Some time ago, I was re-watching the movie “Midway.” Six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they were trying to set a trap for the US Navy and destroy it. The American commanders actually set a trap of their own and the highly outnumbered US forces won a decisive victory. I am always humbled by the selfless and heroic efforts made by the World War II generation. They sacrificed their lives for something they believed was bigger than them. They knew the value of family; the power of God; and that life and liberty was foundational to being an American, and it was worth fighting for. They were defined by their courage and character, their dedication to what was right and good.
For me, Memorial Day was always a solemn day first, and a day of great celebration second. Growing up, our 4-H horse club always participated in the Memorial Day Parade that wound through Rootstown, Ohio and ended up at the cemetery. There, we faced the graves of those who served their country, many who died that we might live free. Our horses were to stand at attention, and we were to sit on them, also at attention, our hats removed, as the speakers honored America’s finest. Afterwards, we would load up the horses and head back to the farm, where we had a cookout, usually with Warren and Sue McCarthy, Gene and Betty Flynn, Bob and Doris Harris and their families.
Warren and Gene served on D-Day. They survived it. And they were decorated war heroes. Not much of what they did was ever discussed. But you somehow knew that they were special. My dad, who was a farmer during the war, was best friends with these men. He knew what went on, but would never say. They were among the finest men I knew growing up. My uncle Bob Harris served in the Philippines. There were times when he had flashbacks. My dad would get a call from my aunt and he would find Uncle Bob, talk him down and hold him until the terror passed. He, too, was a decorated hero. All these men knew the price of freedom and they understood their civic duty to their families, their God and their country.
I’m sure you have stories as well about the brave men and women who served in our nation’s armed forces. President Ronald Reagan remembered veterans in his speech May 26, 1986. He said, “If we really care about peace, we must stay strong. If we really care about peace, we must, through our strength, demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does.” To me, there will never be peace on earth until the Lord returns. Jesus said, however, in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Many have sacrificed themselves that we may have peace and freedom. Let us honor their deeds.