I don’t know anyone who perished in a war. My grandfathers and relatives survived world wars and Vietnam. As a child, Memorial Day meant that my parents purchased little paper poppy lapel pins from disabled veterans, we had the day off school, the public pool opened for the first time since last September, and we could sniff delightedly as Dad cooked on the charcoal grill. As a teen, I remember my cousin’s wife taking flowers to her father’s grave, and that school graduations were held on this weekend. As an adult, Memorial Day meant the first legal holiday off work since mid-February, and that there were discounts at the mall or car-sales lot. Now that I’ve traveled to a few countries, I see that every village and large city has a war memorial in a public park or in a cathedral chantry.
Even though I don’t personally know fallen soldiers, I can reflect upon what their sacrifice has purchased for me and for millions of others: civil and religious liberty; a safe and peaceful lifestyle here even when wars rage across the world; the ability to work every day to make enough money to have my own home and help support my local church and worldwide evangelism and mission projects. Those soldiers’ legacy has given me the heart to pray for those who are suffering from war and its many evils, and for innocents who are forced from their homes, or kidnapped and told to kill or be killed.
Thanks be to God for creating courageous and hard-working men and women, soldiers dedicated not to the destruction and misery that war brings, but the peace and restoration that comes after. Thank you, Lord, for their sacrifice not only of their suffering and death on foreign soil, but for the life they could have enjoyed back home. Memorial Day can remind me of Your sacrifice that purchased my eternal liberty from sin and death.
"So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines—Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God." Isaiah 55:12-13, The Message.