One of my readers ask me to write on the angriest incident in my Christian life. I agreed and told him that I would, even though it happened more than two decades ago early in my Christ-life.
My wife and I were to board the USS Arizona War Memorial in Hawaii. It was a cool, misty morning and yet, the ocean breeze made me feel fresh. As we arrived, there was only one other couple and their two teenage sons on the Memorial. The lack of people noise, gave me the ability to focus on the meaning of the Memorial. The only noise came from the distant boats and the wind. I felt peaceful and overwhelmed with an attitude of respect and honor. Little did I know that there was a drama about to unfold and I would be at its center.
Once on the Memorial, my wife was at one end of the Memorial reading some materials along with the other couple in what I believe is called the Shrine Room. I walled toward the other end where the two young men were standing. They were at the last opening away from entrance and on the Arizona’s gun turret side.
I was greatly moved that morning, knowing that so many had given their lives for our freedom and to think that this was the burial site for men whose bodies were not recoverable. So many had paid such a high price during World War II and especially during this first attack on the United States. Having just left the military and spending most of my service time in an infantry unit as a platoon Sargent, I understood (as well as anyone) the horrors of war.
As I neared the two youth and saw what they were doing, I exploded in anger. Grabbing the oldest boy by the collar and the belt, I attempted to throw him over the railing into Pearl Harbor. However, he had grabbed the rail with his left hand and snagged the same rail with his left foot keeping me from dropping him in the drink. His brother was also holding on to his left wrist and the back of his shirt. My plan was, that his brother was going to follow him into the harbor.
“You desecrate and dishonor the men that died here,” I said, growling at them trying to push the older one over rest of the way only to be stopped by a intervening Naval Police Officer (Shore Patrol). I continued, “You spit in the water and throw your candy wrappers on the Arizona.” In my peripheral vision, I could see angry parents moving quickly towards where I had their oldest son more than halfway over the rail.
The military police officer quickly got the jest of what I was saying while she was pulling the oldest kid back over the railing. My new bride was still reading material at the other end and oblivious to my actions.
Upon arrival, highly annoyed parents were checking out their son, then the father started to speak when I shut him off. I nearly shouted, “You need to shut up and listen. If these little jerks are your punk kids, then you need to explain to them about defacing, dishonoring and desecrating a place where men died to for the sake of freedom.” With tears streaming down my face and shaking my finger at him, I continued my rant, “And if you or your wife have a problem with that, and this officer doesn’t remove you from this memorial, then I will throw all of you overboard. And if the officers have a problem with that, then they will go overboard before you.”
By that time, another officer had arrived to aid the female officer. Both seemed stunned by my words, but as they looked into my eyes, there was no doubt that I wasn’t kidding. The officers quickly escorted them to a small craft and had them removed from the Memorial.
My new bride, I don’t believe ever saw a thing, but when she did see me following the incident, she knew I was angry (despite the fact we were on our honeymoon). The naval police officers never said a word, but as Beverly and I left, they gave me a salute and as we arrived on the other side of Pearl, the officers there saluted me.
The Arizona, as the Statue of Liberty stands for our freedom and represents the blood shed by so many in order for us to live free in the United States. But they do not stand alone in places or people that I hold dear (those that shed their blood for my freedom). For there is a place called Calvary where a blood stained cross once stood and nearby, an empty tomb that held the body of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of my life. A tomb from where He walked, after conquering death.
Only Jesus, the Christ, holds a place of honor that is higher than those who gave their lives for my political freedom which I continue to experience in the United States of America. To Jesus. the Son of God, be honor and glory forever, because He has set my soul free. In a very, real sense, the cross, is my Arizona, my Statue of Liberty.
- John 8:36 – If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.