Heroic actions are not uncommon in the military.
But recently, a Silver Star ceremony (the third highest military combat decoration) was held for four U.S. Army veterans after a remarkable 45-year delay. The men were crew members aboard a UH-1H Huey when duty took priority over personal safety.
The year was 1972. Robert Monette, the helicopter pilot, Robert Frank, SPC John Deslouriers and SPC Leonard “Bruce” Shearer saw a C-130 Hercules aircraft go down in Saigon, Vietnam. The plane didn’t have time to make a Mayday call. Only the plane’s crew and the helicopter knew the plane had crashed.
At first, It seemed obvious that there would be no survivors. But Monette chose to fly closer, seeing crew members moving amid the burning fuselage. Disregarding their own low fuel levels, they commenced a high-risk rescue operation.
It wasn’t easy. North Vietnamese forces were approaching. Deslouriers held them off in a fierce firefight. Other team members pulled five airmen from the crash site. Two more airmen were rescued by a second helicopter called in by Frank. Because of the swift action of the helicopter crews, no one was lost in the crash.
Although the incident drew attention, calls for the Silver Stars went unheeded. Not just for the duration of the war, but for another 45 years. Finally, Ret. Maj. Jack Shields, the crew’s commanding officer, Robert Frank and Arkansas Representative French Hill got the job done.
The Huey crew member and three crash survivors met in Little Rock, Arkansas for the Silver Star ceremony. According to Shields, “We wanted to get an award for these guys, and it finally came to pass. I am just glad to see it happen.” Finally, what that crew did came to light. It gave new meaning to heroism. It was recognition long overdue.
The Bible says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12) For Ret. Maj. Jack Sheilds, the ceremony ensured that recognition was given even if it was decades late.
As a warrior, you know that putting things right may take time, but it is always worth it. You’ve probably never thought of personal recognition as a big deal. It could be that you are embarrassed when someone thanks you for your service. Still there is something about hearing someone respect your commitment and discipline that humbles even the toughest warrior.
It could be that no one ever thought to recognize you for your sacrifices. That can hurt deeply. You served without question. You fulfilled your mission time and time again only to find yourself in civilian life among people who can never understand what your service cost you.
Understand this, God sees and understands the price you payed to serve. He knows how disillusioned you can become when people disregard the cost you and your fellow warriors paid to preserve freedom and defend our flag. He knows you pay a silent price for service.
How can He understand?
Consider this, Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son paid the price for our sins on the cross of Calvary. He saw us in immediate danger. Sin ensnared us all. The price of that sin was death.
The enemy nearly defeated us. Jesus could have merely observed the scenario and moved on, but like the crew on the Huey, He disregarded His own concerns and stepped into the heat of the battle. He became one of us and lived among us.
Jesus died bearing the price of all of our failures on His shoulders. Although He was sinless, He never complained as he was falsely accused, convicted, beaten and finally hung on a cross. He did the will of God who sent Him. He fulfilled His mission.
Many will never recognize the price Christ paid to offer you real freedom and new life. Some will ignore the sacrifices He made on their behalf. They may even refuse His offer of forgiveness, choosing instead to remain slaves to sin and rebellion, death rather than life.
You may have heard all this before. It might not be anything you haven’t heard 100 times before. The question is, will you recognize the price Christ paid on your behalf? Will you admit that God owed you nothing but paid a high price to offer you forgiveness and freedom? Will you recognize His sacrifice?
It’s time for you to recognize what others have ignored. Christ died (and rose again) for you. He came that you can have a new life, a fulfilled life. Don’t allow another day to pass before you recognize the price Christ paid for you.
It begins simply by speaking to God:
“Father in heaven, I recognize that Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for my forgiveness. He didn’t have to step into the battle for my soul, but He chose to do it. His death on the cross made a way for me to become new again. I admit I have failed. I admit I need Your help. Please save me from myself, from what I’ve become. I choose Jesus to be my rescuer. I choose to follow Jesus from this day onward. In Your name, Amen.”