A Memorial Day Salute

While reading stories of American war heroes in an article called “The Buddy I’ll Never Forget,” I realized that the men and women of the United States military are of a rare and special breed of honor, pride, service, dedication, and valor. This is a world that many of us can’t even understand, but should respect and be grateful.

Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember each of the men, women, and yes, canines, that have served our country faithfully. They were willing to give up their freedom, and possibly even their life, for people they will never know. Maybe they have never seen action during wartime, or never served in areas where there were hostile enemies, but the fact that they willingly would give their life, if called upon, means that they should still be honored and remembered.

I do not come from a military family, in the sense that my father served for years and saw action. He was in the Army because it was required by the draft after finishing college during the Korean conflict. He served by “filing papers" for two years until the conflict was over. As I grew up and learned more about military service, I would always call him on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day just to thank him for his service. He always said a gracious "thank you," but he made it clear that he wasn’t one of the true heroes. But I know he would have been a hero if he had been called upon to do so. Upon his death, we received a United States flag as a gift of appreciation for his willingness to serve. I will always cherish that flag.

The acts of selflessness and duty are what draw me to respect and pray daily for every man and woman currently serving our country, as well as those who are veterans of any war involving the United States of America. The atrocities of war are unimaginable, and are carried with these brave men and women forever, in ways no one can even begin to imagine. My heart breaks for their brokenness, and my personal prayers are for their healing – emotionally, physically, mentally, and above all, spiritually. 

John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” 

In the article mentioned above, service men and women speak of the unforgettable friendships that were formed during wartime in horrific conditions. All of these would have given, and some even did give, their life in order to save the lives of others serving with them, as well as for a nation going about life as usual “back home.”

There is a story of Tuskegee Airmen who were captured and imprisoned in Germany. They flew together and trained together, only to be reunited in a POW compound. Korean War Marines survived a bitter battle together, reinforcing a company under attack, only to reunite by chance later in flight training. An Army Infantryman assigned as the handler of Ramo, a German shepherd in Vietnam, who was definitely this man’s best friend. These stories, and more, give me feelings of respect, but also sadness that I could never meet the ones that have given each of us our freedom.

As my own children were growing up, we intentionally worked to instill respect for anyone in uniform, whether that was someone in the military, law enforcement officers, firefighters, or any kind of first responders. Long before it was “popular” to say thank you, my kids were shaking the hands of these men and women, looking them in the eye, and giving them a grateful and respectful appreciations.  Now, as our grandchildren are coming up, we are instilling in them this same rightful place of honor and respect. It is important to show those that protect us that we are thankful.

This past summer, while on vacation, my grandson noticed a World War II veteran sitting in a wheelchair in the restaurant. He asked if he and his sister could go and say thank you to the gentleman after noticing his WWII hat. I walked with them to the gentleman, and waited behind my grandchildren as both of them shook his hand and said thank you. Yes, I was a proud grandmother standing there with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, but to see the genuine gratitude on the face of this complete stranger from the “Greatest Generation” wiping the tears from his own aging eyes, I was thankful the tradition of honor and respect was indeed alive in my grandchildren. 

Because of the men and women that are cut from the same cloth as this WWII veteran, the freedom that we all take for granted will endure in America. This country was built by men who knew that a country based on the Word of God, blessed and protected by God, would endure for generations to come.  

When things begin to look bleak in our country, due to the many problems we often bring on ourselves, it is worth remembering that God is still in control of this nation that was built upon Him by our founding fathers.

Parents and grandparents, teach your children to respect and honor our military men and women. Teach your children to show respect to our flag and our country by putting your hand over your heart, and even trying to sing when the national anthem is played. It is definitely not your singing voice that matters, but the fact that you honor and respect a country where we always will have heroes that fight and die for us to “let freedom ring.”

God bless America and all of those who have given, and are willing to give, everything for our freedom. Please…thank them every chance you get. 

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