Every year we observe Memorial Day, a time of remembrance and reflection about the sacrifices of men and women who have served our country in wars and conflicts around the world. When we consider the costs paid over nearly two-and-a-half centuries, this commemoration should never cease.
Can you imagine what the world – let alone our nation – would be like if the Revolutionary War had not been fought? If the Civil War had never been waged? Or if World War I and World War II had not been undertaken to oppose tyranny and thwart the advance of evil?
The war in Vietnam and the various conflicts in the Middle East have been far more controversial. But the sacrifices made – including the thousands of lives lost and the paralyzing and disabling injuries suffered – by our military entitle them to great honor and our full appreciation.
My father served in World War II in both infantry and armored divisions, experiencing battle on fronts in both Europe and Africa and being wounded twice. He was still in active service in the U.S. Army as fighting in Vietnam began to escalate, and after more than 22 years of service he elected to retire. “I’m not going both for the third bullet,” he stated with great honesty.
He knew too well the horrors of war. I still remember nights he would awaken screaming, no doubt emerging from a nightmare that revisited one of the horrific moments of confronting and doing battle with the enemy. Unlike the depiction of theatrical films of the 1940s and ‘50s, war was not fun.
Even for those of us that never saw a moment of wartime conflict, knowing what others have done on our behalf is worth our remembrance. In Washington, D.C. various memorials assist with this remembering process, ranging from the picturesque Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials to newer memorials to honor those who died in the world wars and Vietnam.
Holocaust memorials have been created not only in Germany and Poland where the death camps were located, but also in other parts of the world. Recently the 9/11 Memorial Museum was opened in New York City to honor the victims of that horrific day and “bear solemn witness to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and Feb. 26, 1993.”
Of course, this practice of using memorials to trigger our memories is hardly new. It’s been used in many societies and figures prominently in the pages of the Bible. After the Israelites finished crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God instructed Joshua to appoint leaders for each of the 12 tribes to remove a large stone from the river floor and arrange them “to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:7).
The Israelites were instructed to observe various annual festivals and feasts to impress upon their collective memory how God had intervened on their behalf to preserve a chosen nation of people that has continually defied the odds of survival.
When a woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, He quieted her critics with His declaration, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, whenever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:12-13).
And all around the world, followers of Christ participate in a regular memorial service called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. Writing to believers in the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul recounted Jesus’ final meal with His disciples: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
So this Memorial Day we pause and reflect on those, as we will hear said repeatedly, that gave “the ultimate sacrifice.” And so we should. But as we do so, those of us that profess Christ as Savior and Lord should also take a moment and observe a different kind of memorial, a remembrance for the One that truly made the Ultimate Sacrifice, willingly enduring death on a cross to make atonement for the countless sins of mankind.
That is truly worth remembering.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.