Chuck Colson

In 1941, a monk named Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another condemned prisoner at Auschwitz. Six decades later, a young man serving in Iraq?a soldier inspired by Father Kolbe?sacrificed his life when he volunteered to take the place of another soldier.

The story of this heroic young man?the son of a dear friend of ours in Prison Fellowship?is one we should tell our children as we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this week.

Twenty-year-old Thomas Doerflinger grew up in a home in which human dignity was vigorously defended. His father, Richard, is a bioethics expert who speaks out against abortion, cloning, and other assaults against human dignity. Some of those who knew the blond, blue-eyed Thomas questioned why this bright young man chose military service. His father says Thomas had no interest in a soft and easy life; he sought instead a life of deprivation and duty, service and sacrifice. And he wanted to help free the citizens of Iraq?people who?d spent decades living under tyranny and terror.

Years earlier, Thomas had offered a hint of his future plans. When he was confirmed into the Catholic Church, he took the name Maximilian Kolbe.

As Austin and Cathy Ruse write in the National Catholic Register, nobody takes Kolbe?s name lightly. ?At a time in the world when courage mattered most, Kolbe did not hesitate,? they note. ?He offered himself up to the starvation bunker in exchange for a man with a family. You take the name of Kolbe because you hold self-sacrifice and the love of fellow man in the highest regard.?

Last November, the vehicle Thomas was assigned to, a Stryker armored personnel carrier, was undergoing repairs. Another Stryker was headed for Mosul, which had been overrun by terrorists. But the crew was one man short. Would Thomas be willing to take his place?

While he was under no obligation to go, Thomas was known for volunteering. He offered to serve as a rear rifleman to provide cover for the other men.

On November 11, the Stryker rumbled into Mosul. Thomas jumped out?and soon after was ushered into eternity, cut down by a sniper?s bullet.

What motivates young men to make such a sacrifice, not only for their country and their comrades, but on behalf of strangers longing for freedom?

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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