My dad has a long-time friend who was his high school coach, a fellow missionary working with my dad's parents, and a decorated veteran of World War II, winning the Silver Star for bravery. Charles D. Holsinger recounts his wartime service in the Pacific in his riveting book "Above the Cry of Battle" .
Recently Coach Holsinger sent my dad a letter enclosing a speech he gave on Memorial Day 2005, and, with his kind permission, I thought it might be fitting to reprint it for Independence Day 2005.
"Back in history our forefathers searched for a fitting example for those who were killed fighting for their country. They came up with the statement that stems from Jesus' sacrifice, 'He or she paid the ultimate sacrifice.'
When Betty and I went to the Philippines as missionaries, the American cemetery on the outskirts of Manila became a special place for me. In appreciation for what the U.S. did for their country, the Filipino people dedicated land as a memorial for those who gave their all. There are 17,000 plus white marble crosses. There also is a tremendous colonnade with 32,000 plus names of those who are missing in action. It is a stark reminder that freedom is free, but it is not cheap!
I am a World War II survivor because of God's grace and the Bible, which also enabled me to maintain my sanity. I memorized God's Word and made it a part of my life. My foxhole verses at night were Psalm 4:8, Micah 7:8, and by day I lived by Proverbs 3:5,6. Every morning I prayed, 'Lord, by life or death help me to be a good soldier.'
After Guadalcanal, a defining moment came in my life, when I was on the island of New Caledonia. We didn't know it, but we were getting ready to take back the Philippines. The colonel had called us together by companies, and the gist of his message was: 'Men, we will all go but we won't all come back. Be ready to meet your Maker and see the chaplain.' Lots of guys took New Testaments.
That night I struggled with the Lord. Finally, I said, 'Ok, Lord, I'll go anyplace and do anything you want me to do, even be a preacher.' I had such tremendous peace it scared me. I ran back to my tent and told the six guys that were having a bull session what I had done. One guy said, 'Hey, if you were going to be a preacher, what would you preach?' And I explained to them the way of salvation. One by one they excused themselves.
The first day in battle in the Philippines, those six men from our company were dead! As I dug in that night, I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision.
I took away from the war two lessons: First, Proverbs 16:10, 'Man makes his plans, but God directs his steps.' And second, in God's plan there is no such a thing as big or little decisions.
People ask: Do you ever think about the war? Yes, do I ever! Not one day passes that I don't think about it and the many comrades, who landed in the Philippines with General MacArthur and paid the ultimate price for freedom. The thing that lingers most in my mind for these past 60 years are the men who died in my place. I didn't plan it that way, but in God's plan it happened. Let me explain.
Have you ever settled an issue by doing stone, paper and scissors? Or did you flip a coin or draw straws to win or lose? On more than one occasion God's plan for my life depended on whether I won or lost the toss. There were decisions that were completely out of my control. Go with me to the battlefield for two events.
On this certain night, as usual it was stone, paper, scissors time. Three men would dig foxholes together on one side of the ridge and three on the other side. I lost for my two partners, so it was a second choice for me. Then the three of us had a debate over who should be at the front end of the ridge. Because of seniority, the sergeant took the back position and assigned me to the front. That night the enemy attacked. The three men on the other side were killed, the sergeant and the man next to me were severely wounded, and I survived. In the morning, another soldier came to my rescue and we cleaned out the enemy.
It was now time for promotion and I had seniority. But the first sergeant had friends and promoted Andy to sergeant/squad leader and Hank to corporal/assistant squad leader. We dug in that night, and saying I was somewhat angry was an understatement. The two men were assigned to dig in at each end of the squad, and the rest of us dug in between the two squad leaders. The plan for the next morning was that I would be the first scout out. That night the Japanese launched an attack and a mortar shell hit on the edge of Hank's hole and his arm was blown off. In the middle of the night I was promoted to assistant squad leader, and I would bring up the rear rather than leading the attack. We moved out at about 8:00 a.m. the next morning. In a matter of minutes Andy and the two scouts were killed. Under fire I was promoted to squad leader. In about 12 hours I went from private to staff sergeant!
Three times I was the only one left in my squad. The only explanation for me standing here is Proverbs 16:10, 'Man makes his plans but God directs his steps.' The Lord had spared my life!
Would I do it again? Yes. If they'd take me, I'd go to Iraq tomorrow!"
May you all have a truly thankful and blessed Independence Day.