Happy Memorial Day!
Here’s some music for y’all to listen to before I begin, because I feel this song is so relevant to what we’ll be talking about today.
Today is Memorial Day. Today is a day set apart to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin. How can we thank these brave heroes for everything they have done to protect and serve our country? They made this terrible sacrifice – all for us – because they wanted to fight for peace and love and security.
They’ve sacrificed their own lives.
Countless have died in service. Countless have put their own lives in danger to save our lives. And yet we go on with life, never stopping to think what would have happened had there been no one who sacrificed.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
Our Lord was pointing to the ultimate sacrifice – his death on the cross. He laid down his life for us because he loves us as friends, even though we’ve rejected and scorned him. And he calls us to do the same, for greater love has no greater example than a man who loves as Christ loves – by willingly laying down his life to fight for freedom.
So there is no greater example than these men and women who fought for our freedom and willingly laid down their lives – just like Christ.
And sacrifice is not actually a lovely thing. It is a horrific thing.
Sacrifice looks – is – ugly and haunting and not picturesque at all.
Take a moment to picture it.
Men and women lying on blood-soaked soil. Some moaning in agony. Some with the light of life blotted out of their eyes, their own breath lodged in their throats. Some missing arms and legs. Some mangled. Some with organs exposed. Some still and staring. Some thinking final thoughts about their loved ones, knowing they’re not going to return from this soil.
Bullets, bayonets, atomic bombs, and other horrible weapons. Whips and other instruments used to torture prisoners of war. Concentration camps for killing. Bodies picked up, flung, and stacked like wood.
Wounded soldiers, with no one to comfort them, immobile in their hospital beds. They’re going to die soon. Then their bodies will be carried away. Will they be remembered? What of the sacrifice? Will anything change? Will the children of their beloved country be free?
Sacrifice is difficult and tragic. It is. Only in a sinful world do sacrifices have to be made.
And there are these heroes, who are selfless and courageous and loving enough to make them. To make the ultimate sacrifice. To pay the ultimate price.
So let’s make this a day to remember them. Let’s make this a day to be grateful. And not only today. Let’s remember and be grateful always. Let’s come to our knees at the amazing sacrifices made for our America – land of the free, home of the brave.
A little storytime:
When I was in eighth grade, my school took our class for a life-changing trip. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. It was a trip I’ll truly remember for the rest of my life.
I must admit I forgot much of the sights and scenery, unfortunately. I didn’t pay the attention I should have. That’s one of the reasons I want to go back to D.C. someday, because I know I’d appreciate it much more now.
But there were a few specific locations we visited that stand out most in my mind.
One was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I vividly remember visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which lists the names of United States military members who were killed in the Vietnam War, or who went missing in battle and were never found.
I remember thinking, “Wow, this is a long wall!”
It’s a long wall because there are so many names.
Although at the time, I didn’t know the full meaning of what I was looking at, and I wasn’t really thinking about the reality of sacrifice and death, I stared at the memorial in awe. I was captivated. It was sobering to look at, and I felt sorrow. I walked back and forth, read many of the names, and looked at the flowers and other gifts people had placed below. As I read the names of the fallen soldiers, I saw my reflection in the wall, which I didn’t think anything of at the time. But now I realize that these soldiers died to protect me, a daughter of their country. And it doesn’t matter whether we win or lose a battle or a war – the Vietnam War was lost – because those sacrifices are victories. Victories for peace and love.
Another place was the Arlington National Cemetery.
The most poignant thing to me now, looking back on my visit to the Arlington National Cemetery nearly three years later, is not that I got to sit in the same chair Abraham Lincoln sat in. It’s not that I got to tour the Memorial Amphitheater, where countless presidents and important people have walked and held impressive ceremonies in. It’s not even that I got to see the graves of John F. Kennedy and his family. It’s not that I got to walk under some very beautiful pink blossoms.
It’s that I saw all those graves.
Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it was sobering to look across the green grasses and see rows and rows of graves, many of them proudly bearing miniature American flags. The Arlington National Cemetery is full of the graves of fallen soldiers since the Civil War. So many brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
It’s that I saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where guards keep dedicated and tireless watch through rain or shine, day or night, cold or heat. I was awed at this level of respect and honor. However, back then I lost interest within minutes and started to think about my hurting feet. Now I wish I could go back to truly pay attention to this amazing ceremony, the Changing of the Guard.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to fallen soldiers whose remains were never identified.
Honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I encourage you to do something today to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Here are some ideas for what you can do to pay your respects:
- Wear something patriotic! You can pay your respects by doing something as simple as proudly displaying that you are an American. This Memorial Day, I’m wearing a white headband, a red shirt that says COURAGE and has Hebrews 12:1-2 printed on the back (it’s an old school shirt from eighth grade), blue jeans, and an American flag mask.
- Visit a cemetery or memorial dedicated to those who have fallen in service. Leave flowers at a grave or two.
- Bake something patriotic! Red, white, and blue sugar cookies, anyone? Yum!
- Read a patriotic poem that commemorates those who have fallen in service. I recommend “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae (which is my favorite poem).
- Listen to a reflective song. I recommend “We Are America” by The Hoppers, which I inserted at the top of this post.
- Write a journal entry, one page or longer, about what Memorial Day means to you. If you’re not sure how to do that, here are a few suggestions: (1) Write a letter addressed to an American who died in service, expressing gratitude and describing how their sacrifice has changed your life; (2) choose a word or phrase from the poem you read or the song you listened to, and describe how that word/phrase made you feel; (3) write about how the phrase “land of the free and home of the brave” applies to your own life; or (4) write about how you can follow the example of these heroes and do something to make your country and the world a better place.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day!
As always, I hope you guys enjoyed this post and that it blessed you in some way.
Lord, help us to appreciate and rejoice in the ultimate sacrifice you made for us, the ultimate sacrifice these brave men and women imitated. Help us to honor them, and to imitate you as they did. Amen.
You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!