“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Documents in delicate, curling script spread out on the table before me, the story of a man who lived his convictions, unafraid of what many might perceive as a blemish to his name. The photocopies of my great grandfather’s Civil War records are among my family treasures. I don’t know the whole story, but the few things I do know speak volumes.
Records in the library in Jack County, Texas reveal that he voted against Secession from the Union—a brave stand for a Texan in that era. He joined the local militia, serving as a farrier, shoeing the horses and probably acting as a sort of veterinarian. The main function of the militia was to protect the settlers from the raiding Comanches. His own families hog farm was raided more than once, his wife and older sons fighting valiantly for their home.
When the war came to Texas, the militia was pressed into the service of the Confederacy, a cause he did not believe in, but he continued for a while as a farrier. When it became too much, he deserted the Confederate Army, an offense which could have resulted in his hanging. Somehow, he ended up in Fort Marcy, New Mexico, about sixty miles from my home. There he signed a document stating he was willing to fight for the Union. No further records exist to reveal if he actually did so.
Deserter is an ugly term, often signaling cowardice. My great grandfather was not a coward. He stuck to his principles when it created difficulties suffered by both he and his family. He stood for what he believed to be right, no matter how it appeared to others.
I often wonder if I have such courage. I think of the times I have failed to share a word from God with someone in need. I think of all the times I went along with the crowd instead of speaking up. As a Christian, I am soldier in the army of God. I have a task to do that is not always popular, and a responsibility to stand for what is right.
On this Memorial Day, I remember my ancestors who have served their country since the Revolution. I pray for the courage to serve my God with single-minded conviction to stand my ground for Him. I want my memorial to be His reward.
© Copyright 2013 by Norma Gail Thurston Holtman
All Rights Reserved.