Despite growing up an Air Force brat with instilled, unfailing pride in America and the flag, I confess I giddily readied myself for the long Memorial Day weekend with ads. Lowe’s ads, Kohl’s ads, Pottery Barn, Bass Pro, etc. – I thrilled and poured over all the steals and deals to be had: fantasizing about new towels for the bathroom, a hip new cross-body, and a shiny reel to add to Andrew’s fishing gear. Fixed on retail, my mind buzzed through shopping, but came to an abrupt halt when I saw this image.
And just like that, I was sobered.
Online sources say that her fiancé died in February of ’07. It is likely that she will spend many anniversaries here – ones of death, their would-be wedding day, birthdays, and certainly Memorial Day. What struck me about the photo is her obvious vigilance, indicated by her water, jacket, and blanket; and I was overcome with a sense of sorrow for her particular loss. My sorrow and sympathy then grew upon realizing the multitude of servicemen and women like her fiancé; those who either passed on war stories to a ripe old age or those whose lives were given in combat. I saw this circulating on Facebook with a caption that read, “In case you thought it was National BBQ Day.”
Memorial Day has always been a bonus day to me – a federal holiday giving folks an extra day off – but for what? More shopping? Fancy-free celebration with a burger and beer? I have to assert that deep within this American tradition is a compulsion to do the will of God, not just on an individual level, but as a collective nation as well. The United States is blessed with liberty to set herself as an example of virtue and humility for the rest of the world and as individual citizens, we must follow through so that God may be glorified. There is a certain reverence in remembering the Armed Forces this way. After seeing the photo and recalling my father’s past and present service, my late grandfather’s service, and the service of thousands more who offered their entire selves for the singular Constitutional principles of the United States, I can’t say that today will be spent according to my original plan. Of course I intend to spend time with my family and friends, but Memorial Day calls for a more solemn and prayerful reflection of America’s fallen heroes. So yes, kick back and have a good time relishing in the freedom that cost so much, but not before expressing humble gratitude to God for it and the men and women who held it so sacred as to die for it.
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!