I once asked my mother-in-law if she thought about her brother, who was killed 70 years ago in World War II, very often. She looked me straight in the eyes and responded, “I think about him every day.” While grief need not completely define who we are, the grieving process is an important element to a healthy life. Our grief has many faces: somber, honoring, reflective or resolute.

Memorializing those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our country, as we do each Memorial Day, is part of the national process of grief. This Memorial Day, let us keep in mind that:

Memorial Day is a national day of remembering.

The day is an opportunity to remember that armed conflict is a national decision. The commitment of armed force is an extension of public political decision-making. As a society, we send our military to do the nation’s bidding and, as such, we, as a nation, receive that military back from war.

Memorial Day has an individual component.

That is true, but it is in our more public demonstrations of remembering that we fully honor our fallen. It is appropriate at this time to contemplate the ultimate sacrifice of the few on behalf of the many.

Memorial Day is a time to invest in learning the history of the observance.

Although there are some historical differences of opinion about who was the first to set a date and time of the observance, there is no doubt about the purpose. The following words are from Major. Gen. John A. Logan, who declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th, 1868:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

As Memorial Day marks the transition into the summer season, I invite you to pause and pray to remember our fallen, honor their sacrifice and give thanks for brothers and sisters who faithfully serve our nation as members of the armed services.

Mike Lembke
Mike Lembke is a colonel and command chaplain for the U.S. Southern Command.

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