It’s memorial day. In America, it’s a day set aside to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.
For a holiday devoted to remembering, it can sure be easy to forget amidst the 3-day weekends, barbecues, and get-togethers. We tend to forget:
- Some fought under grim conditions for years… the very best of their youth, before giving all
- There were no barbecues… no bands… no parades… and no holiday
- And those we honor will never be able to “get together” again
There’s so much more to this holiday than a 3-day weekend. But how do we honor the fallen? I offer one humble perspective on what to remember this Memorial Day:
Remember: They Were People
This day isn’t about statistics, it’s about people. Those who fell were mostly ordinary people.
They worked regular jobs… they came from different places. They were fathers and mothers… brothers and sisters… sons and daughters.
Having spent 21 years in the US Air Force and serving with America’s finest from all branches, some of these fallen have names and faces. I will remember them as forever young, because they never had the chance to grow old. I can tell you they weren’t war mongers. They weren’t yearning to go into battle in far away places. But neither did they shirk their duty.
Theirs was not the decision for war. Those decisions are made in marble-lined hallways by people who, for the most part, have never had to experience war.
General Douglas MacArthur painted the relationship well in his farewell address to West Point, way back in 1962:
On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government. Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.
These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.
And so some gave all. Not out of a sense of glory, but out of a sense of duty… delivering on a promise somebody else made.
Remember: They Left People
Nothing is more heart-wrenching than watching a young child in tears at the foot of their father’s coffin.
Nothing is more bittersweet than the birth announcement of a child that her father will never see.
Nothing causes more ire than well meaning, but not well-thought out phrases like, ‘You’re young… you’ll find somebody else.” That would be great… if they were looking for somebody else. But they weren’t. They were looking forward to raising families… growing old together… creating a lifetime of memories.
These are the “walking wounded” of Memorial Day. They bear scars and unhealed wounds that cannot be seen on the outside. And there is no special holiday for them.
Honor Them All
Regardless of whether you agree with wars, can we agree that the fallen deserve to be remembered? Every American is a benefactor of their sacrifice. We have been given a gift of freedom, whether we realize it or not, from a long line of men and women who sacrificed on our behalf.
Our question on this day is… what will we do with that freedom?
For me, Scripture is most helpful:
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Gal 5:13 NLT)
If we would honor those who gave all, we must be just as willing to give. Not for ourselves, but for others. Not out of anger, but out of love.
What if we used Memorial day as a day to remember these sacrifices, acknowledge our freedom, and find ways to serve others out of love? Perhaps we could serve those who remain behind?
That… would be a day worth remembering.