The Ultimate Sacrifice
By Diane Pearson
"Dear Mom and Dad, It looks like we may go overseas for duty in two or three months. I don't think we will ever go in the fighting zone. The old saying is 'a good soldier never dies' so don't think too much about it. I'm one of the best! Your Soldier, Eugene"
That letter postmarked July 16, 1944, was from my husband's Uncle Gene, a 28-year-old infantryman in the Army in World War II. Unfolding that yellowed letter was like taking a 68-year step back in a time machine.
Our family was going through a difficult but necessary task when we found that letter. My mother-in-law died, so we were going through all her worldly goods, preparing to sell her house. What should be saved? What should be discarded? Even the smallest items evoked memories we didn't want to let go of, and the emotions attached to certain items were heartrending.
In one drawer, we found visitors' registers from funerals of my husband's grandparents. We found Gene's letter stuck in one of those books. My mother-in-law, Gene's sister, was his last surviving sibling, so she inherited all the papers relating to his military service.
In a large manila envelope, I found a letter from the U.S. Army dated December 7, 1944: "It is with profound regret that I confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your son . . . ." One month later a proclamation signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Gene the Purple Heart "for wounds received in action resulting in death."
Also included in his papers was a picture of a U.S. Military Cemetery where Gene was buried in Limey, France, with row upon row of white crosses stretching as far as the eye could see. A letter from the War Department states: "Here rest the remains of those heroic dead who fell together in the service of our country. It is my sincere hope that you may gain some solace from this view of the surroundings in which your loved one rests."
As I looked at that picture of those white crosses, a profound sadness came over me. I thought: That old saying, "good soldiers never die," is not true! Rain falls on the just and on the unjust! He gave the ultimate sacrifice. How can I make sense of this?
Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, wrote similarly negative words as he pondered the meaning of life. He said,
"We all share a common destiny [physical death]—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad." Ecc. 9:2
And regarding the time of death, Solomon wrote:
"No man knows when his hour will come . . . men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them." Ecc. 9:12
Solomon wrote these words around 935 B.C., nearly a millennium before the birth of Christ. The Old Testament writers had only a vague idea of life after death, but present-day believers have the gift of the New Testament. We know that physical death is followed by the promise of eternal life.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, [die] or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 1 Thess. 4:13-14
Christians are instructed to live "not as those with no hope." None of us can escape physical death, but we can choose to live in eternal life when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Take comfort in the words of Jesus,
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." John 11:25-26
Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice. Our sins are forgiven because of what He did on the cross for us. Rejoice that we will be in heaven with Him.
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Diane Pearson is a Christian writer, speaker, and teacher from Frankfort, IN. She wrote a newspaper column for ten years titled "Real-Life Devotions," true stories of God working in people's lives. This story is adapted from one in her book, God in the Midst of Grief: 101 True Stories of Comfort, © 2011, Carpenter's Son Publishing, Franklin, TN. Contact her at [email protected] or www.dianepearson.org.
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