|These flags proudly remember the|
sacrifices of those who served in battle,
and the many who gave their lives.
Today marks the observance of another Memorial Day, one of the most fitting holidays in the calendar year. War is a horror that has plagued humankind since the start of history, but that shouldn’t detract from our honoring and remembering those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the freedoms we so readily take for granted.
I believe it should also be a day in which we think of those who may not have lost their lives in combat, but suffered serious injuries, both physical and emotional.
Two friends, both veterans of the Vietnam conflict, have wrestled for many years with a common wartime consequence, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a malady that most of us who have never served during wartime cannot fully understand or imagine. Yet its toll on countless thousands has been very real, even debilitating.
Today, my friends are devoting much of their time and energy to assisting others who, like themselves, survived combat physically, but have suffered a grave toll emotionally and mentally. The suicide rate among veterans who have suffered PTSD in combat is alarming; others find themselves homeless, unable to function properly upon returning to civilian life.
My father served in World War II; I remember many nights during my childhood when he would awaken, screaming. He never talked of his wartime experiences, but I know the nightmares were a byproduct of what this twice-wounded, two Purple Heart and one Bronze Star recipient had seen, heard and felt on the battlefields of Europe and Northern Africa. We knew little, if anything, about PTSD back then.
I remember how shamefully Vietnam vets were treated in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they returned home. They had gone to serve their country, doing what they thought was right, even though many at home questioned America’s wisdom in its involvement. Their noble, yet largely unappreciated, service reminded me of something Jesus said to His followers: “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13).
Thousands of U.S. soldiers did just that, lying lifeless on East Asian fields of conflict. Others lay down their normal lives, returning to American soil physically, but shattered just the same, not the people mentally or emotionally they once had been. Even if they didn’t think it in so many words, their sacrificial service was truly an act of love.
But as we commemorate the sacrifices of so many, in far too many wars, I can’t help but think of an even greater sacrifice, that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Going to the cross to die for the sins of mankind, paying an incomprehensible price on our behalf, Jesus epitomized that “greater love.” As Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This Memorial Day, please take a few moments to remember those who gave so much for us. And especially think of Jesus, the One who gave more than we could ever imagine – so that we could receive far more than we could ever deserve.