Candy, C-rations, and Freedom

Throughout all of history, the sight of a squad of armed soldiers has struck fear into the hearts of civilians. From time immemorial, soldiers almost always meant an orgy of looting, pillage, rape, and even murder. This was certainly the case through the course of World War II. Historian Stephen Ambrose, writing in the Wall Street Journal, notes that, at the end of the war, "The most terrifying sight to most civilians was a squad of armed teenage boys in uniform." Whether it was the Red Army in Warsaw, the Japanese in Manila, the Germans in Holland, or the French in Austria, this sight usually meant trouble. There was, however, one exception to this tragic rule. As Ambrose put it, "Everywhere in the world, whether in France, Belgium, the Philippines, Germany, or Japan, the sight of a 12-man squad of GIs brought joy to peoples' hearts." Why? "Because the sight of those American kids meant cigarettes, candy, c-rations, and freedom. They had come not to conquer or terrorize but to liberate." What made these soldiers so different, even from their European counterparts who share a common western and Christian heritage? What made them different was a commitment to and love for a set of ideals. What were those ideals? They were the most fundamental principles articulated at the founding of this nation. Unlike other nations, American identity isn't based on ethnicity. It's based on a moral proposition. A proposition that comes from a faded, yellowed document resting in the National Archives, the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This is what being an American meant to those GIs in World War II. And it's this belief that shaped the way they treated civilians—in enemy countries. You can't terrorize men, women and children if you believe that life and liberty are God's gift to everyone. Well, in the past twenty years, we've seen many Americans turn their backs on the principles. Our nation has begun to systematically exclude entire classes of people from the guarantees of the declaration. We've excluded the unborn, the people with handicaps like Downs Syndrome. And, now with physician assisted suicide, we're beginning to exclude the elderly and the infirm. If America continues down this deadly road, I've got to ask myself: Will American GIs in some future conflict be as welcome as those kids who liberated Europe after World War II? It's something for us all to think about as we celebrate Veteran's Day today. If you're like most Americans, this is just one more holiday to go to the mall and take advantage of the sales. But as you head down that highway for early Christmas shopping, stop, take a moment, discuss with your kids what this day really means. Young Americans believing so deeply in the moral truths of this nation, they were willing to face a hail of bullets to defend them. And they so believed in those ideals, they would protect foe and friend alike. This holiday, we ought to be thanking God, not only for men and women who proudly wore their nation's uniform, but also for the principles for which they fought, and in many cases died.


Chuck Colson


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