My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 8, 2016, issue of The Mena Star.
As I write this week’s column, it is Memorial Day. My wife and I are spending a quiet day at home catching up on some work that needs to be done around the house.
Memorial Day is a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I have been fortunate enough to not have any close family members who perished in the service of their country. But as I think about how wartime affected some family members who served and how sad their lives ended, I have come to realize what they sacrificed to serve their country.
A local hero that we remember on Memorial Day is Herbert A. Littleton. He was a United States Marine, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for saving his fellow soldiers by falling on a grenade during the Korean War.
He was born on July 1, 1930, in Mena, Arkansas. He enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve on July 29, 1948, for a one-year term. After the outbreak of the Korean War, Littleton reenlisted in the Marine Corps. He went to Korea with the 3rd Replacement Draft, fighting in South and Central Korean operations from December 17, 1950, until his death.
Littleton earned the nation's highest award for valor on April 22, 1951, at Chungehon. At the time, he was serving as a Radio Operator with the First Marine Division. Littleton was standing watch when a large well-concealed enemy force launched a night attack from nearby positions against his company. PFC Littleton quickly alerted the forward observation team and immediately moved into position to assist in calling down artillery fire on the enemy force. When an enemy hand grenade was thrown into his vantage point shortly after the arrival of the remainder of the team, he threw himself on the grenade, absorbing its full impact with his own body. By his prompt action, he saved the other members of his team from serious injury or death and enabled them to repulse the enemy attack. For his valor in the face of certain death, Herbert A. Littleton was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. gave a speech on Memorial Day in 1884. He ended his address with the words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death.” I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” honors the fallen soldiers such as Herbert A. Littleton. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus, who gave His life for our freedom. The sacrifice that Littleton made for his comrades in arms and the sacrifice that Jesus made for you and I both show a selfless love for others by sacrificing their lives so that others could live.
The Bible describes this type of real love in John 15: 13 (NKJV) “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And also in 1 John 3:16 (NLT), "We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Herbert Littleton demonstrated this kind of love.
In the Bible and in military service, the willingness to sacrifice one’s life is not dependent on the worthiness of the people who are saved by the act of supreme love. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
In a perfect world, everyone who lived in freedom would be worthy of such a sacrifice and be thankful. But that’s not the way it is. So many people have sacrificed their lives so that I can live in freedom, but how often do I think about what they have done for me. I might think about it for a few minutes on Memorial Day, but they are not in my thoughts on most days. How often do I reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for me? Many Christians only think about what Jesus has done for them at times like Easter and Christmas.
Jesus said in Luke 9:23 (NKJV) “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” We need to thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus every day, not just once or twice a year or even once a week. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.” Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)
Gentle Reader, we are blessed to be living in a free country. We should honor our soldiers for the liberty we have. We should also give thanks to Almighty God for the freedom we have to spend eternity with Him because of His gift of forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.