Today's Devotion: "Why We Remember"
I just got back from attending the Memorial Day ceremony in Carmel. St. Luke's member, Eric Donoho, was the featured speaker. Here is a copy of his speech. Attending that event reminded me of something I read recently by Jeff Greenfield, a correspondent for ABC News. He lives in Salisbury, Conn. and writes about attending the same Memorial Day ceremony each year.
"At 10 a.m., the parade begins moving down Main Street. It is a small parade: two vintage cars, bearing the region's oldest war veterans; the men and women who served in the military; the Salisbury Town Band; the Scouts; the Housatonic Day Care Center; the fire trucks from the volunteer fire departments in and around the Northwest Corner. We fall in line behind the fire trucks, and follow the parade to the cemetery. There's a hymn, and a prayer, followed by a Scout who reads the Gettysburg Address, haltingly, shyly. Then come the names of the people who died in the World Wars, in Korea, in Vietnam. A minister recites the 23rd Psalm, a bugler plays taps (with another bugler far away playing the echo), the flag is raised from half-staff, and we all walk the few steps back to the Village Center. It is as artless, as unaffected a ceremony as can be imagined. There are no speech writers, no advance men measuring the best angles for TV (there is no TV) and by the end of it, I-along with many other allegedly sophisticated urban types, are in tears.
The persons whose names have been read indeed gave what Lincoln called "the last, full measure of devotion"-some in wars whose purpose no one could doubt-some in wars whose purpose will never be clear, some for the folly and arrogance of the ones in charge. When they fell, their deaths were a small part of a bigger story. But every Memorial Day, the lives they never got to live, and the people they left behind, are the only story that matters. That is why it matters that their names are uttered aloud before people who never knew any of them. That is why it matters that we were there this year-and will be there the next and the next and the next."
Things in our world have become so politicized, even Memorial Day gets twisted to serve an ideology. But the apolitical truth is our nation's history is full of sacrifice. As honestly identified above, sometimes the sacrifices were for questionable reasons, but there's no questioning the cost. Its okay to say thank you.
If there is war then something went wrong. Nonetheless there are those whose lives were lost because they were pulled into what went wrong. I know it sounds awfully simplistic, but maybe our being more grateful can lessen just a little of what's wrong with the world.
Perhaps we can find some common ground by being thankful for those who have served our country and paid the highest price. As well as those who came back from wars, alive, but face ongoing physical and mental costs. (though I know that steps into Veterans Day recognition in November). Its still okay to say thank you.
If you know someone who has lost a loved one who served our country, this might be a good weekend to call them and say, "Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you."