PANEL 14 WEST LINE 088
By DANNY MINTON
You stand quietly and read name after name. Names of people you don’t know. Names of people you’ve never met. Mostly kids. It’s difficult to read the names without tears welling up in your eyes. You are standing before The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Each name represents a sacrifice of a young life in pursuit of freedom for people they didn’t even know. In total there are over 58,000 honored names on the wall.
As you read them, you’ll come to Panel 14 West. On that panel in line 088, you’ll see a name, Russell Albert Steindam. Russell was a few years ahead of me at Plano High School. I remember his face but didn’t know him that well. I wish I had. You see, Russell is part of an elite group. There were only 244 of them in all the Vietnam War. On The Wall, you’ll see the names of 153 of them. What’s so special? These 153 were recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Part of Russell’s citation reads, “As he directed the return fire against the enemy from his exposed position, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into the site occupied by his command group. Instantly realizing the extreme gravity of the situation, 1LT Steindam shouted a warning to alert his fellow soldiers in the immediate vicinity. Then, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his safety, 1LT Steindam deliberately threw himself on the grenade, absorbing the full and fatal force of the explosion as it detonated. By his gallant action and self-sacrifice, he was able to save the lives of the nearby members of his command group. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by 1LT Steindam were an inspiration to his comrades and are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.”
Jesus pointed out, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Russell physically did on February 1, 1970. He was 23 years old.
Jesus is telling us if you truly love someone, you’ll do anything to help them. Today, few of us are called on to lay down our physical life. However, we are called to sacrifice for others. We are called to give of our time and money to help those in need. We are called to show people we care.
I’ve often thought, “Would I be willing to lay down my life for someone else?” I’d like to think I had that kind of love in my heart for others, but I may never know. However, the true answer lies in what I am willing to do for them, not in death, but while I live.
To quote the words of Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21:
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ