THE ACCEPTABLE BLOOD
The fourth of July fell on a Sunday this year. That happy calendar trick put the observed holiday on the following Monday. So what resulted were three days of celebrations. This was certainly true for my little family. Since Sunday is our day of worship and, theoretically, rest, we diluted it all down to be sprinkled throughout the three-day holiday.
The first speaker at church Sunday morning was one of the largest, and certainly the oldest, gentlemen in our congregation. He had not escaped the churlish trickery of the years and, though a little stooped, he towered over the rest. He stood at the pulpit with a soaring resolve that diminished the best of us. He told of how he had been on the carrier Saratoga during the battle of Iwo Jima. Our airplanes had been patrolling the skies and one night in February of 1945 the carrier was hit by a Kamakazi plane. The old gentleman looked out at our robust congregation and said, “Within 15 minutes as many people as are in this chapel here today were killed.” He went on to tell us of the death of his bunkmate, whose personal effects he had to pack to be sent home to his family. This young man was found in the cockpit of an airplane, pen and paper in hand. He had been writing a letter to his sweetheart at the very moment he was killed. The old gentleman explained this in the financial terms which were familiar to him as an accountant. “This”, he said, “was an installment paid by many men that night towards the cost of freedom.”
He spoke of another of another friend who was killed in that battle. His young wife was nearly due to give birth to their second baby upon word of her husband’s death. Again he spoke of the “installments made by the baby, the small child, the young mother and the young father whose blood was shed, towards the cost of freedom.” The freedom he spoke of was not to be possessed by those who paid the installments but is given freely by the rare men and women who carry in their hearts the vision of the greatness and purpose of America. They have died for a holy purpose and their gifts are more akin to the gift and sacrifice of Jesus Christ than any other that can be extended by a mortal soul.
I struggled to contain my emotion, and I felt a little smaller in my pew as he spoke. But my heart was full. Another fellow who spoke was a younger man who, for the first time in about a year, had trimmed his hair which had been considerably lengthy for a Mormon. This man spoke of the pact he made with his son who has been fighting in Afghanistan for about 6 years, on and off. The pact was that he would cut his hair when his son returned safe and whole.
His son returned home to his dad, mom, wife and little son just days prior. The man at the pulpit spoke of how his son had been pointman on numerous raids where the mission was to capture and arrest members of the Taliban who were hiding in houses, dugouts, caves, “ratholes”. This young soldier took turns at point with a good buddy of his, but the guys in his patrol liked him best because he was handy with the machine gun. They had been taking turns one day when his buddy was shot. It was a roll of the dice. If it had been him as pointman he would have been shot. The father spoke of how this buddy had died in his son’s arms shortly after being hit. His last words were, “Josh, I’ve been shot.” The father was reluctant to tell his wife about this incident. Mothers, you see, don’t mourn just for their own.
I was moved and changed that day. No earthly standard teaches more about the Savior of the World than the examples of those who have given all they have for the cause of freedom. Freedom, you see, if of The Lord. It is His and it is central to His eternal plan.
I came home with my children, put together a simple meal and we broke our fast after having gone without for breakfast and lunch. My oldest daughter sat down and, in her petulant and provocative way said, “So, did Brother **** spout off today about how great America is and all that?” I told her to “stop”.
And I said, “Do not mock the blood sacrifices of those who have died to ensure that you can sit down to an abundant table in a free land, to speak your mind, for good or ill. I will speak first.” I related to my children what had been taught at the pulpit earlier. It took awhile because I had to pause often to staunch the overwhelming emotion within me. But they listened, in riveted silence they listened.
‘You see, the Lord Himself brought forth His gospel which exceeds the Law of Moses. It fulfills it with His sacrifice, and when He died upon the cross the need for blood sacrifice was fulfilled and would never be required again, except for the one blood sacrifice which remains acceptable to Jesus Christ. It is not the sacrifice of a lamb without blemish. It is the sacrifice of those who willingly prepare their installments towards the cost of freedom. The blood of Americans and other freedom-loving people who understand how essential is our moral agency and ability to choose for ourselves our own paths, is not just acceptable to the Lord, but it is the most holy of gifts.”
Later that Sunday my youngest son and I joined up with the Grand Old Party downtown to march in the Independence Day parade. As we were milling about waiting for the parade to begin, an old gentleman wearing an “Honor Flight” T-shirt and a cap that said “WWII Veteran” passed me on the sidewalk. I went to him and I wanted to express to him all that I had learned that day about love and sacrifice. I wanted to tell him the volumes that I had stored in my heart for heroes like him. But the only words that would come to my lips were,”Thank you.” I took his hand in a two-handed clasp and I said, with all the power two words can bear, “thank you, thank you.”