(It is my Memorial Day tradition to put up something that suits the day. This post is similar to one I posted in 2005.)
When I was young, Memorial Day was wonderful because it signified the beginning of summer. Even though I always had a few more days of school after the holiday, nevertheless, Memorial Day meant that summer was upon us.
Now that I’m not so young, Memorial Day still signifies the beginning of summer. My pastoral work year tends to align itself with the school calendar, so Memorial Day means that I’m about ready to enjoy a break from work. Though I love being a pastor, I find myself overdue for some time of renewal and refreshment.
But Memorial Day means more to me now than it once did because I think about its deeper meaning. Why? It first happened in 1991, in the aftermath of Desert Storm (the first Gulf War). I did not know anyone who was killed in that war, but my brother-in-law did see active duty in Bahrain as a member of an Air Force military unit. Though he was mostly far away from direct combat, he was on the ground in Bahrain when Iraq fired some Scud missiles in his general direction. Of course now we know that the Scuds weren’t all that worrisome. But at the time we feared that they might contain biological or chemical materials. So there were some tense moments in 1991 as I wondered if my brother-in-law would survive.
(Photo above: A memorial day celebration in Grafton, West Virginia)
Before that time, I confess that I’d never really thought about the fact that men and women were putting their lives on the line for the sake of my freedom. And, honestly, I didn’t feel all that grateful for those who had actually sacrificed their lives in defense of my liberty. But, with my brother-in-law in the line of fire, my appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of people in the armed forces grew a hundred fold. I began to realize how much it cost for me to be free, and I became truly thankful for those who paid the price for my freedom.
Yes, I’m well aware that these people didn’t die for me personally. No doubt they died for our country in the broad sense, and specifically for their own families and friends. But I am a beneficiary of their sacrifice. It impacts me personally. And for this I find myself more and more grateful each year.
So on this Memorial Day, as I gather with friends for a swim party, I will remember those who sacrifice has made this possible. I will be grateful for the freedom to get together with any friends I chose, for the freedom from worry about being attacked, and for the economic blessings that result from our freedom, blessings that allow me to sit around a wonderful pool with my friends. I will say a prayer of thanks for those who have given their lives to gain and protect my freedom. I will pray for surviving families for whom Memorial Day must be filled with both grief and pride. And I will pray for those who continue to put their lives on the line for my sake and the sake of our nation.
Thanksgiving is still six months away. But today I am very thankful.