Lessons of Manhood from Iwo Jima

Today is the anniversary of the World War II Pacific battle of Iwo Jima. It is important that we remember this historic battle and draw lessons from it for our sons to teach them about manhood. Here are twelve lessons of manhood that I wrote about in a book called Preparing Boys for Battle:

1. Quiet fathers impoverish their children. (Psalm 78:1-9).

The experiences on Iwo Jima should warn us about the effect of clamming up. The common story of the Iwo Jima veterans is that they kept silent about their experiences and denied their children an understanding of their heritage. This pattern, which was almost comprehensively followed by Iwo veterans, is a warning to fathers about the consequences of clamming up and keeping stories of God’s faithfulness inside by not telling their children the praises of the Lord.

2. The knowledge of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the most important knowledge one can have (Daniel 4:34, Psalm 103:19).

The stories of Iwo Jima teach me that the knowledge of the sovereignty of God in history is empowering. A providential view of history is critical for perspective in the midst of difficult moments in history. My experience with hearing the stories of Iwo Jima is that confidence fills the hearts of children who understand how God has worked in history. I also observed that the sons and daughters we met on Iwo Jima were strengthened by their understanding of what their fathers went through.

3. We should spend our time strategically and be involved in important efforts (Ephesians 5:16, Matthew 16:26).

Iwo Jima was an island of strategic importance, showing us the need for carefully planning our time and efforts in order to be prepared for the major events which God brings to our lives.

4. Be aware of the unseen forces working in your heart (Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:8).

Iwo Jima was a place where there was an unseen enemy, and we also have an unseen enemy, prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.

5. Friendship includes defending your friend even when it might cost you everything (John 15:13).

It was a place where friendships were tested by mortal danger which illustrates Jesus’ words, “Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friends.”

6. Manhood is tested by pressure–don’t despise or fail the tests (1 Kings 2:2).

Iwo Jima’s challenges put manhood on display. Even though war is a terrible reality, the way it is played out profiles many important qualities of manhood that need to be passed on from one generation to the next.

7. A godly response to authority is one of the most important factors for success in life (Ephesians 6:1-4).

The fierceness of the battle and the demands of the terrain made Iwo a place where honor and obedience in the face of conflicting emotions were required to accomplish the mission. This is the foundation of strength that is necessary for success in every workplace, marriage, and church.

8. Giving honor where honor is due secures success (Exodus 20:12).

With the passing of a generation, I am confronted with the proposition that fathers should be honored. It is a duty for sons and daughters to honor their fathers, and it has tremendous leverage for good for many generations. Scripture commands it and God makes specific promises to children who honor their parents. Not only do I want to honor my own father, I want to have an influence on my friends that might have the effect of getting them to ask, “How will I honor my father?”

9. A heritage will fall into oblivion if you don’t ask about it (Deuteronomy 32:7).

We see the importance of the principle that children should ask their fathers to tell them the stories of God’s faithfulness towards them. In this way, children demonstrate that they care about their heritage. It is to their benefit to ask questions of those who went before so that they will be able to stand on the shoulders of the previous generation instead of starting from scratch. Nobody has perfect parents, but most parents have something to give that will make us wiser and more effective in life. The answers to the questions you ask can serve as teaching tools for bringing glory to God.

10. Powerful legacies are activated through allocation of time, a listening ear, and an active pen (Psalm 71:17-18).

Children should work to exert energy to collect the stories of their fathers, and they should glory in God’s faithfulness to their fathers. They should take time to sit at their feet and listen and diligently glean the best lessons. This takes a listening ear, an active pen to record the memories, and time for reflection to crystalize the critical messages. We hereby declare that fathers have something to say. Yes, everything in our fathers’ lives is not praiseworthy, but we should just grow up and take the best we can find. As I have said too many times: no one ever got a perfect father. This is just the way it is.

11. Communicating a providential view of history will be for the joy and encouragement of the next generation (Psalm 71:17-18).

Because of hearing the stories of Iwo Jima, I am more aware of my responsibility to tell my own children about the great deeds of God in our own family history.

12. There are no little islands, attitudes, actions, or sins (Zechariah 4:10, James 3:5).

I am more aware of how little things have a big impact for good or evil depending on who governs them. Iwo Jima was a little island only 2.5 miles wide and 5.5 miles long, in the midst of a vast ocean, yet it had a big impact.

Because of the anniversary of Iwo Jima, I am offering three books for sale for the rest of the week. Preparing Boys for Battle and Moment of Courage tell the story of Iwo Jima and teach lessons that our generations of boys must know. In Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer, my daughter Kelly, granddaughter of a Second Lt. Bill Brown, remembers her hero’s story. She writes a letter to the next generation, inspiring them through her grandfather’s story to think beyond themselves and towards having a multi-generational mindset–not living for the moment, but for the lives of their children, and their children’s children.

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