Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13
I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful. During my assignment in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much. From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us. But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.
We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia. They received orders to Germany several months before we did. They were only a couple of hours from us so we saw each other pretty frequently. It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery. It was one of the most hollowed sights I have ever seen.
There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David. Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes. Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, that we can live in freedom. General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found. They are simply listed as missing in action. 102 are just unknown.
This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944. Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor. It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner. And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended. So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.
Heroes. It is a word we throw around lightly these days. In a world where everyone gets a trophy we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word. Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage. Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.
I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of super hero stuff. As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye. It simply said, “Real Heroes.” Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders. If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.
But there would be one missing. Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths. It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen. And yet…He went. Why? He loved me. He loved you.
Amazingly it was not for some of us but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter. The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.” It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family. How about that! So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom. When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice. When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special. And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin. Thank Him for always being there. Thank Him for giving you a place to rest. And, thank Him for having this….because He does.