I genuinely was honored this past week to read in global news reports how our troops in the Middle East recently have expressed their gratitude for my trips there in 2006 and 2007. Particularly humbling were the thoughts from a Fallujah police trainer, who called me "a role model" for the Iraqi security forces that were formerly an al-Qaida stronghold.
The truth, of course, is that they are the real heroes. They are the bona fide examples of courage. I spent my life as a warrior, first in the ring and then on-screen. They are warriors in countries torn by terror. I fight culture wars. They fight combat ones. True heroes are those such as Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen, 38, a Maryland Army National Guard soldier, who died just this past Friday in a Texas military hospital -- two months after his vehicle was hit in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.
With this week commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war and roughly the 1,975th Holy Week of Christendom, I am overwhelmed with the convergence of two monumental sacrifices. On the one hand, there are about 4,000 service members (as well as roughly 300 coalition troops) who heroically gave up their lives for freedom. On the other hand, there is the one kingdom patriot who sacrificed his life upon a cross nearly two millennia ago for our sins. His words, which apply to both sacrificial acts of service, still resound: "Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for a friend."
I concur with Congress' call this week for a partisan truce in order to observe the fifth year since the invasion. I also would extend that neutrality challenge to news agencies and pundits alike. Rather than prognosticate or pontificate about the rights and wrongs of war, I would encourage people instead simply to bow their heads in prayer.
In James P. Moore Jr.'s "One Nation Under God: The History of Prayer in America," he recounts how a World War II-wearied President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation more than 60 years ago. To many people's surprise, rather than giving a summary of the progress of Operation Overlord (better known as D-Day), he opted to pray that evening (June 6, 1944) with all America listening. Not since Lincoln had such a passionate spiritual been delivered at such a critical time.
This week, I present the same prayer to the one who liberates our souls on behalf of those who fight and have fought to liberate from political tyrannies -- from Afghanistan to America:
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.