The attendance was light at early church services this morning. Early service is mostly attended by old fogies like me who are accustomed to rising with the sun or mostly before it. It is Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. Many are making their first trip to the beach marking the unofficial start of summer. They will enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and time with family. It is all available to them because they live in a free nation where they can travel about at will. It is a country richly blessed. The national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” declares it is the land of the free.
In back yards, grills are being fired up for the summer’s first barbeque. On Monday, serial shoppers looking for holiday sales will hit the stores. There they will find store shelves and aisle ways filled with merchandise. It is another blessing that comes with living in the world’s freest nation. It is a prosperous and free nation whose people, since the end of the Civil war, have not known the horrors of war on their soil. Have not seen it or felt it face to face.
Sadly, the typical American is far removed from the purpose of Memorial Day. Just for the record, it began in the Civil War era. Many locales claim the honor of being first to celebrate “Decoration Day” as the time set aside to honor war dead. Growing up in Southern West Virginia, I knew it as Decoration Day. I do not remember when I came to know it as Memorial Day. We visited and decorated graves and generally had a rather large family reunion at my Grandpa’s house. For me, it was all potato salad and banana pudding, but the eating never began until thanks were given with a reminder for everyone of the purpose of this time. Those reunions were populated by many World War II and Korean War Veterans. My Father and Uncles were among them.
This weekend, many Americans will visit gravesites. For some, it is a heartfelt visit and for others a mechanical gesture. Some graves will have no visitors. If you have or will visit someone, contemplate what brought you there. Ask, what did that person do for me?
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8
For this day, ask why young men and women choose to serve voluntarily and stay in our country’s Armed Forces and why generations continue say “Send me!” There are a multitude of reasons that young people enter the service. For me, it was to leave a group of people and break a pointless cycle in my life. When I was 16 years old, I was a high school dropout already working full time in a Chicago factory. By the time I was 18, I was in a cycle of collecting a Friday paycheck and being practically broke when I returned to work on Monday. I was a tad wayward and moving pointlessly forward. I watched 40 year old men doing the same menial labor as me and with little hope of ever doing any better. I did not like the future I saw. Enlisting into the Army in 1971 was not real popular, but I saw it as a way out of that cycle. The reason I entered the service had nothing to do with why I stayed for 28 years. It is the reasons people stay that is important to remember. I stayed because I found purpose. I stayed because I was surrounded by honorable, dependable people who shared my purpose. The purpose of doing whatever was asked of us to preserve the freedom of this great nation. I was fortunate to come home, many never did. This time is for them.
Those who did not come home fulfilled their purpose. They also did something equally as important. They passed the torch of freedom to you and me. It is ours to burn brightly in the face of our nation’s enemies both foreign and domestic. Let us never forget that.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies blow
In Flanders fields. –
In Flanders Fields, LTC John McCrae, 1872 – 1918
May God bless and embrace our Veterans who sacrificed so greatly for our freedom. May God continue to bless and embrace our men and women now serving in our Armed Forces. May God continue to bless this free nation.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” — General George S. Patton Jr.
© 2014 J. D. Pendry