HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – A war veteran, who sustained burns over 50 percent of his body in Iraq before fighting his way back to health, grabbed the corner of an American flag during a Veterans Day ceremony at a private school and told children to be "the hands and feet of Jesus" and show America the flag and American values are still worth dying for.
"I want you all to serve a purpose that is greater than self in life. I want you to serve your Lord and Savior with everything you have," Marine Cpt. Dan P. Moran, a medically-retired decorated American hero told students at Houston's First Baptist Academy during an annual recognition of veterans on Nov. 11. "Just like a Marine goes out there and lays it all on the battlefield to accomplish his mission, I want you to do the same for your Lord and Savior."
Gesturing to his face, which bears the scars of injuries he sustained in 2006 when he and other members of his patrol were attacked in Ramadi, Iraq, Moran told the children the American flag represents something important: freedom.
"I still have a lot of scars on my body," Moran said, "but I'd rather have those scars than to not be free."
Moran led about three dozen veterans into Houston's First Baptist Church where hundreds of students in kindergarten through middle school waved American flags and cheered for the vets before sitting down to an hour-long service where Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops presented colors and a student choir and orchestra performed patriotic songs.
Brig Thompson, headmaster of First Baptist Academy, introduced the veterans and recognized the students that invited them. The veterans were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of students at the school.
Moran is a recipient of the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor, the Navy Achievement Medal with Valor, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Purple Heart. He medically retired as a Captain in 2009 after serving his first combat tour in Fallujah, Iraq, and his second in Ramadi.
Shooting straight with the children, Moran told them the values they are learning at the Christian school are the same ones that made America strong and a country worth dying for.
"I want you all to think about that. What do you love so much that you are willing to lay down your life for it. Because that's what these veterans have done. They signed a check, a blank check for a price up to and including giving their life. That's an amazing thing guys. For those of you who have parents, moms or dads or uncles, aunts or grandparents, they've done that for you," Moran said. "And today there's people that are doing it for you. And so what I'm asking is that when your time comes ... serve your country."
Reminding the audience he is not a military recruiter, but a veteran, Moran said he hopes some will be like the Prophet Isaiah and when the times comes, will say, "Here I am, Lord send me," and join the Peace Corps, sign up for the military, or volunteer for a non-profit organization.
"You do something to give back," he urged. "There is no ideology, there is nothing more important than the reality of what America is and what it can be going towards than a more perfect union. And it's going to be up to you and that's why I'm here."
Moran told the children he hopes one day when their time comes they will be willing to put their egos aside and their own "personal ambitions" aside to "lay it on the line and serve" others.
"Is that not what Christ did for us?" he asked. "The King of kings sacrificed for us. If we love our country like these men and women do, and I know you all do, we are willing to give back to it, to build it, to make sure the values of what America stands for are not lost. "
Moran, who was the center of a debate by some Texas politicians during the 2012 election for a video he appeared in supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry's bid for president, said he realized his speech might be weighty for kids, but told them it's how he talks to his own children.
"I expect them to lead. I expect them to serve a purpose greater than self. I expect them to love the Lord with all their hearts, with all their minds, with all their souls," Moran said. "And I expect them to do what needs to be done to secure our freedom for the next generation. So I want you to reflect on that."
To the veterans in the audience, Moran told them how humbled he is to have served and how grateful he is for them.
"We are part of a lineage of 1775," he said that spanned Trenton, Bunker Hill, and the Battle of New Orleans, Cuba and Haiti, Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, Khe Sang, Da Nang, Desert Storm, Mogadishu, Fallujah.
"Some of those places they mean a lot to us, places that we fought for, that we bled for," Moran said. "Never forget and never quit, ever. I ask all of us here to remember that Memorial Day is to remember the fallen, and Veterans Day is to remember the legacy that we were put here to be a shining example to the world.
"Veterans should be a shining example to our communities, to our state, to our nation, to the world, of what it means to be an American," Moran continued. "Come together to remember the unbelievable country that we live in. Freedom is worth any price, up to and including our lives."