I was just thinking about family, friends and fellow soldiers who have died while serving their country — our country. That brought me to once again consider that Memorial Day is not just another holiday. It’s not merely a time for people to have a day off from work or school. No, Memorial Day is much more!
It is not a day to honor veterans. I am a veteran of the United States Army. I served four and a half years during the Vietnam conflict. However, I am not a Vietnam vet. While I respect and admire those veterans who served in all our wars and conflicts, Memorial Day is not about them.
It is a day of remembrance. Remembrance — the act of calling to mind; a memory of a person or event, a time of recalling the life and often, the death of a person. Sunday, May 29, numerous churches across our nation will take time to honor the memory of those who died while serving in one of the branches of the military. The Pledge of Allegiance will be repeated by congregations, prayers will be offered and, in some instances, “Taps” will be played as a means of respect for those who died so that we might live in freedom.
Have you ever heard “Taps” played at the graveside of one who served? In my last 6 months in the Army I helped conduct over 40 funerals in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Three things come to mind about those graveside services:
• The flag-draped coffin,
• The haunting sound of the lone trumpeter playing “Taps,” and
• The presentation of the flag that had covered the coffin being folded, and I or another chaplain presenting it to a spouse, a mother, a father, a son or a daughter.
I have had the flag that draped my dad’s coffin since June 18, 1980. It is an important reminder that my dad, Jesse Mitchell served his country in the Army Air Corp from 1941-1945 in World War II. But dad became a veteran. He did not die in Okinawa, Japan or Germany. I honor the memory of dad, but Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died while serving to ensure the blessing of freedom in these United States; and, still, it may be even more.
I preface the next thoughts with this from the Apostle Paul: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).
While it is not the military, the Battle for Christ has had many soldiers — both men and women — who have died while serving in the Lord’s Army. Like the brave men and women who died on the battlefields across the globe, these soldiers of the cross have faithfully given themselves… even to the point of death. The early apostles are reported to have died cruel deaths as they determinedly preached the gospel while facing persecution and torture. For the past 2,000 years, believers have died — often before the eyes of their families — because Satan wanted to thwart the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pastors, missionaries and church members have lived for Christ and died for Him as well. Maybe we should also remember them because they died while serving.
But, to me, the most important One to remember as He died in battle for freedom from the condemnation of sin was our Lord Jesus Christ. His death is paramount to all because He didn’t die for just one nation. Jesus died in the battle with Satan for the souls of every person of every nation. He died for the whole world. We should, as our Lord Himself instructed, remember His death until He comes.
So, as I said, I was just thinking about these things. I hope you will think about them as well. May Memorial Day be for you, your family, your community and your church a true time of remembering those who died while in the military service — defending against all enemies, both foreign and domestic and both seen and unseen.