Coast Guard Admiral William “Dean” Lee is always ready to save lives. He should be. He’s a high-ranking officer in an organization that has long been described as “the Lifesavers.” National Public Radio commended the Coast Guard in a story several years ago about the one million lives this doughty little service had saved since its founding in 1790. The Coast Guard motto — Semper Paratus — means “always ready.”
Admiral Lee recently spoke in Washington about his readiness to save lives, even when at risk. The admiral is one of a special few in our all-volunteer military who are daily putting their lives on the line. By comparison, in World War II, one in every 11 Americans was in uniform; today, that number is only one in 200. Our lives and our liberty are defended today by a very small group of dedicated Americans, most of them young.
The admiral spoke at a National Day of Prayer ceremony recently. He pointed to the serious problem of suicide in the military. Every day, Admiral Lee pointed out with evident compassion, a member of the military takes his or her own life. We are constantly reminded of our need to help them.
I was especially moved by Admiral Lee’s plea. For several years in the Reagan administration, I was tasked in the U.S. Education Department with researching suicide among youth. I began my work by studying a manual prepared by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Their manual gave me suicide rates for virtually every U.S. demographic. I became familiar with the suicide rates for almost every group, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.
Quickly, I noticed that black females had an almost nonexistent suicide rate. Could that be accurate? I quickly called the CDC and the desk officer there assured me it was correct: “We call it the BFPF.” What’s that, I pressed. “The Black Female Protective Factor — black women are very religious.”
Our government knows that faith in God is a protection against suicide and yet that same government not only does not encourage people in their practice of their religion, the government actually discourages it. How strange!
Columnist Todd Starnes has helped put into focus the recent controversy over attempts by the Obama administration to stigmatize and suppress Christianity in our armed forces.
Investigative Reporter Starnes’s work shows a pattern of suppression under this administration.
Admiral Lee told a striking story of meeting a young serviceman who had attempted suicide.
“When I looked at that young man and heard his story — the rules say — ‘send him to the chaplain’; my heart said, give this man a Bible.”
He continued, “The lawyers tell me that if I do that — I’m crossing the line; I’m so glad I’ve crossed that line so many times.”
Advisors to President Obama’s Defense Department, some of them militant atheizers, like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein, want men like Admiral Lee to be court-martialed for treason and sedition if they dare to share.
But Admiral Lee is in good company sharing that Good News. In World War II, we had a Commander-in-Chief who actually endorsed Bible reading by the troops.
He offered these words of hope in an introduction to Bibles carried by our soldiers to such places as the Omaha Beach and Okinawa: “As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt was not accused of anti-Semitism. He ordered U.S. soldiers carrying those Bibles in their pockets to liberate the Nazi concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald in 1945. No one then complained of proselytization or suggested FDR was bigoted. It was the life-saving ideals those soldiers read in that little book that helped them cope with the horrors of Nazi inhumanity.
Admiral Lee is an American hero. He commanded Coast Guard units that conducted some 20,000 search and rescue missions. But in being “always ready” to give reasons for the hope that is within him, and daring to share that hope under threat of censure, this brave Coastie may have performed his greatest service to our country and our God.
(Robert Morrison is a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard.)
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