The sands of Iwo Jima

Published 8:05 pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

By Chris Surber

I had lunch with a friend of mine recently. I hadn’t seen him in more than 13 years. Back then, I was a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, and Chad was one of troops. Now he is a staff sergeant nearing retirement.

Since we last saw each other, he has gotten married, had four children and become a marathon runner. My bride and I have had also had four children in that time, and I have not become a marathon runner.

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In fact, I enjoyed seeing the photo our wives took of us standing beside each other. It’s like the before-and-after-you-leave-the-Marines photo.

At any rate, it was a gift to see him and his wonderful family. Before we said our goodbyes and made plans to reunite soon in Haiti, where my family and I are moving early next year, Chad gave me a treasure of inestimable worth.

A bag of sand may seem an odd thing to call a treasure, but this is no ordinary sand. This is black volcanic sand from the South Pacific Island of Iwo Jima. This is sand mingled with the blood of a thousand Marines who fought there in the cause of freedom in World War II.

Their cause was just, but any Marine or soldier will tell you that they didn’t spill their blood on that sand primarily for the cause.

The cause matters in war, but Marines in an unpopular war are no less valiant than soldiers or sailors in a popular war. Those Marines sacrificed for one another. The bond of brotherhood among them was deep and strong. It was deep enough to bleed for and strong enough to die for.

Chad gave me the sand as a symbol of our brotherhood as Marines. The blood mingled with that sand symbolically joins us in a long line of Marines willing to die for one another. The bonds of affection we share as Marines are deep and lasting.

But Chad is also a follower of Jesus, and the bonds that we share as blood-bought followers of Jesus Christ are bottomless and eternal.

Some say fallen Marines guard the streets of Heaven. I don’t know about that, but I do know the sacrifices of honorable soldiers point us toward a sacrifice of even greater worth and more lasting value.

At Iwo Jima, men laid down their lives so a friend might live a little longer. At the cross, our Lord laid down His life so that through Him God’s people would live forever.

I’ll treasure that sand as long as I live in this world, but because of the blood of Jesus Christ, I’ll treasure my friend long after this world fades.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.