Arkansas Pastor Honors Sacrifices for Memorial Day

Phil Kramer conducts a memorial service for a fallen soldier in Iraq in November 2006. During his 16 years of service as an Army chaplain, Kramer was deployed overseas nine times. Submitted photo

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (BP) — Pastor Phil Kramer knows that “freedom isn’t free” is not just an abstract concept or clever catchphrase.

As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former U.S. Army chaplain, he has conducted many funerals for soldiers killed in the line of duty, many of them young men and women under 30. He keeps in touch with some of their families.

“As human beings we’re busy people, and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the freedom that we have, the freedom that we enjoy, is paid for with a price,” Kramer said. “And that price includes the blood of hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given the last full measure of devotion.”

Now retired from the Army and serving as lead pastor of Crossgate Church in Hot Springs, Kramer is using “Freedom Isn’t Free” as the theme for his message this Sunday (May 24), in observance of Memorial Day weekend.

Kramer was saved at age 17 and felt a call to vocational ministry soon after. He spent four years serving in the Marine Corps before attending college and seminary. He pastored Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina and Illinois.

In 2004, Kramer began 16 years of service as an Army chaplain. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan nine times.

Though chaplaincy seemed a perfect fit for his military experience and ministry calling, he always felt drawn to serving in the local church.

“While I loved being a chaplain and serving the soldiers, every day my heart beat for the local church,” he said. God began the process of leading him back to the pastorate about four years ago, and in December 2019 he accepted the call to pastor Crossgate Church.

Like many churches, Crossgate has been meeting exclusively online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simplified services involving a welcome message, worship music and a sermon are pre-recorded and presented online on Sunday mornings for the congregation to participate from home.

This Sunday’s service will be conducted in the same format, but with meaningful additions. Kramer plans to use passages from the book of John to explore two types of costly freedoms — the freedom that Americans enjoy, and the freedom believers experience in Christ.

As he discusses the cost of national freedom, Kramer will share stories and pay tribute to the servicemen and women he has known who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

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Source: Baptist Press