I was 19, the first time I visited the White House. My memories from that day are of a place rich in history and purpose, and so, every time I go to Washington, D.C., I make it a point to visit the Executive Mansion. Even if it’s only for five minutes, looking through the fence, I enjoy seeing again this particular symbol of our nation and pausing to pray for those who live in it.
One Saturday last summer, I was back in the capital, on Pennsylvania Avenue. I took in the great white facade with its columns and porticoes, then turned and walked to the little park across the street. At the foot of an old statue, I listened as some tourists vented their confusion and disdain.
“Who’s ‘Major General Baron Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben?’’ they asked, apparently irked that such premium real estate, so close to the White House, should be given over to some unknown soldier. They moved off, and I looked up at the general. Then, I made my way to the other three statues, placed at each corner of the little square, all foreign generals who fought with us during the American Revolution: Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau, General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, for whom the park is named.
In an age when many Americans can barely identify George Washington, it’s not surprising that these men and their service are largely forgotten. But without them, our nation might never have been born.
During the Revolution, the Prussian von Steuben turned the horrific winter at Valley Forge into an unsurpassed training ground for the Continental Army – much of his drill manual is still used by the U.S. Army today. The Polish Kosciuszko designed the defenses of West Point and embattled Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was meeting. Rochambeau and Lafayette led French forces who came to the aid of the beleaguered colonies, and played a critical role in the final victory at Yorktown.
These brilliant soldiers – most with other, more enriching opportunities – fully grasped how long the odds were against our Revolution’s success. Yet, they came. They fought beside us. They invested everything they had and helped bring victory to a people who too quickly forgot them. But they understood it was worth it … to secure freedom for so many others.
This is what we mean, when we speak of “the value of alliance.” And it’s why we at ADF treasure the faithful ones who stand with us, amid the storm, in defense of religious freedom. We know you have counted the cost, and elected to invest yourselves in the great, enduring work of preserving freedom. Most of those who come after us will not know our names. But because of your sacrifice … many of them will know our Lord and our God.