One of the great blessings in the ministry to which God has called me is the opportunity to know a multitude of faithful brothers in Christ who are veterans, true leaders with impeccable integrity, intellectual giftedness, courage, unselfishness and loyalty. As a veteran, I have come to appreciate the observance of Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. Not because I am a veteran, but because of the veterans I have had the privilege of knowing. Each were willing to give their last, full measure of devotion, or as G.K. Chesterton put it, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
The Bible acknowledges soldiers. A centurion was a Roman officer who commanded 100 men. The Bible mentions centurions three times: A centurion declares that Jesus is the son of God (Mark 15:39) and in the other two instances both express faith in Christ (Luke 7:1-10 and Acts 10:1-8). In every instance Scripture refers to them as men of good character
I am an Air Force veteran, but I want to introduce you to three such men who are friends. One served in the Navy, one in the Army and the third as a Marine. All three exemplify duty, honor, country. They are brave and brainy (all have written books). Most importantly they have dedicated their lives to Jesus.
Captain Tom Maxwell of Boonville is a kind gentleman. It belies the warrior mentality he displayed in the Vietnam War. Flying jet fighters (A3D Skywarriors) off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany stands in contrast with his leadership in Prison Fellowship Missouri, a ministry that takes the gospel to inmates. He also launched the Angel Tree program, which provides Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents.
Tom has been married to the love of his life, Betty Ann, for 64 years. He recently wrote a book for his lone grandson about the 60-plus combat missions he flew over Vietnam, titled A Grandfather’s Journal.
Like Tom, I met Colonel Jimmie Coy in 2008 while becoming a Colson Fellow at the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Lansdowne, Va. Jimmie is one of the bravest humans I have ever met. He would jump out of a perfectly good airplane in order to save someone’s life – literally.
A field surgeon with the famed 101st Airborne Division (“The Screaming Eagles”), standing six-foot, six-inches tall he would plunge out of an airplane and into battle with the words of Psalm 91:5 (“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”) penned to his helmet strap as his unit spearheaded the invasion of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War.
He has garnered enough medals and commendations to encumber a uniform. He has a medical degree, taught at the University of Missouri, had papers published on his innovations in lightweight X-ray technology and has had nearly a dozen books published.
The promises of celebrity and renown are empty, Jimmie will tell you. “The degrees you earn, the income you have, the position you hold, the car you drive … that is success, that’s secular. But significance is spiritual. It’s eternal. To those who have faith, the way you impact people eternally will have an eternal consequence.”
Jimmie now serves as a chaplain at the Veteran’s Hospital in Columbia and regularly gives his testimony at churches and community events. He has twice spoken at chapel services for the Missouri Baptist Convention. His latest books, the Gathering of Eagles series, is a compilation of interviews with hundreds of highly decorated veterans. He and wife, Vicki, live in Columbia.
One of my most cherished items decorating my office is a flag that was first flown by the United States Navy featuring the words “An Appeal to Heaven.” It was designated the flag of the U.S. Navy by President George Washington and a replica was given to me by ex-Marine infantry officer John Brunner of St. Louis. A successful businessman, he is an author whose faith in Christ permeates his life.
I first met John when he ran for governor in 2016. The first time we met he handed me a copy of Battlefield Verses, a pocket-sized booklet of various scripture passages. He distributes them wherever he goes.
“In the Marine Corps, we were trained to fire for effect, which means to put all of our rounds and ordinance precisely right on target,” he writes in his new book, The Gospel: On Point. “Falling short or going wide was not an option – it could be a matter of life and death, is not getting the gospel message on target a matter of life and death?”
When Bernadette passed away, John and his wife, Jane, sent a beautiful flower arrangement. It featured an angel kneeling in prayer. It was a thoughtful gesture, but it also reflected the true character of a Marine and devout follower of Jesus.
I am blessed to have known these veterans. I thank them for their service to our nation. More importantly, I am thankful for their Christ-like testimonies.