A hero is a label that gets thrown around often but is appropriate for those who willingly put themselves into harm’s way. These are people who serve to protect their countrymen. Even in the subtleties, these are not men of retreat. The American flag on their right shoulder is leading—stars first, it is pressing forward, if necessary into battle. These are people who willingly enlist in wartime, these are men and women who come to the aid of their country. Here are some ways that we can serve them:
Honor Their Service by the Way You Live
The soldier and the citizen are in a partnership. The seven basic values of the United States Army are: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. One soldier said in reference to these values, “If I represent the nation, the nation should embody those characteristics.” Since the solider represents the nation, and he lives by these values, the nation should also strive for these values. A soldier swears an oath to protect the Constitution, the ideals of our nation, therefore, every citizen has a responsibility to honor that partnership with his life.
Be Proactive in Reaching-Out
When a service member is deployed, he or she leaves behind a family and familiarity. Don’t just be willing to help, do something to help. When that soldier deploys, there are jobs at home that still need to be completed. Ask family members specific jobs that need done. Offer free childcare. Responsibilities may drastically change during deployment. A spouse may need help in home management responsibilities. Ask and pray for specific needs, and follow-up with family. Be willing to listen as family members share. You don’t have to have the answers to listen.
Reach-out to the soldier. Deployment can take a soldier to an unfamiliar place, communication from home connects him to something familiar. Send a care package and fill it with the soldier’s favorite items, especially those things that are unique to his community. Have your small group or Sunday School class adopt a soldier and make a specific effort to care for his or her family, maintain regular contact and specifically pray for the soldier. One soldier said, “Soldiers and spouses both tend to have idealistic images of what life after deployment is going to be like.” A church small group or Sunday School class can help in the transition home by being willing to pro-actively help with meals, childcare and routine home maintenance.
Coming home from deployment can require major adjustment, be willing to listen. The soldier may or may not want to share his experiences, be a real friend and listen without prying. Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). The places and those involved may be mostly foreign to you, submit yourself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and be a friend who listens.
Express Sincere Gratitude
Three service members were interviewed in preparing this article. These men had served as both enlisted and officers. These men had served in combat in multiple wars, and yet all of them were reluctant to even be recognized for the part that they played in protecting the United States of America. When a soldier returns home from foreign soil, he is changed. As one of those interview said, “I’m not a broken individual, but I interpret society much differently.” A soldier makes it possible for the United States government to fulfill its God ordained role in protecting its citizens, honor their service with sincere gratitude.