Few people know the name Milton Olive III. Born in Chicago in 1946, he was drafted and went to Viet Nam in 1965. On October 22, 1965, he was a member of 3d Platoon of Company B of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
His platoon came under heavy fire from the enemy. Re-grouping, the platoon attacked the enemy positions causing the enemy to flee. In the ensuing attack Private Olive and four others moved through the jungle pushing the enemy back when suddenly a grenade landed in their midst. In that moment Olive threw himself on the grenade saving the lives of the other four soldiers that were with him.
On April 21,1966 Milton Olive was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Why does a person perform such a self-less act? What causes a person to decide to give his “last full measure of devotion” to save the lives of others? I believe that the answer is found in Scripture.
On the night of his betrayal Jesus met with his friends. After celebrating the Passover with them and instituting the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus prepared them for what was going to happen in a few short hours. He would be betrayed, arrested, convicted of crimes he did not commit, beaten, and put to death on a cross.
Yes it would take, “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” to sacrifice himself on the cross. But their was something more, much more that led to Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus revealed what that “something more” was in John 15: 13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus Christ gave his life out of his great love for all people. Christ died to pay the price of our sins and to spare us eternal death. What motivated Christ was not “gallantry and intrepidity” but love: the love of the Father for his children, the love of a brother for his siblings. A love which is so strong, so powerful, so intense that it will stop at nothing to save the object of one’s love. That is the love that Christ was not only talking about, but the love he demonstrated on the cross.
On Memorial Day we will remember and honor all the Milton Olives from Bunker Hill to Shiloh, from San Juan Hill to the Argonne Woods, from Pearl Harbor to the Chozin Reservoir, from Khe Sanh to Iraq, and from Afghanistan to wherever tyranny tries to impose its will. Perhaps all those who, like Olive, displayed that love should have their commendations read, “for conspicuous gallantry, intrepidity, and unconditional love above and beyond the call of duty.” Lest we forget.