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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Your Service, Our Freedom and Sincere Thanks

“Wasn’t he just born?” I asked Tom. Beaming with pride, we watched our son James graduate from Basic Training at Fort Knox, soon to be headed for his tour of duty in Iraq.

At the airport, we headed for our terminals in opposite directions, us returning to Spokane, Washington, and James to his military station in Fairbanks, Alaska. We were delighted when the airlines upgraded James to first-class, honoring and thanking him for his service to our country.

We huffed it to our gate lugging James’ Army duffle bag, which was full of the belongings he had asked us to store while he was overseas. Tom and I chatted while waiting for our return flight to depart, his chest puffed out with pride, donning his new t-shirt that bore our son’s unit insignia.

“Excuse me, sir,” a woman said, tapping Tom on the shoulder. “I want to thank you for serving our country. Thank you.”

I fumbled for a tissue as her genuine gratitude brought sudden tears. Smiling through her watery eyes, she sped away to catch her flight, disappearing down the walkway before we had a chance to let her know that our son, not Tom, was serving in the military.

Tears brimmed in Tom’s eyes in response to the woman’s words. Seeing the t-shirt and the Army duffle bag at Tom’s side, the stranger assumed he was military personnel. She came and left so fast that we weren’t able to correct her mistake.

It wasn’t, however, a mistake.

In February of 1973, Tom and an aircraft full of fellow comrades were en route to the United States after serving in Vietnam. The pilot announced that although they were initially scheduled to fly into Travis Air Force Base in California, they would instead land at San Francisco International. At the time, San Francisco was the epicenter of radical, dope smoking, anti-war, free love, tie-dye long hairs.

Dressed in their Class A uniforms that proudly displayed brass shining, ribbons and combat patches, the returning vets were excited to be heading back to the good ole USA after their tour in Vietnam. They weren’t anticipating the reception they were about to encounter.

As the servicemen deplaned, hostile men and women dressed in headbands, sandals, barefoot and raggedy clothes, shook their fists while screaming obscenities. “War mongers! Baby killers!” they yelled while spitting in their face. One spit glob hit Tom in the temple and another smack dab on his left breast, covering the ribbons he had displayed so proudly only moments ago.

After hustling through the gauntlet of protestors, Tom headed to the restroom so he could change out of his uniform to be less conspicuous. The only hip clothes he was able to buy in the PX on Tan Son Nhut Air Base back in Saigon, was a purple long sleeve shirt, bellbottom jeans and sandals. Tom entered the men’s room a soldier and exited a PX hippie.

“Tom,” I said, realizing what God had done. “You did serve our country. Those words were meant for you.” Overcome with emotion, Tom was speechless. God had used this unknowing woman to bring healing and bind up wounds inflicted 35 years earlier by those who made false accusations and didn’t recognize the price paid for freedom.

Jesus understood what Tom and his comrades experienced as they deplaned in San Francisco. Jesus came to serve, willingly leaving His heavenly dwelling to come to the earth to save man from their sin. Yet those He came to save yelled, “Crucify Him!” Those for whom He died, beat Him, spit in His face, blindfolded Him, mocked and insulted Him, flogged Him, struck Him with their fists, struck Him on the head again and again, beat and finally killed Him. Yet His unfailing love enabled Him to say,

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NLT)

Jesus paid a great price to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT) 

Christ paid a great price for that freedom. Do as the stranger did with Tom.

Express your gratitude. Tell Jesus, “Thank You for serving. Thank You, Jesus, for the price You paid for my freedom.” 

Excerpt from author's book, 40 Days (Word and Spirit Publishing, 2012). Copyright © Therese Marszalek, used with permission. 

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