When our children were young, every summer my family would make its annual pilgrimage to the beach. Over the years we watched our daughters and their cousins grow up with interests changing from sandcastle building to skim boarding. I love to awaken early and walk along the cool, white sandy beach, spending time with God. When our girls woke up, they would hit the beach, not wanting to miss one precious moment of fun. I loved to lie back in my chair listening to their laughter and screams as an occasional wave overtook them. At the end of the day, nothing that swam was safe as we hit out favorite seafood restaurants. These memories we will all cherish forever.
In the summer of 2008, I had the great privilege of visiting another beach as well. Traveling with an amazing group of high school students from West Tennessee and Arkansas, we visited Omaha beach in Normandy, France. No sounds of laughter could be heard there. As the students and I walked this beach, there was silence. Omaha Beach is beautiful, but its beauty will not ever be properly appreciated because it was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles in America’s history. Juxtaposed against its beauty are the memories of the approximately three thousand lives that were lost on that fateful morning. As I stood atop the magnificent cliffs, I thought of the bravery of the rangers who climbed them, advancing against the German forces. Further down as I walked along the water’s edge, I thought about the solders who hit the beach by foot, terrified that any moment could be their last. For many, it was.
Later as we visited the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-su-Mer, France, some of our students placed a wreath at the base of a monument to the sound of “The National Anthem” and “Taps”. I was overcome with emotion, as were many of our students. Except for our sniffles and an occasional seagull, not a sound was heard as we walked among the nearly ten thousand white crosses. I strolled along slowly, quietly reading names and saying, “Thanks, Thomas. Thanks, Jeffrey for my freedom.” Those men who died on that beach insured freedom for citizens like me. We owe them so much more than we can express. That day I was and am so proud to be a citizen of the United States of America.
That grim reminder of the sacrifice for freedom reminded me of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a cruel cross. He also secured our freedom if we will believe on Him as Savior and Lord. In war and in His death on the cross, blood was shed for freedom. Freedom comes at a price that some are not willing to pay, but I am thankful for those who do. I thank our military personnel for the opportunity I have to live freely in the United States of America, the greatest nation in the world. I thank Jesus for the freedom He bought me with His life. May I never grow weary of remembering the cost of freedom: freedom that not only enables me to visit beaches, but to do so much more.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1