A day to pause and reflect...

Like many Americans today I mostly enjoyed a cook-out with my family.  Sure, we played bocce ball and spent a lot of time talking about politics, literature and films, too because that's what we do when this family gets together.  In a word, it was a time of relaxation, reconnection and renewal that I found very nourishing.  (family pictures will follow, ok?)  But now, after the kids have left for their homes and we've cleaned the kitchen and showered (once again), I needed to pause for a moment to reflect on the nature of what this national holiday means to me.  Memorial Day, says Wikipedia:

... is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May.[1] Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.[2] Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

In my life time I've seen veterans too often used as both political footballs and cannon fodder - and 2012 doesn't seem a whole lot different. We have sent young heroes to their deaths for impure reasons.  Those who were once cheerleaders for our current engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq have now mostly abandoned our soldiers because it has become politically convenient.  And the current administration continues to put young lives in harm's way until after this election cycle is over; only then do they sense that they can bring the troops home without fear of being smeared as weak or ineffective.

I was touched by what my friend and colleague, David, wrote:  Let us remember this on this day: let us remember never to ask brave young Americans to die for mere national vanity, or for political expedience or because we lack the imagination or the courage to solve problems another way. Let us remember that whenever America calls, her brave, young men and women WILL answer ... and some them will die. 

So, beyond the sunshine and relaxation, this is a sobering holiday - a day of sacred responsibility - and as it comes to a close I want to return thanks for all those I never had the chance to meet because they lived into the call to serve and protect and never came home.  It has been my privilege over the past 30+ years to talk with and serve the cause of Christ alongside women and men who have been in every armed conflict since WWII. They have shared some of your stories, old friends, so we pause to reflect and give you thanks.


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