I took these photos of my husband and son at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. Of all the monuments, statues, and historical markers I’ve visited (more than a hundred), it is my favorite. The powerful thing about visiting this memorial wall is that it is impossible to not take it personally.
I consider its designer a genius because you cannot view it without seeing yourself reflected across the names of the soldiers who died, thus putting YOU, the viewer, into its story. And what message is engraved? No words, no editorial, but simply the engraved names of 57,939 soldiers whose lives were lost in the Vietnam War. As you look at it, you see your own image reflected across names of people who laid down their lives for YOU. When you see the names of those who sacrificed themselves to give and keep the freedoms you are enjoying, scrolling across your face as you walk along the length of the wall, your heart is humbled and you spiritually bow with awe, grief, respect, honor, and gratefulness. It now becomes personal if it wasn’t before. You see that you can never really be separated from these human beings who laid down their life for you. It is one thing to have head knowledge of soldiers going to war and dying, and quite another if your life is personally impacted by the loss of a soldier’s life. Suddenly, freedom becomes much more valuable and sacred.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13
More than 2,000 years ago Jesus laid down his life for you and me. The Bible considers nothing else more of an act of love or more sacred than this. Every man and woman who signs up for the military understands that they are putting their life on the line, that they may be one of the many who never come home alive. Whether they know this scripture or not, their spirit is in tune with it in order for them to make this kind of commitment. For this alone they deserve our respect and gratefulness.
Memorial Day is set aside to specifically honor those who died in service. However, I want to include many of the living veterans in my thoughts today because we have come to understand that while many of our soldiers return home alive, they are not the same person they were before they left. They have physically returned to us, but their hearts, spirits, and bodies are broken. They left a great deal of themselves on the battlefield that will never be coming home. And that’s a grief that not only their families must deal with, but they, too, grieve every day for what was lost.
The Old Testament is full of stories where God instructed people to build a monument to various events that took place. He wants us to remember our past and what sacrifices were made so that we become better people, continually increasing in love, honor, compassion, and respect. It is his desire, no actually his command, that we make time for rembrance, to reflect on what has been done for us so that we are inspired to humbly acknowledge our blessings, and to honor and thank God, as well as all who made sacrifices on our behalf.
As our nation formally acknowledges Memorial Day, my prayer is that you will give thought and thanksgiving for the privilege it is to live in the U.S.A., and for the freedoms you enjoy that have been won and continuously secured by men and women who have died for that purpose.
Some ways you can honor God’s command of remembrance is to take time to:
- thank God for each and every blessing you enjoy specifically related to being a U.S. citizen
- thank God for each military person, active or veteran, that you know personally and encourage them
- thank God for each veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice that you know of personally, and pray for their spouse, children, brother, sister, parents, and express your gratefulness to them
- honor those who have died for your freedom by living a life worthy of their ultimate sacrifice
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13