Veterans Day – A Symbol of Selflessness November 06 2015

Veterans Day in the United States is November 11.  It is on that day because the armistice ending fighting in World War I went into effect at 11 a.m. November 11, 1918 – “the 11th day, 11th hour, 11th month” as my world history teacher perpetually reminded us. The date became an official U.S. holiday in 1926, with a proclamation stating, in part:

“Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations …”

The general image of the military is one of selflessness, sacrifice, honor, and duty.  Many in the military are motivated in these things by their faith.

Some of you have served in the armed forces, and most of us know friends or family members who have served or are currently serving.  Some have given the ultimate sacrifice.  One of these was a young man named Gabriel De Roo, who gave his life in Iraq on August 20, 2006.  

Gabe committed his life to Christ when he was a teenager in Michigan.  He was deployed to Iraq within a year after the war started, and married his sweetheart Hannah shortly after he returned.   Gabe and Hannah worked hard at fixing up a small home they were able to buy in Tacoma, Washington with the pay he had faithfully saved while serving his country. A year later they were blessed with a baby boy whom they also named Gabriel.

In June of 2006 his brigade was again called to Iraq.   Before departing he talked over with Hannah every detail of what to do if something were to happen.   He reminded her that “God put the pieces together” in the beginning of their relationship and would “still be putting the pieces together” if he didn’t return.   In other words, the Lord was in control either way.  Their relationship was lived in harmony, so there would be no regrets if something happened.

A spirit of sacrifice and concern for others motivated Gabe, and he was often commended for his willingness to serve our country without complaint.   However, he responded that Hannah was the greater hero for her  sacrifice of being home without him.

Hannah was jolted awake early on August 21st, 2006 by two army chaplains.   They brought news that her husband had been killed the day before by sniper fire in Mosul, Iraq.   He had been assisting in the arrest of three dangerous insurgents.   

Gabe’s deep love for Hannah was evident again two days after his death.   Family members were talking to the Army chaplains about Gabe’s caring heart when a florist delivery truck arrived with a package.   Inside the box were flowers, a box of chocolates and a loving note to his wife, which he had sent the day before his death. God’s hand was evident.

Before Gabe died he said someday he would like to return to Iraq to do Christian ministry.   Since his death, his family established the Sgt De Roo Fund that is used to assist an American born missionary who regularly goes into Iraq to train Christian leaders and preach the gospel.   Whenever he has an opportunity, this ambassador for Christ tells the story to the Iraqi church leaders of how an American soldier died for them.   They are thankful, even though times are very hard.  

Sgt De Roo’s selfless service to his country and his family was clearly motivated by his faith. He lived for the One Who  had sacrificed  everything for him. As a demonstration of that, the inscription on Gabe’s headstone is from John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”   Gabe, and many believers like him in the military, have been examples of the power of that truth.  

May we also follow the Veterans Day proclamation and on November 11 remember with thanksgiving and prayer those who have faithfully served our country, and as Gabe’s testimony also reminds us, for their families at home.

You can read more details on the testimony of Gabe De Roo at www.gabrielderoo.us/about.htm.