10 November 2023
Address to Burns Flat – Dill City Students
Three times a year, we pause to consider those who serve or have served in the armed forces of the United States of America.
Armed Forces Day recognizes those who are now serving. It is typically celebrated on the third Saturday in May. It is good to take a moment to recognize those who serve now.
Memorial Day is observed to remember those who gave what President Abraham Lincoln would call the last full measure of devotion. It’s for those who didn’t get to come home like the rest of us. They came home under a flag-draped coffin.
Memorial Day reminds us to remember the cost of liberty is high. Freedom is not free. The price for your freedom was paid in the blood of American Servicemen and women. There is no higher price.
To take your liberty for granted is to disrespect the mothers and fathers, husbands and wives who gave someone from their family for your freedom.
These are things that we don’t think of much for to dwell on them too long brings sadness when there should be celebration. We should know the price paid for our liberty but celebrate it all the same that there were those willing to pay the price.
And now we come to Veteran’s Day. It originated with the armistice that brought an end to WWI and was signed in 1918. It took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of that year. Since that time, 11 November has been special for all veterans.
It’s easy to remember for me. The Marine Corps birthday was 10 November 1775. The Marines take over the internet with all sorts of off-center and sometimes off-color posts that only mean something to those who have worn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, but on 11 November, all veterans get into the act.
Veterans Day is for all who serve and who have served. But just who is a veteran?
If you address the early morning hours as zero dark thirty, you might be a veteran.
If someone was about to disrespect your nation or your Corps or a family member and in one look, they started running for the hills, you might be a veteran.
If you have been told that your language is not politically correct, you might be a veteran.
If you don’t care that your language is not politically correct, you might be a veteran.
If your friends and family know not to put you on speakerphone, you might be a veteran.
If you have an entrenching tool in the garage or your storeroom, you might be a veteran, probably a grunt.
When passing a large open area, you automatically look overhead for power lines that could obstruct its use as a landing zone, you might be a veteran.
If you can make a sentence out of nothing but acronyms, you might be a veteran.
If you have busted your kids back to private at least once, you might be a veteran.
If you keep your valuable papers in an old ammo can, you might be a veteran.
If you think the words suck it up buttercup are appropriate for most counseling situations, you might be a veteran.
If you can’t make any sense out of the abbreviations on the New York Stock Exchange but know the trading value of everything in a C-Ration or MRE, you might be a veteran.
Most of these were a little tongue-in-cheek. It’s 2023, I have to add that disclaimer. People have to be told that you are being light-hearted or they might be offended.
If you don’t really care that your straightforward remarks might offend someone, you might be a veteran.
This one is not lighthearted. If you have ever written a blank check to your country, you might be a veteran.
Some of you may serve in the armed forces one day. Most won’t. I think it’s about 3% who eventually serve. It’s about 1% or less who become Marines. Most don’t serve, but some will.
As today is the Marine Corps Birthday, I asked a question that only Marines can answer. How long does it take for the average person to become a Marine?
The answer is that the average person will never become a Marine. In fact, the average person will never become a veteran. It is a calling reserved for only a few. There may be a few of you who will answer that calling.
Some among us will continue to put their lives on the line for their country. Some will. Few will, but there will be some.
For those who do—for those who will write that blank check, do you know who your boss will be?
Will it be your commanding officer? Some captain or colonel?
Will it be the Sergeant Major?
Will it be the President of the United States or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?
The answer is “No” and it does not matter the service. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, active or reserve, you all serve the same boss.
The Constitution of the United States of America. Yes, that piece of paper from 234 years ago is your boss. That old document with 27 amendments is what you will be sworn to support and defend.
While the president may give you orders or the Sergeant Major will get your full attention; you are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
Not a person…
Not a government…
Not a branch of service…
The Constitution of the United States of America!
Listen to an oath that I know well.
I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
That’s the oath for officers. The enlisted oath is like it, but adds that you will follow the orders of those appointed over you.
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Should you serve, you serve by swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
There are no other armed forces quite like us in the world. We are unique.
You heard that I am the pastor at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Some of you already knew that.
It’s better than Christmas time for me over at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Last week and this week both, I am preaching and teaching the Parable of the Talents. It’s from Matthew 25:14-30 if you want to read it on your own.
Maybe, I should preach it here. That might give the school board members a heart attack and upset the ACLU.
If you don’t mind upsetting the ACLU, you might be a veteran.
But no preaching this morning. You know where to find me on Sunday morning, and you are invited.
But there is a question that I always ask in the course of teaching or preaching this parable.
What did you do with what God gave you? It is a question that every God-believing person should ask themselves every day.
Now let’s put that concept into the context of today and ask:
What did you do with the liberty that you have been given by your country?
What did you do with the freedom that you have been given by the warriors who have gone before you?
Now put it in the first person.
What did I do with the liberty that I have been given?
Now let’s put it in the present and perfect tenses.
What am I doing with the freedom that I have been given?
Some of you are currently being held hostage by your adolescent minds and can’t see the liberty. You might think that life is too restrictive, but you have more freedom than you know.
You have more liberty than you can comprehend at this time in your lives.
One day, you will have eyes to see the freedom that we enjoy in this nation. You are blessed so much to be born here, especially here in Oklahoma, not because the wind blows every day but because good moral values are still considered good.
You enjoy the blessings of liberty, but what are you going to do about that?
What will you do with the blessings of liberty that have been entrusted to you?
Some will make great achievements in the arts and sciences.
Some will contribute in the service of others in medicine or law enforcement.
Some will seek to represent many as an elected official.
Some will teach what you have learned to others.
Some will just say it’s all about me and what I can get for me and my own.
But some will serve in the armed forces and perhaps in armed combat in order to continue the blessings of liberty for another generation.
Some will write the blank check.
Some will join the ranks of the faithful few who will put their right hands in the air and take an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.
What will you do with the liberty that those warriors before you have entrusted to you?
What will you do?