Veterans - do we see them?  Know their stories?

©Joy Dunlap

As far as I know, I’d never heard his name before, or maybe I’d forgotten it. That’s not so unusual.

The stories of many of the nation’s veterans who served to protect and defend our freedoms aren’t remembered except to those closest to them.

Heroic service and sacrifice are often done in humility.

And, even the stories of those who are more well known fade with time.  

Our veterans gave voice to the voiceless, protected freedoms for the populace – and the powerless – and stood firm against those who threatened our nation and its people.

They showed up. Stood up. Sacrificed much.

Let’s look at the story of WWII B-25 “Doolittle Raid” bombardier Jacob “Jake” DeShazer whose sacrifice was significant, and whose service took on a different focus after the war. I recently learned about DeShazer while reading “Fearless Living in Troubled Times” by Michael Youssef for a Bible study I’m in.

DeShazer’s story intrigued me so I researched it more.

Months after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, DeShazer released bombs that destroyed a fuel facility in Tokyo. When it became apparent that the bomber’s engines were dying, the crew bailed out over Japanese-occupied China.

Captured by the Japanese in the graveyard where he landed, DeShazer began his four years as a prisoner of war, much of it spent in solitary confinement. Tortured and often sick, he eked out his days in a tiny cell.

At one point, after a couple of years or so, he was able to have a Bible, but only for a few weeks.

From start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, he read the Bible through, memorizing many passages. As God moved in his heart, he chose to commit his life to Christ.

The story doesn’t stop with DeShazer becoming a Christian and surviving captivity to return home to the United States. He chose to attend seminary, and perhaps incredibly, through the grace and guidance of God, he and his wife served as missionaries in Japan for three decades.

Here in our country and abroad, veterans continue to serve in a variety of ways in communities they care about through churches, cities, charities, jobs, schools, universities, government, and neighborhoods. They bring a unique discipline that was honed in the military, as well as the ability to find innovative solutions, and a passion to serve.  We may not know all their names, or their stories, but they are leaving imprints not only through their military service but through their community service.

One example is my husband, Charlie, who served in the USAF, and now directs the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School.  He is, of course, my favorite veteran!  You can find out more about some of the amazing people in his military service story in his Lawfire blog today:  Veterans Day 2021: Great Memories of Wonderful Vets

When we see people and learn their stories, they impact us.  

Today, I spoke with a polite young man working with a landscaping company who I’ve noticed as being the most efficient and helpful one on the team for the past several weeks. On his wrist, he wore a bracelet reminiscent of the engraved POW/MIA bracelets many wore in years past.

“Who’s on your bracelet?” I asked when he came to help me carry fruit, snacks and water to the lawn mowing and blowing trio.

“Well, today’s Veterans Day,” he responded. “And, I served in the Marine Corps. These two on here are buddies I served with who…who both committed suicide afterwards.”

He went on to tell me he’d gone up to “see” them at Arlington on Memorial Day weekend. He mentioned how long the process had taken for them to be buried there, and how they were adding on more space for gravesites. He looked down at his wrist.

“There was another one…but his happened after I got this bracelet.”

It seemed as if he wanted to share more but it was clear they needed to get going to their next job site. And, they wanted to do right by their employer.

Standing there in my red jean jacket with blue and white stars, I looked him in the eyes, and thanked him for his service and expressed sympathy for his fallen brothers. 

It’s a conversation I hope to continue.  

Veterans Day isn’t the only day we can acknowledge those who served, but it’s a good day to start listening and learning their stories.

  • Who do you know who has served in the armed forces?
  • Would we look at the Bible in a new way if we hadn’t seen it in years, and weren’t sure how long we could read it?
  • In what ways does the life of Jesus prompt us to see the value of serving others (in whatever way God calls us)?
  • What do you see about forgiveness reflected in the story of Jake DeShazer?

What action can you take today and other days to acknowledge a veteran’s service? Here are a few easy ones to consider:

  • Express gratitude when you see someone wearing a cap or shirt connected to the military.
  • Like, love or comment on social media posts about veterans.
  • Share a tribute about special veterans you know.
  • Thank and support a company that is saluting veterans!
  • Pray for them and their families and let them know you do!
  • Ask to hear their stories; listen and learn.

Oh, and one more thing…

Let’s use our freedoms well.  They are of infinite worth, and were bought with a high price.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48b


Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™

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