Having been to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia, I read with great interest an article about the soldiers who guard the marble tomb, a solemn vigil that has been conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since April 6, 1948.
Army Spc. Bruce Bryant, age 19, of Columbus, Georgia, is one of the 34 sentinels and 12 in training who keep the never-ending watch. Even though they are not allowed to show any emotion as they walk 21 steps, turn sharply, salute the tomb for 21 seconds and then turn sharply again before repeating the walk, Bryant’s feelings often run deep.
For example, he was deeply moved the day he saw a World War I veteran struggle to get out of his wheelchair and stand and salute for 21 seconds. The old soldier’s effort, coupled with his tears, showed his love and gratitude for “the guys who stepped up to the challenge and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
A few days after reading that excellent article (“Sacred Duty” by Marti Attoun, Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2005 issue of “American Profile Magazine”), I read about several persons in my community who have done battle, not with enemy soldiers but with cancer. Some of the stories were written by the survivors themselves, others by family members. All were touching, for each patient had fought valiantly to defeat the cancer bent on destroying him or her.
For example, Chad Hatchett, who learned he had cancer just 16 days before his wedding, battled hard for seven years, with family and friends providing support and encouragement. Sometime before his final battle on August 9, 2005, Chad wrote, “Life is a battlefield that moves from front to front…” and noted that circumstances, whether carefree or hard, “serve to mold us and separate us from the rest.”
Being a devout Christian, Chad viewed circumstances as a test of real faith. Do we believe in Jesus Christ? Do we trust Him—no matter what? Will we be faithful to Him—no matter how intense the battle?
Chad passed his test with flying colors, for, according to his wife Lora, “Chad’s outlook on life remained the same. He’s always been the kind of person who never hesitated to help others in need. He never let the cancer get the best of him. Instead he chose to use the sickness as a way of testifying to others. He never had the ‘Why me?’ mentality.”
Chad’s words and his example will be long remembered by all who knew him, as will the testimonies of others (past and present) who also battled well, inspiring people around them.
Their courage while on the front lines, coupled with an unshakable faith in Christ, is like that of the Apostle Paul, whose life was “a battlefield that moved from front to front” even though he loved the Lord and was fully committed to serving Him in every situation.
As Paul’s life was drawing to a close, he wrote: “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen” (2 Timothy 2:10, NLT). Thus, Paul could proudly say, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7, NLT).
Oh, how we need to salute such people! Oh, how we need to follow their example!
© 2005 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, www.jgaskill.com.
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