Gilland: We must never forget

We just passed an important date on the calendar this past Thursday. November 11th, Veteran’s Day. Though I never served in the military, I have many friends who did. And simply stated, I couldn’t respect them more.

The brave men and women that have donned their branch’s uniform and sacrificed four or more years of their lives to service for our country should be honored and respected by every American.

I had many friends that both enlisted or were drafted into military service in the ‘70s, and soon thereafter, many of them were deployed to Vietnam. Some lost their limbs, others lost their lives. And what is so sad – many of them returned home having lost the respect that should have been theirs.

Years later, I met another veteran – his name was Chuck Williams. When I was first introduced to Chuck, he was working in Orlando. He had already completed his term in the military, but years later he gained a desire to return, this time as a chaplain. Chuck was already married to a young lady from our church in Orlando (who happened to be my secretary!) when they made the decision to pursue this new adventure. Chuck was a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and now he was going to put that training to work in the U.S. Army.

I don’t remember just how many years it had been since he endured his first basic training, but I do know that Chuck was not exempt from this experience in his second term. And it wasn’t easy. But Chuck had a vision before him, and he persevered. He passed all of those early hurdles, and even though he was much older in this second go-round, he made the cut and ultimately was awarded the distinction of being an Army Chaplain.

While Chuck was intensely loyal to his country, he also was-and still is-a defender of the Gospel of Jesus, and it was with this passion that Chuck carried his Bible and faith on several deployments to Afghanistan. In a country and climate so different than America, Chuck was an exemplary soldier and minister, wearing both hats to perfection. Daily, he spent time with his fellow soldiers, bringing encouragement to them, and preaching the Word in their church services. He also experienced the painful responsibility of ministering to the families and friends when one or more of the troops in his company were killed in action. That happened too many times.

War has never been easy, but Chuck and thousands of soldiers like him have faithfully fought the fight. I am so grateful they did. And I am also grateful that they still do.

Deuteronomy 20:3-4 says:

Today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

May we always respect and honor our veterans – not just on November 11, but all year long.

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