Summertime is the traditional and optimum season for road trips, and my husband and I just got back from our first as a married couple. (It was awesome, thanks very much.) We drove over 3000 miles and saw at least eight National Parks and many beautiful places, while camping along the way.
We only touched five states, not even 10 percent of our nations’ beauty, and yet we were still awed and overwhelmed, not to mention disheartened that 11 days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore.
Because we spent so much time driving in-between outdoor adventures, we listened to some great music (God bless the iPod) and a few audiobooks. One that captured my imagination was “Flags of Our Fathers”. It’s a true account of the young Marines who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. It was written several years ago by one of the flag raiser’s sons, and the movie version came out in 2006.
What struck me so much about this story was how these six young men, the flag-raisers of Iwo Jima, captured the heart and soul of America in one simple, dutiful act. People across the nation were galvanized into patriotic action and given joyous hope because of these young men and their courage. “The Photograph”, as the famous image came to be called, also gave the young Marines represented in it an almost instant celebrity status. Only three of the six Marines in the picture survived Iwo Jima, and those three were heralded as heroes against their will. All three men insisted that the real heroes were “the guys who didn’t come back.”
This kind of humble valor is noble, and the story of Iwo Jima and the brave men who fought there is worth telling. But what really grabbed my attention is how nearly everyone in America reacted to the flag-raising image and the men represented.
Today, we seem to care more about Michael Jackson’s death or countless celebrity antics than world affairs or even political movements being taken in our own country; so I’m astonished to think of millions of Americans clamoring to see heroic Marines in town squares, or excitedly talking to friends and neighbors about an incredible war-time photo in the local paper.
Sadly, in our gossip and celebrity-driven culture, we seem to have largely forgotten that American heroes are still all over the world, men and women who willingly give up precious time with family and countless comforts to keep us safe. It would do us good to recall a bit of the 1940’s fervor, and remember the true heroes, of both past and present.
As I mentioned earlier, we just got back from a wonderful road trip, and were stunned by the beauty of even a small section of the U.S. But who knows what this country would be like without the sacrifices of yesterday?
True heroes are not only those who sing upon a stage or act in a movie, but those who follow Christ’s command: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)