As a child, “Army Men” and “War” was often the go-to game for my friends and me to play, and with every mission, there was sure to be at least one of us who would inevitably become injured. I must say that even before I was an actual medic in the United States Army, I was a master at battlefield medicine – I never lost a man. Each time one of my buddies would “get hit”, I’d pull them behind a bush, pretend to bandage them up, only to send them back into the fight. My eight-year-old mind could not fully comprehend the destruction caused by a combat wound.
It amazes me how little our comprehension of battlefield injuries grows as we mature into adulthood. Even as a combat veteran, myself, it is only through helping veterans cope with the aftermath of their injuries that I am able to catch a glimpse of the magnitude of their wounds. Often, we place so much emphasis on the original wound that we rarely ever stop to consider the healing process that becomes a part of the individual’s life. We do not consider the process of being weaned off pain medication, or being told that our injuries will not allow us to do the job that we have loved for so long. And while we cannot always see the pain and anxiety that lingers, we no less appreciate and honor them as heroes and as warriors.
Beyond their resolve to find healing, there is a common attribute that I have been able to observe in the lives of the combat wounded in my inner circle. It is this observation that inspires even more reverence and appreciation for the character and the nature of these men and women. Of the many friends and colleagues that have divulged to me that they have earned a Purple Heart, every one of them give of themselves to serve others on a regular basis. They serve in their church, they are constantly helping their friends, and they are typically leading the charge for our many veteran service projects here on Liberty’s campus. These men and women that I am privileged to be surrounded by care for those veterans who are on the fringes of society, and on top of all of the good they do, their humility causes them to shy away from recognition.
It was only recently that I was able to have this discussion with a close friend of mine. While he would never admit it, he is a legitimate war hero who constantly gives of himself. We were talking about what it means to serve, and he referred to himself as selfish when it comes to serving others. After I finished listing off his recent selfless acts of service to help his brothers and sisters in arms, he replied with this: “Anyone who knew the people I helped out, and had the ability to help them and didn’t, doesn’t live a life of purpose.” He went on to explain, “Those who are wounded in combat, those who have taken life and have witnessed the life of their loved ones taken in battle, understand two things: First, dying can be quick, and it can be easy. Second, a life should be enjoyed, and to properly enjoy life it should be in service and communion with people you care about.”
I may be old and gray before I am confronted with the frailty of my own life, but it is my hope that the sacrificial and loving lifestyle of the warriors that I surround myself with will inspire me to live as they do. As we near Purple Heart Day on the seventh of August I hope that you too consider the purpose of your own life with gratitude for those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom to live with purpose.