Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memoriam

How grateful I am for the many thousands of men who have fought for centuries to keep our nation free! Memorial Day is so easy to gloss over. It's a day off, the start of summer, a day to barbeque with friends or family. It's so easy to forget. There are always pictures of Arlington cemetary that are sent in countless e-mail forwards at this time of year. But as I scrolled down one forward, something caught my eye -- a name. The name of one of America's heroes, etched into the simple white headstone that marks his grave. Those neat rows of white stone seem impersonal somehow. But each one has a name, each one stands for a man who served his country -- often giving his life in battle so that we might be free to barbeque to our hearts' content.

I am reminded of my own family members who served this country, such as my mother's father. He served as a postmaster during WWII, entering Europe by way of Africa. The post office set up their headquarters in Salzburg, in the very house where Mozart was born.

My grandfather died when I was only eight, and I never heard him talk about the war. But we have a picture of him in his Army gear, with his jaunty cap and boyish grin. And we have some of the few snapshots he took in Europe -- including a tragic glimpse from the concentration camp that his unit entered after the Germans had fled. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see that kind of desolation first-hand.

To me, my Grandfather was loving and extremely tolerant. Now I wish I could go back and thank him for his service, and ask him about the war. I would ask him how it was growing up in during the Great Depression, about the things he saw and the people he knew.

My other hero? My dad! I love listening to his stories about serving as a chaplain on a battleship during the First Persian Gulf War. He's one of the only people I know who managed to be in the Army (reserve), the Marines, and the Navy! I appreciate his service to our country and to the men and women who fight for it -- and I also admire his commitment to principle and his refusal to play the politics of the Chaplain Corp, even when it cost him his career.

There are so many people to be grateful to. But none of their efforts, however valiant, would have given us the freedom we have today without God's blessing. I pray this Memorial Day that as we remember our nation's fallen heroes, we will also remember the God who gave us the ultimate freedom -- freedom from the power of death.

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