A pause to say thank you to Veterans

Some just don’t understand why people do it.  But we should all be glad they do.

What is the “it” to which I refer?  The answer – the willingness on the part of so many men and women to serve our country in the Armed Forces. In a time when there is no forced draft or lottery system for recruiting, when mores are changing in dramatic ways, and actual wars are being fought, America is blessed to have a quality military.  

In honor of Wednesday’s very special holiday – Veteran’s Day – I would like to use this space to say… thank you.

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Thank you to men and women who regularly put their lives not only on hold, but on the line – to defend our country and its citizens. Some of us are not even aware of the immense personal commitments and family sacrifices that these servants make on a daily basis. Even worse, there are numbered among us those that don’t seem to care, one way or the other, whether we even have a military.  

I am not in either of those two camps. I am aware of the sacrifices that are regularly made by not only the soldiers, but their wives, children, parents and friends. And by God’s grace, I can say that I care – deeply.

Chuck Williams (left), Chaplain in the US Army.

I grew up in the Vietnam era.  I came very close to being drafted for service, and I still have my “1-A” draft card. During 1971, the Selective Service System took draft numbers 1 to 200, and those whose birthdates came up on those lottery ping-pong balls shipped out almost immediately. My draft number was 203. So, I went to college, like many others who were in the same situation as I, and I never spent time in military service.  But I always carried in my heart for those who did.

Add to this the fact that I became close to many who were (and still are) in active duty. Men like Chuck Williams. 

Chuck served out his first enlistment as a young man. After getting out, he went to college, worked in business, then entered and graduated from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. After much prayer, he reenlisted in 2005 – this time as a Chaplain. 

He has served us all, having been deployed to an active Middle East war zone three times, the last deployment ending at the beginning of this year.  On December 23, 2012, Chuck posted the picture seen at the beginning of this post on Facebook, taken with a fellow soldier as he wrapped up his time during that campaign.  Here are a few of Chuck’s thoughts as he came to the end of that time away from his wife Celia, his family and friends…

“As the sole chaplain at this Forward Operating Base in the mountains of Afghanistan it has been a time of great ministry in our chapel services. Our congregation has been exemplary in their devotion and love to the Lord. I will have many fond memories of these dear people of God for the rest of my life. Throughout this past year our congregation was comprised of men and women, Soldiers and civilian, from 14 different nations. 79 services were held with a combined attendance of just over 3,000 people. My dearest hope is that the Lord would take what He has done in the lives of these, His sons and daughters, multiply it, and spread it powerfully in their respective nations and lands, in their families, Churches, communities and villages for His glory.”

Chuck has many fascinating stories to tell from his military times, both in the US and abroad. He has also experienced some devastating times, as he lost members of his company to attacks from enemy forces. Chuck not only ministered to the fellow soldiers, but also to the grieving family members that lost their loved ones. Serving in the military carries some pretty hefty risks and responsibility.

Chuck retired from the military with advanced rank, and is now in the process of studying for another PhD. He is a man I respect, one that has devoted his life to Jesus.

I am proud of you, Chuck. We all are. Thank you for living your life for the glory of the Lord, and for helping to make our nation more secure.

And to all veterans, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks for a job well done.  As we prepare to celebrate on Wednesday, I pray that you sense the appreciation of a grateful nation.

About the Author

Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers.  In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader.  As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.

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