My wife and I have watched the entire 10-part HBO series Band of Brothers about every two years since it was released. So we were intrigued to see the efforts of a young man who raised $99,000 of the $250,000 needed to create the statue of a hero from his hometown of Lancaster, PA. Today is the 68th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. The newly formed airborne division had dropped into the hills of France before the rest of the allied forces landed on the beach. The series tells the story of how Lt. Winters, a junior officer at the time, inherited command of Easy Company and planned an attack on German artillery that is still taught at West Point. From there, Winters led his men through Europe and into Germany, being promoted to the rank of Major along the way.
But his military prowess wasn’t the only thing that was impressive about him. He was a leader in every sense of the word. One of my favorite lines in the series was the instruction Captain Winters gave to an incoming Lieutenant who had played poker and won some money from enlisted men the day before: “Don’t ever put yourself in a position to take from these men.” That summed up all that he was portrayed to be, and by the testimony of his men it was very accurate. He was a leader who didn’t lord it over his men. If his men were going to endanger themselves at his command, he desire was to be right there with them.
In those times when I feel distant from Jesus and unable to grasp his presence, I have to personify him so that he’s more easily attainable. Of course, Jesus is the personification of God, but sometimes I need a more tangible way to relate to him. In a desperate act my sight tries to make up for weak faith like a blind person depending on their hearing because of the absence of the best of the five senses. I try to envision the guy I want to go into battle with, the guy who gives me confidence when I’m paralyzed with terror as the bullets are flying past my head and the hillside is covered with spiritual casualties.
I’m not at all suggesting that Winters was some sort of messiah. From what I can see he’d be appalled at the thought. But, what if God occasionally sends somebody to give us a glimpse at what Jesus is like in our modern setting. Sixty-eight years is a long time ago, and Winters died last year. But there are so many detailed witnesses of his humility and care for his men that he can’t be a fake. My patriotism connects me with his story in a profound way. Of course, the HBO series gives a great account as well.
Maybe I’m wrong to do this. Is it okay to bolster my attraction to Jesus through the Christian characteristics of somebody else? Whatever. How can it be wrong to cling to the things of Jesus that are displayed in his people? If other people can see Jesus in Billy Graham and Mother Theresa, I can see Jesus in a Major Winters. He gave courage to warriors with a job to do, and that’s just what I need.
To anybody who may read this who fought in that great battle or any other on my behalf – thank you.