. A veteran that dies in battle dies in the place of anyone, not just his favorite people. Let us open our eyes to how much more we can love and let us see it for the great responsibility that it is.

Never forget the fallen.

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