Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Krulak tells of the time when he was a nonbeliever and was first confronted with the testimony of a person committed to Christ.
Thirty-five years ago I was a young second lieutenant just graduated from the Naval Academy married 14 days after I graduated. My wife and I went down to Quantico, Virginia, home of the basic school where officers learn about honor, courage, and commitment. At that time in my life I thought I was a cross between John Wayne and Tom Cruise. Because I was married, I shared a room with another married officer named John Listerman. John was a wonderful human. He exuded goodness. If I asked him for his arm, he would have said, “Where do you want me to cut it off? At the wrist? At the elbow?” John was a Christian. That meant nothing to me other than Gee, what a nice guy. I guess this Christian stuff must be pretty good.
Upon graduating from basic school, John and I went to Camp Pendleton, California, where we joined the same battalion preparing to go to Vietnam. And I saw another side of John Listermam; he was a tremendous leader -aggressive and technically proficient. People loved him. He was committed to his troops; his troops were committed to him. He was a Marine’s Marine.
On a December morning in 1965 John and I went to war. John Listerman’s war lasted one day.
We were on patrol moving down a trail through the jungle. We came around a corner in that trail, and we rain into an ambush. John took the first round, a 50 caliber round right in hi kneecap. As his kneecap burst, the crack was so loud it sounded like a mortar exploding. It threw him up in the air. As he was dropping, the second round hit him right below the heart and exited out his side. I was wounded also but nowhere near as badly. I saw John about 30 meters away on his back, his leg blown off.
I crawled up to him and wanted to say, “Are you okay? Can I do anything?” But before I could do that, his head turned to me and said, “How are you doing Chucker? Are you okay?”
I said, “Yes, John, I’m okay.” He said, “Are my men safe? I said, “John, your people are okay.” At that point he turned his head and looked at the sky and repeated over and over, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for caring for my people. Thank you for caring for me.”
I was dumbfounded. John Listerman and Charles Krulak were evacuated. Krulak later became a Christian. ( Linda M Gehrs; Oak Park, Illinois; from a message given at the Wheaton, Illinois, Leadership Prayer Breakfast (October 2000).
I’m an old man now and I still hesitate to write anything about COURAGE or SUFFERING. When we visited Europe in the ’80’s, I remember standing at one of many U.S. Cemeteries in France. Hundreds and thousands of white crosses marked the grave of those who gave their life for FREEDOM. Each marker told the story of courage and suffering.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the city of Philippi, he called them “Dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved” (Philippians 4:1). It would not be long before Paul would offer his life as a final sacrifice for what he believed to be true. What would you die for? What cause would be so vital that you would be willing to forfeit your life rather than to give up your convictions and faith.
It is difficult if not impossible to realize the debt we owe to those who sacrificed all that we might know the beauty and wonder of being free. Driving a race car at speeds up to 200 MPH takes little courage if that is the one thing that the driver would rather be doing than anything else. Knowledge, skill and experience are essential qualities – but COURAGE, NO! It takes courage to face a shotgun and hear the question asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” knowing that affirming that truth is sealing your own death. That’s COURAGE!
How could the early Christian stand before 45,000 Romans in the ancient coliseum” and hear Caesar taunt them by saying, “All you have to do is say ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and you can go free!” In my imagination I could see the believer look up to the Royal Box and begin to sing, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see”.
Caesar had it all. His armies, his palaces, his untold wealth and power, but he did not have what this lone figure had. Courage to die for something he believed in. Later, Caesar fiddled while Rome burned.
Courage and faith – they just go together.