Beginning August 31st through September 5th, the Traveling Wall – Vietnam War Memorial will be displayed at the Rice County Fairgrounds. The Traveling Wall visits hundreds of small towns and cities throughout the United States every year. Thousands of people will come to remember, honor, and pay tribute to the brave 58,282 American soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Several decades ago the long overdue homecoming parade for Vietnam veterans was finally held in downtown Chicago. It was an overwhelmingly emotional event for the unheralded soldiers, their families, and loved ones.
I remember hearing Pastor Bill Hybels describe the event. He told how for an entire week, the TV news reporters covered the story and interviewed the soldiers who were arriving in Chicago to march in the parade. One Vietnam vet was interviewed on camera. He was standing there by the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall with all the names of the soldiers who never made it back home.
One newscaster asked him why he had come all the way to Chicago from Seattle to visit the memorial and to participate in the parade. The soldier looked straight into the face of the reporter and with tears flowing down his face, he said, “Because of this man right here.” As he talked, he was pointing to the name of a friend whose name is etched on the wall. And as he pointed to the name, he traced the letters of his friend’s name in the wall. He continued to answer the reporter by saying, “This man right here gave his life for me. He gave his life for me.” And that said it all. That explained everything. No further questions. As that news clip ended, that sobbing soldier simply let the tears flow without shame as he stood there, continuing to trace the name of his friend with his finger.
The Apostle John wrote these words: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” (I John 3:16) It is as though John were saying, “I never really knew what true love is or experienced its power, until one day I stood there and watched Jesus Christ, the Son of God, die on a cross — giving His life as a costly sacrifice for the forgiveness of my sins. Then, for the first time in my life, I understood what love is all about.”
The Vietnam vet stands there at the Wall with tears of gratitude and love streaming down his cheeks while he traces with his finger the name of his friend, and he says, “This man died for me.” And Christians all over the world with a wonderment that never fades away praise the Lord with these simple words: “Jesus gave His life for me. He gave His life for me!”
Randy Hardy, Interim Pastor
(This originally appeared in the Faribault Daily News Faith Column on 8/13/2016.)