Robert D. Maxwell

Technician Fifth Grade, U.S. Army, 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division
Near Besancon, France, 7 September 1944

“Much of our success in life is determined by how we handle our anxieties and fears of the unknown future. Because of fear, we may be hesitant to step out into avenues of opportunity. Our anxi-eties may cause us to miss much of life’s good things.

“We can draw consolation from two teachings of Jesus: 1) Let Him handle anxieties (Matt. 6:25-34); and 2) Fear can be displaced by love (1 John 4:17-18). When we have the love that comes from God, we can overcome the anxieties that accompany very fright-ening situations. Our own concern for self-preservation, though very important to us, is less than our concern for others we love. This is why people often risk their life to save others (John 15:13).”


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 September 1944, near Besancon, France.

Technician 5th Grade Maxwell and 3 other soldiers, armed only with .45 caliber automatic pistols, defended the battalion observa-tion post against an overwhelming onslaught by enemy infantrymen in approximately platoon strength, supported by 20mm. flak and machinegun fire, who had infiltrated through the battalion’s for-ward companies and were attacking the observation post with ma-chinegun, machine pistol, and grenade fire at ranges as close as 10 yards. Despite a hail of fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell aggressively fought off advancing enemy elements and, by his calmness, tenacity, and forti-tude, inspired his fellows to continue the unequal struggle. When an enemy hand grenade was thrown in the midst of his squad, Technician 5th Grade Maxwell unhesitatingly hurled himself squarely upon it, using his blanket and his unprotected body to ab-sorb the full force of the explosion.

This act of instantaneous heroism permanently maimed Technician 5th Grade Maxwell, but saved the lives of his comrades in arms and facilitated maintenance of vital military communications during the temporary withdrawal of the battalion’s forward head-quarters.

I believe that faith is the most important aspect of humanity. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). It takes faith in a higher authority than ourselves for progress to take place in our lives. Many, if not most, of America’s great leaders expressed a trust in God as an influ-ence on their success. Those gallant men who officiated at the birth of our nation trusted and had a faith in God as the Higher Power to watch over the struggling colonies. We see the results of their faith and works and those of many great leaders throughout the cen-turies, which culminated in the development of this great nation that has always offered liberty to the world’s oppressed. Since our beginning, we have fought wars endeavoring to maintain that liberty throughout the free world.

Without faith the fighting forces of our nation cannot perform their duty. They must trust in the authority above them, from the commander-in-chief down to their squad leader. For example, when danger threatens the very existence of the combat soldier, he must rely on his training, experience, fellow soldiers, and that Higher Power—God—to survive. Every combat veteran can say, “I know, I’ve been there.”

Faith, even if just newly found, has the ability to change lives. I met a retired veteran a few years ago who told me his story. His mil-itary career included a life of alcohol abuse. Over time he became an alcoholic, a disease that is permanent and unrelenting. On December 7, 1976, he “kicked the habit” and joined with others who had a similar problem and started in the Alcoholic’s Anonymous program. It’s hard for anyone with a “macho” image, who is self-sufficient and also a determined person, to believe in any force greater than himself. The man and his wife were invited to at-tend church. While visiting with a few of the men from the congre-gation, he met three veterans in the parking lot.

One of these veterans served as a Marine Raider in World War II and also survived the desperate fighting and winter at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea. The former Marine was the father of the pastor of the church. Another of the veterans was a former Army Air Corps B-17 radio operator and upper turret gunner. This veteran’s plane was shot down over Germany. He was seriously injured when he made a parachute landing on the concrete road of a small German town. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Stalag 17. The other veteran had received the Medal of Honor. His infantry career ended with the blast from a German grenade in France.

After meeting and visiting these veterans, he realized that these men were for real. As a result, he and his wife were immersed in Christian love. Our friendship continued over the years. Our “alco-holic” friend had finally found something in which to believe. He found the power that would help him overcome and control the craving monster that had dominated his life. He no longer had to face his problem alone.

He now had the assurance that this new life included faith in a Mediator who would intercede with God about his requests and needs. Fortunately this experience, this faith is available to all of us.
—Robert Maxwell