By Rebecca Price Janney, Apr 13 2017 05:39PM
This week I’ve been posting on social media about the 100th anniversary of World War I, namely some interesting facts such as the story about the wounded pigeon who still carried out its duties and managed to save an entire battalion. I talked about Harry Truman’s desire to serve in spite of his poor eyesight, how he memorized the doctor’s chart and managed to get into the service, attaining the rank of captain. There’s also the memorable tale of Sergeant Alvin C. York, a backwoods Tennessee native and conscientious objector who went on to become one of the war’s greatest heroes (I just love the movie about him starring Gary Cooper). There are so many more stories of bravery, patriotism, and honor.
When the U.S. entered the war, President Woodrow Wilson spoke about the great need to “save the world for democracy.” Like millions of Americans, he was burdened by the massive destruction casting a pall over Europe as belligerents hurled horrific new forms of death at each other, made possible by the technology that at the beginning of the 20th century, was supposed to have made such conflicts obsolete. The American forces were viewed by many to be the continent’s last, best hope to bring about an end to the devastation.
We might rightly say the 2.1 million Americans who served on the frontlines from 1917-to 1918 acted in the role of saviors of a suffering humanity. Many tens of thousands of them made the ultimate sacrifice, over 53,000 on the battlefield, and more than 63,000 who perished from disease and accidents. Then there were over 200,000 wounded and many more who would suffer themselves from post traumatic stress.
Each American soldier who stepped on a troop ship as he prepared for war was given a New Testament provided by the New York Bible Society. In it a message from former President Theodore Roosevelt was inscribed, encouraging the men, “Love mercy; treat your enemies well; succor the afflicted; treat every woman as if she were your sister; care for the little children; and be tender with the old and helpless. Walk humbly; you will do so if you study the life and teachings of the Savior, walking in His steps.” He reflected the belief that stretched all the way back to the Pilgrims and Puritans that America needed to set any example for other nations and people who had lost their way in a darkened world.
I find it fitting that we’re observing the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I during Holy Week. For as great as the debt we owe to those “Doughboys,” there is One far greater who paid the ultimate price to save the entire world from the dungeon of sin and death for all generations, until He comes again and beats our swords into ploughshares.