Memorial Day is approaching. It is at this time of the year when we as Americans recognize the sacrifice of so many in our past who have helped us become, continue and remain free as a nation in our present existence, and hopefully, in our future too! Like it or not, the Word of God has played a major and very important part in the preservation and protection of that freedom. Adam MacInnis, in an article written a few years ago, made this point very clear.
Physically, this Bible isn’t much to look at. It’s about five inches long and three inches wide. It has a black leather cover, now well-worn and torn at the edges, with the pages at risk of falling out. Jesse Maple first carried the Bible with him (into battle) because he saw Scripture as a good luck charm. But soon enough, Maple saw it as evidence that God loved him and was with him in the jungles of Vietnam.
Maple said, “You wouldn’t believe what that Bible has been through.” He was drafted into the Army at 19. He was living a wild and backslidden life at the time. But then a man with Gideons International gave him the Bible. His mother taught him to respect Scripture, so he stuck it in his pocket and kept it there. He carried it through his tour in Vietnam.
It was still with him during one intense firefight when bullets ripped through the pack on his back. They pierced a can of fruit but left him unharmed. Afterward, Maple was standing there, juice leaking on the ground, when a passing Catholic priest told him, “The Lord was with you today.” Maple immediately thought of the little Bible in his pocket.
Maple found that personal faith, carrying and reading the Gideons Bible in Vietnam. He says, “I give God all the credit for bringing me home. I had so many close calls.”
When he came back home and learned his brother Bill, also in the Army, was being transferred to fight in Vietnam. He decided to give him the Bible. While Bill didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus until years later, he did feel an immediate connection to that Bible. He said, “It was just like a security blanket for a baby. It felt like you had on extra armor.”
Before he left Vietnam, he gave that Bible to his close friend Roger Hill. Hill wrapped the Bible in plastic to protect it from the monsoon rains, and he still had it with him when he was severely wounded during his final tour.
In all, seven U.S. soldiers have carried that same small book since 1967. By 2019, they had brought it with them through 11 combat tours in five countries. For each of the men, the Bible was a source of comfort, an assurance of protection, and the promise of a fuller relationship with God. They carried the Scripture to keep them safe, but they found deeper security inside its pages.
Ultimately, the small worn Bible was returned to Jesse and his brother Bill, who were the first two who carried it into combat. Bill can’t read the Bible anymore because he’s gone blind. He has an electronic device that reads books to him, though, and his favorite is still the Bible. He said, “I lay in bed when I first wake up in the morning. I turn my Bible on, and I listen.”
I have often heard of Bibles and the like being carried in soldiers’ pockets into a significant battle, and somehow miraculously catching a bullet from an enemy firearm that could easily have killed that individual outright. But because the Bible was positioned just right in that pocket, the individual in question was able to survive the enemy fire and continue in service to our country. A life-taking bullet had pierced that life-saving book and had lodged there instead of in the chest of the soldier.
But this is the first time I have ever heard of seven U.S. soldiers carrying the same Bible into various venues of military service and all of them miraculously surviving – and living to tell about their experiences. Their stories are a continual reminder that “the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12). That means we should not only take it seriously, but study it voraciously as well.
So this Memorial Day, as you remember the price paid by so many soldiers so that you can remain free, also remember to use that freedom to grow closer to God through the reading and study of His miraculous Word.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.