Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
There is a common misconception about Memorial Day. We’ve all seen it, though a lot of us probably don’t give it a second thought. It happens every Sunday before Memorial Day, in every church across America. At some point, the pastor will ask for all of those who have served in the armed forces to stand and be recognized for their service to our country.
My father served in the Navy during Desert Storm. I was only three or four at the time, but I still remember how proud I was of him, how awesome it was that my dad was over there, keeping the rest of us safe. Everyone’s dad is a hero to them, but it meant the world to a preschooler that my dad really was a hero, putting himself in harms way for the safety of others. So it carries a lot of weight when, every year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, he dutifully stands when all veterans are asked to, and accepts the round of applause that is given, but there is always a look of quiet disappointment on his face.
He has never really spoken to me about it, but my mom has. She says it bothers him, deep down in his soul, when this happens. Now, my dad doesn’t like being the center of attention, and he always has the same look on his face on Veterans Day, but there is a difference. He is bothered by veterans standing on Memorial Day because Memorial Day is not for veterans. It is for the men and woman who have paid the highest price.
Every soldier has willingly chosen to place himself between his country, his family, his friends, and the horrors of war. But Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives in the process. It honors those that will never return. It honors the greatest act of love any man or woman could ever carry out.
Memorial Day honors every soldier that lies under a white marker in Arlington. It honors those buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. It honors the men of the USS Indianapolis, and the men of Seal Team 6. It honors every pilot lost at sea, every submariner ever sunk, every medic who took a bullet trying to save one more of his fellow soldiers. It is for the bomb techs whose luck ran out, for the boys driving humvees that hit IED’s, for the chopper pilots who went down in the mountains of Afghanistan, and the POW’s that never made it home.
For every flag draped coffin, there is s family, mothers, fathers, sometimes children, wives, brothers and sisters. For their sake, remember who we honor this Memorial Day, and if your heart cries for them as mine does, whisper a prayer for those who will never come home. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.