We’re only a few days away from Memorial Day in our country. While it is truly a somber and sobering day, it has become basically just an announcement that summer begins. The day itself began as Decoration Day. There are stories from across the country, including our own state, that wants to claim at least a piece of the beginnings of Memorial Day.
Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, was a part of the event as people from Columbus all around brought flowers and put them at the graves of fallen soldiers from the Civil War. It didn’t matter if they were from the North or the South, they decorated the graves and remembered the sacrifices. The very first official celebration took place May 30, 1868. It has continued to grow though at times we forget the deep and significant meaning of Memorial Day. Allow me to talk to you in this article about three things related to Memorial Day. The three things are a tomb, a room, and a zoom.
A tomb is probably the one you will see if you watch any of the news coverage on Memorial Day. As a wreath is laid at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier there in Arlington, Virginia. On the tomb of the fallen soldier it says, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” The unknown soldier. It is an incredible thing to visit as the changing of the guard takes place at Arlington. Regardless of the weather, cold or hot, rain or drought, the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is being guarded by his fellow soldiers.
That is not the only unknown for in graves across our land and even on foreign soil are those American servicemen who died. They, too, are unidentified, unknown, “known but to God.” In military burial grounds you will find so many of them marked unknown. In Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Maryland, there were 15,000 servicemen buried and less than 3,000 of them are known. In some of the burial grounds from the Revolutionary War, more than half of the troops buried there are known.
The reason I call attention to the tomb that so many will see as the president places a wreath there is to be reminded of one tomb after another placed in military parks and some where they fell on the field of battle and their marker says unknown. But never forget their willingness to fight for our freedoms and give their lives in the effort are no less valiant and should be no less appreciated simply because we are unable to identify them due to the chaos of war. Think about their unknown tomb.
The second thing I would like for you to think about is a room. Not a room in a house or a room in a museum, but a room in your heart or a compartment in your mind to think about those who have served. It is a room of memories. Maybe you have not been in the military or maybe your family has no one that you know who has served in the military. That does not lessen, in fact it increases the memories that you may hold. How could that be? If you would just think about it and realize that you have no memories of someone who was killed and laid to rest whether they were known or unknown, if those things have not happened to you and your family, that in itself is a point of great rejoicing.
In your room and in your memory banks there is no one and maybe you have not taken time to realize what a glorious blessing God has given to you in not knowing the knowns or the unknowns. Another thing in the room is to take a moment to imagine a family. A family whose child will never come home. The body may never be found. That family is left to grieve the rest of their days. A mom and a dad who will live with the unknowns for their child. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles are left to wish that the day would come that they would have something to remember, and it’s not to be. Remember those folks who will never see their child again, but only by the grace of God in Christ Jesus they will be together again in the world that He has prepared for us.
In your room of memories you might look around and you may know a soldier who is serving even now who has been deployed and returned or possibly is facing a new day with the scars of war remaining in his or her body. A lost member of their body or maybe a disability that will never be corrected. If you see one of those people, thank them. You don’t have to ask any probing questions just thank them. You don’t have to try to crawl around in your own guilt. Thank them for what they did and the room of your life of gratefulness of gratitude for the heavenly Father will grow.
The third thing to think about is a zoom. Of that I’m talking about zooming in on just one precious, grateful thought zeroed in one person who may have given the ultimate sacrifice. In all the wars that America has fought in from the Revolutionary War to the battles with worldwide terrorism today, we have seen over 1,100,000 young men and women who gave their lives for our country. Time and space will not allow me to put all of the wars that we have been in and the numbers that are staggering out beside them who died in the battle, but our Revolutionary War that helped defend our freedoms and establish our country there were 4,435 casualties. In the Civil War of our country, 498,332 soldiers died in trying to keep our country united. In World War I, over a 116,000 deaths. In World War II, over 405,000 American soldiers died.
The reason I ask you to think about a zoom is that it would be helpful if all of us took just a few minutes and thought about this 1.1 million Americans who gave their lives, paid the ultimate sacrifice, for us to have the freedoms and the joys that we enjoy. As you zoom in on that, just some general thoughts about those who were killed. One: For the vast majority, they were young, at times, very young. Two: It is safe to say that most of them left a cluster of people, family and friends, community involvement and people who cared left to grieve because they were gone. Three: Far more than just the fact that they died in war is the wonderful blessing is that they secured for you and me the blessing of freedom, freedoms of speech and religion, freedoms of self-determination, and the wonderful opportunity to capture unlimited possibilities of what we can do and learn and become and be a life that will help others and bless us. Now they are gone and the world is left with us. May we serve. May we care. May we fundamentally know that our lives are anchored in the Lord and that we will bless one another with the good news from heaven just for them.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral