During this month we will celebrate a holiday that challenges us to remember those who gave their lives in defense of this nation. As a Boy Scout and later a member of a marching band, I attended many Memorial Day Parades and ceremonies at a cemetery in town or in front of the monument to the soldiers who fought in war. There was always a large group of people who would gather and listen to speeches and prayers, but I do not recall ever hearing names of any individual who gave their life for this nation. Families might visit graves to add flags or flowers, but unless your family had someone in the category, we marked the day for a vast unnamed multitude of individuals. Maybe we need to take time to put names to those whose sacrifice made a difference. Maybe we should expand our personal list to include those who gave their lives for making our nation greater outside the wars that have been fought.
During this year’s Clergy Summit at the Museum of Aviation, we watched a clip from the movie “We Were Soldiers.” The clip didn’t show any of the battles or the soldiers heading to war. Instead, the clip dealt with a cabbie pulling to the home of Mel Gibson’s character. His wife is alone since the soldiers were deployed and had just learned that the military was using cab drivers to deliver Western Union telegrams announcing the death of a soldier. When his wife saw the cabbie she yelled at him because she thought the cabbie was delivering news that her husband was dead. Instead, he wanted direction to another family because he knew she was the Major’s wife and would know where his soldiers lived on base. Instead of telling him, she took the telegram and said she would deliver it because no one should just be given this news by a lone cab driver.
This was the moment when the change in how death notifications were made in the military. The courage of a woman demanded that this type of news never be delivered without someone investing time and presence to a family receiving this type of news.
As we prepare for picnics and parades and gatherings at cemeteries, let us take time to invest ourselves to stand with people who lose loved ones, not only in the military, police, or fire services. We need to be willing to set aside our discomfort to spend time with people in grief, to sit, to babysit if needed, to prepare food and deliver it, and any other tasks that need to be done.
In our community, as a military community, we need to not wait for deaths. We need to pitch in and help families left behind during deployments. Young families trying to get children to and from school, work, clean the house, take care of the yard and upkeep of the home, and have a space of time to take care of themselves, need people to step up and sacrifice their time and provide assistance. What a much better way to honor Memorial Day. What a great way to remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives by not leaving it to a single day and in some cases maybe an hour or so of Memorial Day.
“When you did this for these……you did it for me.” Jesus’s words still demand we act.