Special Forces Association
Chapter XXIII - 23

Independence Day for so many around us has no more meaning than a four day weekend, hitting the road, fireworks, and barbeques. For some of us though it’s a reminder that freedom is not free or cheap or without cost – it comes only because some are willing to pay the price, even life itself, to attain it. I think of my father fighting as a guerilla against the Turks in the genocide of the Armenian people during WWI. The odds of survival were so small that your funeral service was held when you joined up because the family felt they’d never see you again. If you think recruiting for Special Forces is tough now think how tough it would be if our recruiters did the same thing, complete with bugler and firing squad.

For Marc Gongales, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howes, friends of S.F., Independence Day 2008 celebrates their freedom from over 5 years of captivity by FARC guerillas in the Columbian jungles.

All of us are imprisoned or robbed of our freedom in one way or another. How we deal with our imprisonment and how we are set free is what really counts, as freedom is our ultimate goal. I think of Nick Rowe, Isaac Camacho, and John McCain in Vietnam. I think of those involved in “The Great Escape” during WWII. I think of those employees of Ross Perot in post-Shah Iran and their daring escape to freedom. None of them gave up the hope of being free.

I think too of Paul and Silas, thrown into prison under false charges, their feet fastened in stocks “at midnight….praying and singing hymns to God” instead of questioning or being angry with God. I think of the Apostles in the early days of the church arrested and thrown into prison for preaching the truth about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ freed during the night by an angel of God without leaving a trace. I think of the Apostle Paul sharing the love of Christ to a captive audience, the soldiers he was chained to on both sides. He didn’t have time for a ‘pity party’, he was too busy sharing ‘the good news’ of his own liberation on the road to Damascus. I think of John the Baptist as a last act before his beheading in prison sending his disciples to Jesus knowing that once they saw and heard him they would chose to follow him. I think of Li Youg spending 15 years in a Chinese prison for publishing a Christian magazine.

On the other hand I think of many of our comrades in the prison of their mind, struggling with PTSD, or the strangle hold of excessive booze or obesity or drug abuse. I see, too, the self-imposed prison we put ourselves in – in doubting the claims of Jesus Christ, refusing to step over the line from unbelief to belief and all the present and eternal blessings that come with it. “As the Apostles Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Hold out your hands and let Jesus Christ take off the cuffs or the wrist restraints and feel the joy of being set free. Then you can shout with Martin Luther King, “Free at last, I’m free at last!”

God bless you and thank you for your part in our country’s freedom as well as the freedom others enjoy around the world because of the sacrifices you and others have made on their behalf.

Chaplain Col. Vahan Sipantzi
26972 Lower Pleasant Ridge Rd.
Wilder, ID  83676
(208) 482-7495